Chances are that if you read my column regularly, you already know how I feel about remakes. If you don’t, well let me fill you in: I abhor them. I hate them with a passion. I personally believe they are single-handedly going to destroy Hollywood because they take away from the creativity and unique ideas that the city was once home too.
This being said, when I heard a new Judge Dredd movie was being made, I found myself oddly excited. Being a huge comic book geek, I was not a fan of the 1995 Sylvester Stallone film. To me, his portrayal of the character just felt wrong, especially when the Judge took off his helmet. It sounds like I’m nitpicking, but this one little thing totally strays away from the comic books and it took me out of the film. However, when “28 Days Later” screenwriter Alex Garland was announced to write the remake and it was released that Karl Urban (who played Dr. Scott “Bones” McCoy in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 “Star Trek” reboot) would play the film’s titular character, I found myself really looking forward to the final product.
Fortunately, “Dredd” does not disappoint. Directed by Pete Travis (director of 2008’s “Vantage Point”), the film delivers the character of Judge Dredd in all of the violent glory the character deserves. The film follows the Judge and trainee Judge Anderson (played by Olivia Thirlby) who find themselves trapped in a turf war for a new kind of narcotic drug. When the leader of the drug ring locks the cops inside the 200 story building, the two officers realize the rules have changed and it’s kill or be killed.
Garland’s script is just about the best thing a fan of the Judge Dredd comic books could ask for. He manages to take the bleak, post-apocalyptic world comic authors John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra created and drop audience members into the middle of it, making Judge Dredd seem as tough and fearless on screen as he does on the page, and fortunately, never allows the judge to remove his helmet. Garland’s strong writing lends itself perfectly to Urban’s performance, which blows Sly out of the water. Urban delivers the Judge’s lines in the character’s signature, dry way, adding a Clint-Eastwood like snarl to everything he says, and whereas in Stallone’s case the helmet wore him, Urban wears the helmet and owns the role.
Suprisingly, the film’s 3-D is very well done. I’ve never truly understood the purpose of 3-D and I often feel as if it is just a gimmick for studios to make money. However, in an incredibly rare feat, I think the 3-D works to the films advantage. Travis knows when to lay it on heavily and uses it in a way that truly enhances both the action scenes, and some of the more expositional shots. It adds a true feeling of depth to the environment that Travis truly uses to his advantage. The film’s over the top gore and eventful action set-pieces are a blast (pun not intended) to see in 3-D and the opening set-piece looks spectacular, with the 3-D putting film goers right next to the Judge in his quest to find the drug dealers.
Unfortunately, I think the timing of the film’s release may ultimately hurt it in the long run. Long time readers of my articles will recall that I wrote about my top 10 favorite of the year so far. One of those films was an Indonesian action flick entitled, “The Raid: Redemption”. The film follows a SWAT team as they make their way through drug dealer’s lair in order to prevent to production of the narcotic. Sound familiar? Essentially, the film’s plot lines are one and the same. This is unfortunate because Garland began writing the script for “Dredd” in 2006, long before writer Gareth Evans began the screenplay for “The Raid”. While the plots are similar, hopefully viewers will be abler to separate the two films and enjoy them both for what they are.
While certainly not for the squeamish, “Dredd” is a comic-book adaptation done right. Garland manages to bring the character to life while not getting him lost in the thick of the story. 4 stars out of 5 for one of the best remakes in recent memory, and perhaps one of the best reboots of all time.