The latest attempt at a movie following the popular British 2000AD comic set in a post-apocalyptic future America which centres around the main character Judge Dredd and is based in Mega City One. The screenplay was written by Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later) and directed by Pete Travis(Cold Feet, Henry VIII, Endgame). Writing of the script was started early on in2006 but it took a further two years before any real momentum was gained. With artistic visual concepts being worked on by the comics own artist Jock, and Andrew MacDonald (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) and All on Reich were also brought in to help produce the film. With backing from Lionsgate, DNA, and Reliance Big Pictures filming began in 2010. Filmed on site in South Africa, principally in Johannesburg and Cape Town, cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle used RED MX Cameras as well as Phantom Flex high speed cameras for the surreal Slo-Mo scenes.
Now I’m sure a lot of you are thinking about the 1995 Stallone film but let me assure you this is as far removed from that as it’s possible to get. The cinematography is very stylish and gives you a real sense of what Mega City One should, going by the comics, looks like. Translating a comic book into a film is never an easy task and many such attempts have been made but they rarely get as close as this one has. Visually it is stunning and the 3D really adds to the feel of the film as opposed to detracting from it. The Slo-Mo drug induced trance like scenes are utterly mind blowing as the surreal blends with the visceral in an eye-popping more often than not gore splattered extravaganza. This is nota film for the faint at heart and has well earned its 18 rating. The special effects are very well done and the overall feel is of a gritty brutal world.
Now it would be very easy to overlook the acting amidst all that eye candy and sometimes there is often a battle as the actors and actresses fight to be noticed amongst the blood and explosions but not this time. Dredd himself (Karl Urban) is very true to the character with dead pan pragmatism and a casual brutality which is truly chilling. His associate the rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thurlby) is perfectly balanced and thankfully doesn’t fall into the ‘cocky female sidekick’ trap as is often apparent and unfortunately popular with some studios at the moment. The pair work well together without the performances feeling forced or overdone. The real star of the show for me however was the head honcho of the bad guys, gang leader Ma-Ma (Lena Heady) who’s cool and nonchalant attitude throughout really sends chills up your spine.
I also think that the soundtrack was fantastic, heavy beats lead you into the action without overpowering everything. The score is very cleverly weaved into the film and once again adds to the overall feel as opposed to overpowering it. That is where this films real genius lies, it perfectly balances all the components without going too far in any direction and the result is superb.
The story has a very basic premise, take the newbie out and train her, but of course nothing goes smoothly and hell breaks loose when the pair of Judges fall foul of Ma-Ma in her own high rise from hell. Things explode, the bodies pile up at a spectacular rate, and both the Judges and the bad guys behave in a very bad fashion. The film is bloody, and violent, and beautiful,and unconventional.