Dredd is the newest film adaptation of one of several comics serialized in the British comic anthology 2000 A.D. The first time that I laid eyes on a volume of 2000 A.D. was back in high school during the early to mid-90’s. I was rummaging through the book section of the local Lifeline store for something new and interesting to read. There, sitting on one of the shelves was a stack of large comics, a new arrival that immediately intrigued me. 2000 A.D. was printed right at the top. Given my interest in comics, I began to flick through. Not far in I was introduced to Judge Dredd, an imposing figure that left a lasting impression on me. Overall, I loved the art style of 2000 A.D. and made a mental note to have enough money to get the volumes when I returned. Alas, the next time I visited the shop, the volumes were gone. Oh well.
Mega City One is one of several mega-cities created to protect humanity from the irradiated wastelands outside. Home to more than 800 million people, the government has brought into effect the Judge system for the worst crimes. These wandering judges are only able to deal with around 6% of applicable crimes, resulting in many crimes going under the radar.
Judge Dredd is one of a small number of judges assigned to his district. After coming back from a job involving dangerous driving, he is assigned by the Chief Judge (Rakie Ayola) the task of seeing if a new rookie’s insight and psychic ability are enough to make up for some poor grades. Enter Cassandra Anderson, one of the most powerful telepaths on record. Anderson is an orphan with a vested interest in looking out for parts of the city that would otherwise be overlooked. As such, she decides to pick a job at one of the worst buildings in their district for their first job. The job turns out to be a lot bigger than the two anticipate.
Three men have been skinned and thrown to their deaths at a mega-apartment structure. The two judges quickly learn that it is home to one of the biggest drug lords in Mega City One, a former prostitute named Madeline Madrigal, otherwise known as Ma-Ma. What they initially believed to be a simple job result in them being pushed to their limits as they attempt to fight off hundreds of murderous criminals. Many will be killed before the night is through.
The screenplay for this film is apparently adapted from a miniseries that was serialized in the 2000 A.D. comic. The film begins with a quick overview of what has become of the world which leads to seeing Judge Dredd dealing with a job. In this simple sequence, we see how bleak the world is inside of the protective wall of Mega City One, are shown what a Judge is allowed to do and are also given a glimpse of the world of a Slow-Mo user. We later learn that Slow-Mo is the drug that Ma-Ma’s gang manufactures and peddles from their base of operations.
The action and gore are initially confronting but it is appropriate to the dark and gritty world setting. Innocents often get hurt and judges aren’t able to protect everyone. The role of a judge is not pretty because the world is not pretty. They have to make hard decisions and mete out judgment on the spot in most cases. The plot does an excellent job of emphasizing this in several of the scenes without being on the nose.
The film does a great job of making efficient use of each scene. None of the scenes felt wasted or contrived but instead helped moved along the story of this day in the life of Dredd and Anderson. The dialogue was also well-done, showing distinct differences in personality for each person. Dredd tends to internalize his thoughts whilst Anderson tends to be more open. There is a bit of a brain versus brawn thing going on but both characters still come off as perceptive and intelligent. We also see a certain amount of growth for the two main characters over the span of the movie as well.
The action scenes and special effects are well done, showing us some of the tools available for both judges and criminals. Technology such as implants, high-tech first aid kits, gnarly weapons and DNA-locking for judge weapons are all cool but they didn’t distract from the story. Tools and equipment were viewed as simply that. We also see these tools having limitations that Dredd and Anderson have to negotiate as they fight more and more members of Ma-Ma’s gang.
How was gender/sex dealt with in this film? It was refreshing seeing a movie showing a strong female character rather than telling. The reasons for Anderson’s badassery was four-fold. First up, she had training. Second, she was a psychic. Third, she had a unique perspective, allowing her to think outside of the box. She contributed because she felt an ethical responsibility to society to be a judge. Fourth, she was also willing to work with Dredd and take on board his advice without being dependent on him at all times. It didn’t matter that she was female either because she was such a well-rounded character.
All in all, the film has moved into my top ten favorite movies of all time. It is such an awesome film and I highly enjoyed it. I highly recommend this to anyone with a love of science fiction action stories. Given the strategic nature of some of the sequences, fans of Military Science Fiction will likely appreciate the film as well. You also DO NOT have to be a fan of the comics to enjoy this film. I also highly recommend that you check out the CinemaWins video on the film.