When I heard they were going to make another feature film based on the cult classic comic “Judge Dredd”, I cringed. I remembered the butchered 1995 version starring Sylvester Stallone and Rob Schneider, directed by Danny Cannon. The budget and look of the movie was really good but the context, substance and grit was missing. It was almost Demolition Man 2.

Judge Dredd the comic debuted in 1977 and was created by John Wagner for the British sci-fi magazine 2000 AD.

It was about a dystopian future where due process was merged into the cops who patrolled the streets.

The criminal justice system of “judge, jury & executioner” was given to a highly trained street cop, now called Judges.

These Judges ruled MegaCity One, a gigantic metropolis that where, after a nuclear war, humanity gathered.

The real focus of the comic was a commentary on how corrupt our justice system is and how one “by the books” hero can’t hold the full weight of Lady Justice.

Dredd battled rival street gangs, internal struggles, corrupt Judges such as his nemesis Judge Death and mutants living upon the world outside the city called “The Cursed Earth”.

It was quite an elaborate world and Judge Dredd eventually spawned into his own comic.

Dredd fever never really materialized in North America but as a teen I remember reading the Eagle Comics version of Judge Dredd and loving it.

When Robocop came out later in my youth, I thought what would it be for a Judge Dredd film to be made with the same humor and violence of Robocop.

That would be very close to the comic. Hence why I was saddened by the misfire that was the Stallone version.

This new version kind of takes the Judge Dredd concept down it’s most basic. Dredd (Karl Urban) is a street cop, training a rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby). They are called to a triple homicide at one of MegaCity One’s giant skyscrapers that houses over 75,000 people and is over 200 stories high.
The skyscraper is called Peach Tree but really it is the worst of the city domiciles.

It is ruled by a vicious gang called the MaMa’s.

Their base of operations and narcotics lab are in the building. When one of their own is grabbed by the Judges, they lock the building down. Their leader MaMa (Lena Headey) puts a price on the Judges and all hell breaks loose.

The movie doesn’t have a really big budget. Most of the money was spend on Dredd’s uniform and the sets. The simplicity is also the genius of the movie. You don’t need to tell a giant sci-fi flick with Dredd just a simple hostage cop story.

Karl Urban’s Dredd is utterly brilliant and very much like the comic. He never takes off his helmut, his logic is like a machine and he battles with precision and determination.

Thirlby’s version of Anderson is also good but probably more vulnerable than she was in the comic. And that is really good because after all she is a rookie also dealing with a new ability.

Lena Headey’s performance as MaMa is very over the top. This is a complete departure than anything else she has done and she relishes in it. There were a couple moments I had problems with her casting but for the most part it was a solid performance.

The 3D version of the film that I saw was not a very good transfer. This is shame since there are some really interesting and fun scenes in the film geared directly at 3D. Some angles and explosions would have been awesome in say the quality of 3D that was James Cameron’s Avatar. Through half dozen scenes, I was like why isn’t this like Avatar 3D. I mean the 3D I saw for the latest Resident Evil was way better. So make sure when you see it at a good state-of-the-art 3D cineplex.

I am really excited to see if we will get a sequel out of this movie because I’d really like to see what these people would do with the full Dredd universe.

4 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer


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