Thursday, 20 September 2012

Dredd 3D (please fuck off 3D)

Dredd finally arrived a couple of weeks ago and I suffered the terrible quandry of whether to sneak out of the house while my partner was at work and see it alone or wait until she had time (a day off) so we could go together. Of course I never discussed this, I just kept it deep inside.

As it happens I waited and we went t'other afternoon and Tony, it was amazing.

In preparation we had watched the Stallone version on blu ray and, to be fair, it wasn't as bad as I remember.  This is probably because the gaping wound it left in my gut back in the 90s has well and truly healed.  Danny Cannon's Judge Dredd had a certain style as a comic book movie but it entirely missed the point.  I have no problem with the Versace take on the uniform, could just about cope with Stallone's diction and rather enjoyed Armand Assante's take on Rico. Unfortunately the lip service superficiality of the Stephen E De Souza script and the utter lack of grasp of the subtleties of the source material were unforgiveable.  We must remember however that Robocop had already lifted numerous USPs from the comic, explaining why they had to give JD a brand new catch phrase ("I knew you'd say that").  "Your move creep!" had been successfully appropriated by Ed Neumeier for Robocop.

So why is all new Dredd any different?

Because it entirely understands the source material.

Screenwriter, director and star all grew up reading 2000AD.  It was an entirely British affair that felt no need to ingratiate the film with the wider, denser, spoon fed audience. They went for a hard edged, violent crime story and implemented an intentionally sly take on the humour of the comic rather than getting Rob Schneider in to crack some jokes.

Even better the vision of Mega City One was set against a backdrop of blazing sunshine. The exterior shots of the city blew me away instantly because, instead of yet another uninspired take on Blade Runner L.A. (see Priest) or a multicolour Metropolis (Judge Dredd '95) the visual aesthetic took cues from District 9. This is perhaps unsurprising since it was filmed in South Africa but what a different experience to the usual soulless CGI plates that provide the backdrop to these kinds of films.  I say these kinds of films but this film has manages to distance itself from most of them immediately.

A few months ago a writer on The Quietus bemoaned the fact that an early trailer looked like an episode of The Shield.  He was right to make that comparison because it does fit to a degree, but I don't see that as a flaw, more a massive and delicious boon to the property.  This Mega City One is like the L.A. of The Shield got high on meth and humped the ghettos of Johannesburg, giving birth to a sprawling shit-hole of spectacular proportions.  What kind of cop does this new metropolis need?

Karl Urban's Dredd may not match the modern airbrushed pictures that adorn the glossy pages of 2000AD and the Megazine but cast your eyes back to the early Ezquerra and McMahon strips of the 1970s and the likeness is uncanny.  Like everybody else I always pictured Dredd in the early days, and imagined him sounding like, Clint Eastwood and Urban uses the same skills that make his Bones take in Star Trek so bang on the money to make his Dredd literally sweat period Eastwood DNA.

Anderson was a big concern for me. In the early 80s Brian Bolland's Judge Anderson was just about the fittest piece of paper around.  My schoolfriends were all about Sam Fox and Maria Whittaker but I was in love with Anderson whenever the pages of the Dark Judges saga were open in front of me.  Sadly Brett Ewins spoiled everything by making her look like Toyah Wilcox through beer goggles.  My fears were needless though, Olivia Thirlby is hot yet vulnerable and, when she inevitably gets into hot water, she plays Anderson's toughness to a tee.  In fact it could be argued that Anderson out-hards Dredd in the end. 
The one massive flaw with my experience with Dredd was 3D.  It was well used on the occasions when the slo mo drug was in use but on the whole, as with Prometheus and John Carter, it is a blurry, detail obscuring distraction and I can't wait until:

  1. It fucks right off
  2. Cinemas realise that giving me a choice of watching it in 2D is more important than their profits
  3. Dredd comes out on blu ray
  4. Dredd makes a bundle at the box office in the USA and a sequel gets greenlit because Alex Garland wants to do the Dark Judges... Mmmmmm... Dark Judges...

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