„America is an irradiated wasteland.
Within it lies a city.
Outside the boundary walls a desert. Cursed earth.
And inside a cursed city.
Stretching from Boston to Washington, D.C.
800 million people living in the ruins of the old world.
And the mega structures of the new one.
Mega City One.
Only one thing fighting for order in the chaos – the men and women of the Hall Of Justice.
Juries. Executioners. Judges.”
The intro to the movie seems like a good start. There is no painstakingly long story of how this has happened. We get the basics and then the movie itself kicks off. And it feels quite exciting too. We see Dredd (Karl Urban, Star Trek) getting dressed and then off to perform a fast-paced „arrest” of three law-breakers. The costume, the helmet, the motorbike – all has a nice, dark feel to it. At this point in the film I thought to myself this might actually be good. I only sort of remember the original 1995 movie Judge Dredd, and the comics I never read. So there was really nothing to compare it to. But I love movies even if they’re this blockbuster-y, post apocalyptic lets-just-shoot-and-see-what-happens type if they’re well thought-out and interesting. It was obvious that Alex Garland who wrote the script had to do something else than just rewrite the last movie so, we’re introduced to a new character. Cassandra Anderson ( Olivia Thrilby, The Darkest Hour). Now I don’t consider this a spoiler because it’s just given to us plain and straight that the girl is a mutant. She is a very powerful psychic and wants to train to become a judge. She is not quite as good as she should be, but the Hall Of Justice wants to give her a chance considering her other abilities. She is assigned to Dredd to be tested if she can overcome her shortcomings and either pass or fail the field test. They go on to investigate a triple homicide and get more than they had bargained for. There’s a drug cartel and a violent man-hating bitch who will stop at nothing to get her way.
So we have a bit too obvious a duo now. The Judge who’s never seen taking off his helmet (a nod to the comics apparently) and a small blonde psychic girl with an innocent expression on her face. So basically he represents justice – always follow the rules, be fair and protect the innocent. She is the heart behind this pairing. Comes from a poor family and saw it all from the citizen’s point of view. She says that she wants to make a difference by becoming the judge. At first Dredd is clearly against her being there, and treats her coldly. Throughout the movie he never loses his cool nor shows much emotion (quite difficult playing only with your mouth probably too). Anderson on the other hand goes through quite a change from being wary and careful to almost a badass by the end of it.
So the plot is simple. Of course we expect that Anderson’s abilities will somehow come in handy in combat. The bad-guys are as usual a bit too stupid. I mean – they’ve come on top in the drug and mafia world but somehow can’t manage two judges (one’s a rookie) and on their own territory I might add. Every time I watch a movie where men with super guns shooting at whoever (because they’re bad so don’t have to care about human life at all) can’t even aim and get their target I lose interest. For God’s sake how stupid are they? Is there just one very bad villain school or something?
Then on the other hand we have the judges. I know they’re supposed to be good. And Dredd has a movie named after him so he must be the best of the best. But that’s actually never shown. Sure the viewer going to see this movie expects this anyway. But it would have been nice to somehow also be able to feel that he is *this* good. I didn’t get that from the film. I knew it, but wasn’t really rooting for Dredd the way I might have been had they given him more character development. I realize they didn’t want to show too much back-story, but even a one-liner from another character when they say: „Hey, Dredd – you’re just the best – I wanna be like you someday” would have given me more perspective. When they finally give you that it’s almost the end of the movie and it doesn’t really matter. Because I have already watched him being badass so I don’t need that crap reminded out loud.
I guess that’s my main complaint. The movie is called Dredd yet you don’t really feel like you have grown to like his character. They try to do it a few times, but it fails because what they hint at is never resolved. You feel like there’s more to him than just a grimacing mouth and a deep voice, but that’s it. It had potential, but the writers and director Pete Travis (Vantage Point) didn’t make the most of it. It was too obvious. The villains were weak, and their actions brave at best, but so pointless most of the time. The few (sort-of) twists in the story don’t really make much difference to the plot at all. The dialogues were passable, but the I-will-give-you-a-speech-before-I-kill-you kind of overused at some point. And most of all you don’t really feel that Dredd and his companion are in real peril. You should be at the edge of your seat a few times, but you’re not, because that’s how obvious they make it. I’m sorry for this spoiler, but anyone who has seen more than two movies like that will know what happens by the time Dredd and Anderson meet . It’s sad because overall I enjoyed watching it. It was during the moments when I switched on my brain and thought about what I was seeing that I lost interest. But if you can just look at the pictures and try to roll with it I guess you might like it. It’s all a matter of perspective. Someone said to me I wouldn’t miss out if I hadn’t seen Dredd and I agree. Watch if you’re bored, but don’t expect anything memorable.