If you cast your mind back 18 years, Judge Dredd had made it's first expedition onto the silver screen. Yet the film featured Sylvester Stallone, in his typical plasticine like face and acting as well the likes of Rob Schieder. An actor who if he appears in the opening credits, you know you need to take the disc out and burn it.The 1995 incarnation made mistakes on many levels, not to mention the fact that Stallone's face was far too famous to cover up in a Judge helmet. So this time around things are a bit different. Instead of the big name star taking the part of Dredd, Karl Urban, a rather unknown actor to the masses has taken on the infamous role and this time his chin takes to centre stage and his face is covered up for the 92 minutes he appears on screen.
From the pen of Alex Garland, most famous for penning Danny Boyle's The Beach, takes the role as scriptwriter for this incarnation. And he definatly does not pull any punches or tries to soften the edges on this excellent, gritty adaptation. The story takes place in Mega City in a dystopian America where the city runs from Chicago to Washington, surrounded by a barren wasteland that use to habitable. The city is a gritty, horrible wasteland itself, with riots and gangs on the streets the only people fighting for justice are the Judges. Most infamous of them all is Judge Dredd, a man who cares more about justice then emotions. The film is quick to jump head first into the action, not wasting any time on introducing us to the character or bother with the stereotypical superhero origin story. Dredd is quick to dish out his own form of justice, after he shoots a van full of junkies. Soon enough Dredd is paired with rookie judge, Anderson, a mutant psychic who is eager to learn the ropes. With instructions to "throw her in at the deep end" Dredd and Anderson head to Peach Trees, a block run by mob leader and ex-prostitute, Mama. Mama leads a drug ring selling a new drug, slow-mo, an inhalant that slows down the progression of time giving the drug taker a short burst of ecstasy. Dredd and Anderson soon find themselves locked in the block with everyone's trigger happy fingers pointing their way. what unfolds is a super violent visual feast of action.
Unlike Marvel or DC, 2000 AD was very much an adult based comic with a fierce cult-like following. And this origin is very detectable in Garland's Dredd, you see blood paint the screen as bullets fly through people's cheeks and bodies exploded onto the concrete. This gives the film a sense of genuine realism yet it could also be the film's downfall. Due to this visual expression of violence the film received an 18 certificate in Britain and across the pond in America. The film managed to rake over £30 million in Britain, no doubt due to the cult following Dredd as accumulated over the years. Yet over in America, the film failed to make so much as a dent in the box office, most likely due to the films certificate which narrowed down it's audience and failed to bring in the mass audiences that Marvel's family friendly films manage to attract. But the better for it, if this film was softened down for a family audience, if the certificate was bumped down to a 12A, the film would fail at achieving anything other then pleasing an audience it may not be able to attract. By concentrating its violence and achieving a 18 certificate it manages to give the fans what they have been waiting, a genuine and realistic take on one of the nations most famous comic book stars.
Dredd's achievements may have been over looked by critics and under appreciated by Americans. But it was applauded by it's British fans who applauded the films ability to depict a realistically, enjoyable comic book adaptation. Dredd may not have completely achieved it's goals but if the producer's are brave enough to allow a sequel, it could really flex its muscles and show the world what Dredd is capable of. Take the story out of the block, onto a bigger scale with more confident set pieces and you could have a real game changer on your hands. Avengers may have raked in the money, The Dark Knight Rises may have pleased the critics but Dredd has the ability to captivate it's audience in a way that Iron Man&co could never achieve.