Thursday, 30th August 2012, Soho Hotel, London. Introduced by Karl Urban and Alex Garland.
I won the chance to be there on Twitter. Being a huge fan of 2000AD I have been following them for quite some time, the Tweet Droid is a nice fellow and deserves pity as he is overseen by Molch-r. @2000AD is where to find him.
I travelled to the big smoke in definite mood of positivity, with more than a hint of giddy excitement. This isn’t the place for it but I am not a fan of the 1995 movie. But I had bought in to the idea this film was going to get it right.
I arrived at The Ship, a pub that, members of the 2000AD forum had arranged to meet up in. How would I spot a group if people I feel like I knew but hadn’t met?
Well I had an idea most might be 40-something, just like myself. I have seen pics of some. They may have 2000AD clothing. Or, as it turned out, they might be sat with John Wagner. Yeah, those were the ones I wanted to meet up with. The people sat with John Wagner, creator and writer of Judge Dredd. There, in the pub, with the forum gang. Oddly everyone else arriving after me managed to spot that the ones with John Wagner were the ones they sought.
I don’t think I am over exaggerating here how cool that was. I know he probably puts one sock on at a time. But to a 2000AD fan this is Jackie Charlton, Bobbie Moore, Alec Guinness, Sir Laurence Olivier or Elvis.
So. Onwards to the screening. I got in early to get central seating, just behind some ‘reserved’ seats. Others filed in and slowly the room filled. Four ‘reserved’ seats and we knew Karl Urban was going to be on the 2000AD Twitter account during the filming. Two seats were duly taken by John Wagner. The other two were a mystery. That is until John took out his mobile and said ‘Carlos, where are you? We are holding up the film for you.”
Well many excited murmurings went round the room.
Shortly a nice PR lady let us know we were awaiting a VIP. I’m not sure she realised we all knew who Carlos was… or how highly regarded he is. When he arrived there were cheers and rapturous applause. Mr Wagner told Mr Ezquerra off for causing such trouble. Carlos grinned, a little mischievously, and apologised.
Carlos Ezquerra was in the house! To go back to earlier comparisons I guess Pele had just walked in. Or maybe Zinidan Zidane, Antonio Banderos, Ricardo Montalban, Julio Inglasias.
The film started, there were sporadic cheers.
Now I can only assume you’ve seen the trailer so what follows counts as ‘spoiler free’. If you haven’t seen the trailer I’m surprised you are reading this, apologies if there are spoilers.
The general look of the film is fairly widely known. The uniform is different, a practical decision as the large and solid Eagle would restrict movement. So the uniform is a utility style, armoured for defence. Where as in the comics Anderson’s lack of helmet is never explained (clearly she sometimes wears one and Dredd takes his off – in comic she never wears one and he is never without). The vehicles are also very different, Alex had hoped to swap out the vehicles for CGI, the budget however went only so far.
I’d say that this is a minor issue to me, especially as I knew the look beforehand – I avoided as many spoilers as possible but obviously couldn’t avoid all the pictures and clearly wanted to see the trailers. But to me the story, the characterisation – those are the important aspects.
The story is clearly a Dredd story, it could so easily have been in 2000AD or the Meg. We first see a crime and a call goes out for Judges to respond. There is a key spoiler in this area that really helped the build up – I will do a spoiler-light review later and this will be included.
Karl Urban has used a lower toned voice than his natural speech but it does not sound forced, it sounds like an actor acting. Always a good start if the actor can act. I’ve seen a few of Karl’s other films such as Lord of The Rings (trilogy in case you hadn’t noticed), Star Trek (reboot) and Pathfinder. So I was confident that Karl has range, the characters I know him as have nothing in common.
Anderson is introduced, she’s to be Dredd’s Rookie. You’ll have seen her badge says Anderson not Psi – I’ll explain more in the spoiler-light review. Dredd isn’t happy, well he wouldn’t be would he.
The partnership goes as one would expect, he shows he isn’t impressed. The tensions (ours, the viewers) are revealed by the kind of witty responses we are used to in the comics. The type that to the person receiving them are negative but to us the viewer are funny – in other words there is a good deal of sarcasm.
The violence is quite gritty, some viewers considered it a little under what would be labelled ‘graphic’. I think that is a matter for individuals. Some made we wince, but was certainly within what I consider acceptable for the type of film we were watching. Dredd is violent, he shoots people, till they lack life. So there are gun shots, people bleed and people die. This isn’t the A-Team (TV series, not seen the film) people do not sit in cars, without seatbelts, crash the car and roll… only to climb out dizzy yet unscathed after the heroes escape. No, there is blood, there are maimings and there are bodies. I think the 18 rating was a good move, R rating to our US friends.
Ma-Ma. The delightful Lena Heady – 300, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Game of Thrones for example. Again varied parts. She portrays a crime boss very neatly, very fitting for Dredd’s world, comic or film. Her people are suitably dark for the setting, mostly very unlikable. But we see a few other angles to this (see the spoiler-light version if you want more). There is little I can say without spoilers other than that the acting from Lena was consistent and gave us a very believable villain.
The film had, to me, four parts. The set up, the strong beginning for our heroes that soon goes south, a reversal in the favour of our heroes that meets a challenge, the resolution. It isn’t episodic but I can see how I’d have spread it over four issues in the Meg.
In summation, spoiler free – I saw Dredd on Thursday, 30th August 2012. I saw Dredd on the big screen the way he is in the comic. Yes there are many ways to show Dredd in the comic. We’ve had drama, comedy, satire; we’ve even had choose your own adventure and poetry. But the main under current is that Dredd lives in a brutal city, that is what we got. We got a consistent characterisation of Dredd that fits with the comic. We got an Anderson who is not as harsh as the eponymous hero of the strip. We got a solid story.
I saw Dredd on Thursday, 30th August 2012.