Dredd (2012)

"I am the law" - Judge Dredd

This movie is a great blueprint on how to introduce an action character.  The plot is simple and straight forward, the movie doesn't overload the viewer with background information or try to be this big tent pole movie. It also stays true to the comic source material, great example, he NEVER takes his helmet off.  Now, many might ask why something as simple as seeing his face is important and that is a valid question. Simply, if he never takes it off in the 30 plus years of comic strips, why would he do it in the movie?  Most people won't care about stuff like that, but to the fans it shows that the makers of the film care about being true to the source material.  I don't want to see someone's version of the comic, I want to see the comic turned movie.  If you want to do your version, make it "Your name": Judge Dredd.

Like I said, this is a simple "here's the character doing his thing," which is Judge Dredd - a Dirty Harry style cop in a post-apocalyptic Mega City, patrolling the crime ridden streets.  The back story is done in 2 minutes with a panoramic voice-over, then we have a 5 minute chase scene to show you how bad-ass he is and setting up the new drug problem, and in under 10 minutes the movie is moving on to the main plot.  Now you might be wondering if that is to quick, Iron Man took like 40 minutes to get rolling -  It's not for this movie, it is perfect.  Later Dredd stories might need more build up, not the first Dredd movie in 17 years.  

15 minutes in, Dredd meets his partner for this mission, Judge Anderson, and chaos ensues.  They respond to a call, get locked in a building with the crime lord Ma-Ma and have to fight there way to the top.  What I like about this formula is that it doesn't require much thought to follow.  You do not have to know the biography of the characters.  They are cops, stopping bad guys, trying to survive.  Do you have to know why Dredd became a cop? No.  All unnecessary information is left out and the movie focuses on the here and now.  You get a basic run-down on the players and that's it.  Everything needed to make it a Judge Dredd movie is there: motorcycle, the Judges sidearm the Lawgiver (one of my favorite sci-fi weapons), and the helmets.

Karl Urban is (really tried to find a better word) perfect as Dredd -  he speaks gravely while still being understandable, and hits the stoic anti-hero mark on the head.  And to think, at first I was slightly concerned when he was cast (should have remembered Eomer in The Lord of the Rings). Olivia Thirilby did a great job as the rookie partner, she finds a good mixture of insecure and inexperienced while not being annoying. To top it off, Lena Headey makes a scary crime boss.  I'm a tough guy, but not sure I would want to be in a room with a pissed off Ma-Ma.  Both Ma-Ma and Anderson are characters from the comics, with the little change up being that Anderson is a rookie versus in the comics when we meet her a a full fledged Judge.

One thing I love about this movie is the criticism.  There's one that many repeat, people wanted to see more of Mega City 1.  I am a little split on this. I would have loved to have seen more of Mega City, maybe some more drive by scenes or fly overs.  Flip side of this is that i felt the movie is perfect the way it is - any more could have bloated it and lost some of the attraction that is a no-fuss straight forward action movie.  Other criticisms are the costumes: the eagles on the shoulders are less pronounced than the comics and the motorcycles are smaller.  Funny part is, the 1995 movie was pretty spot on in this area, but the production team (for this one) went more with a more realistic design route.  A good example is the motorcycle from the 1995 movie couldn't steer, this movies actually worked and was used with no C.G.  For the shoulders, I had to check my comics after watching to make sure they were smaller and I actually liked the design of the whole uniform in this movie.

 I feel this was under-rated and I hope it hit the magical number that allows for a sequel, where we will see more Mega City 1 (promised by the director Pete Travis). Please go buy this and watch it.