Dredd (2012) Retrospective – SPOILER HEAVY (intended for those that have seen the theatrical release)

I must admit to being less than happy with this article.  The next article is better focused, with less spoilers. Read on if you want, please bear in mind I don’t think this is to my usual standard.

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This review is intended for people who saw the theatrical release, or the recently released blu-ray or DVD. It is full of spoilers as I will discuss setting, plot and characterization. I will discuss script, direction and cinematography. I will also compare the film to the source material. Sorry, this is long… I have spent a long time working on this and have considered many ways to cut it in to sections, I’ve decided to leave it whole.

Many people incorrectly think the film is called Dredd 3d, it isn’t. Posters boldly placed the 3d logo as the technology is used central to the plot. The film is simply called Dredd.

Please, if you have not seen the film don’t spoil your enjoyment of the blu-ray or dvd. Read my spoiler free review and Come back and read this later.

Judge Dredd is an iconic British Comic character, set in a dystopian future. Introduced in Prog 2 of 2000AD (2000AD call each issue a Prog) dated 5th March 1977. If memory serves that means it was on sale on the last Saturday in February but I may be incorrect, slept since then.

I first saw the film on Thursday August 30th in London at a pre-release screening, and several times in the cinema. I won a ticket to the Fan Screening on Twitter, others were available to win on the 2000AD Forum and John Wagner’s Facebook page. Others were invited guests, including the Judge Minty creators, Planet Replicas, John Burdis who runs the Cellar of Dredd blog and Pete wells who runs the 2000AD Covers Uncovered blog. Our friends over at ECBT2000AD couldn’t get the day off work and missed out, obviously I didn’t rub that in on Twitter at all (well not much…). John Wagner & Carlos Ezquerra, the creators of Dredd were in attendance. As were Karl Urban, lead actor, and Alex Garland, writer and Producer. You can read more about this in my earlier article Dredd 3d Fan Prerelease Screening, spoiler free.

The film opens with a voice over introducing the setting, a city of 800 million people stretching from Boston to Washington DC. This quickly establishes the look of the city, different to that in the comic. Outside is a wasteland  the Cursed Earth; note the pronunciation is Cursed, not Cur-said as in the 1995 film, the official 2000AD pronunciation. The size of the city has varied greatly through the history of the comic, often altered by major occurrences but also tweaked slightly to make continuity adjustments. To a 2000AD fan this short introduction speaks volumes. For one thing there are name checks throughout the film; friends of Alex Garland, creators from past and present that have worked on Judge Dredd for 2000AD and the Megazine. Also it gives the important links to the comic despite the city looking different to that we are familiar with much of what we expect to see is there – the Cursed Earth, the West Wall, the Hall of Justice.

The next scene is Dredd getting ready for duty. The uniform and helmet are donned in some darkness, the most the film shows of Karl Urban’s head. Again, the uniform is not the same as in the comic. Nor was the uniform in the Stallone version, though that was closer. Much has been said about the helmet issue, we never see Dredd’s true face but in the 1995 film Stallone was seen clearly almost throughout the film. This isn’t as big an issue to me as it is to many, if that film had got more correct than wrong I may have been able to turn a blind eye to this. Characterisation is more important than a simple costume issue. Stallone’s film though failed on many levels in my opinion. So, knowing that Urban was keeping his helmet on throughout the film, it was very good to have this scene to establish mood.

Dredd is on patrol on his Lawmaster, again the Lawmaster looks very different to the comic. So do all the other vehicles, when I talked to Alex Garland in August 2012 he said he had hoped to swap out the vehicles, that is to replace the vehicle with a CGI model. However costs were an issue and something had to give. Alex chose to drop the vehicles and make everything look just a little more similar to modern-day.

Control put out a call regarding three perps driving erratically in Sub Sector 20. This could be taken as meaning that this takes place at City Bottom, in the comics this is the poorest area and vehicles may well be older models than in other areas. Dredd pursues the criminals with a very focused manner and as soon as a citizen is killed by the fleeing vehicle he opts for lethal response without any qualms.

Having seen the drug Slo-Mo in use for the first time in that scene we are given quite a bit of information. Firstly we see that the user found it hard to snap back to reality. He was so absorbed in the experience he didn’t know they were being shot at.

Dredd calls in to Control requesting Paramedics to his GPS for the wounded and that there are bodies for Resyk, more about this later. In the mall scene we see a dead body with a belly-wheel nearby, a Fatty. Fatties are a very popular aspect of Dredd’s world where their extreme obesity being not only a chosen way of life but an accepted one that even has its own sports.

The surviving perp is dispatched with a ‘hotshot’, Dredd uses a voice command to select the special round on his Lawgiver. In the comic a ‘hotshot’ is a slang or alternative term for a heat-seeker. However in the film it seems to be a flare, the death is graphically gory.

Dredd is recalled to the Hall of Justice by the Chief Judge, an un-named woman. There are no un-named Chief judges in the comic continuity and none of the Chief Judges have been a black woman. So regardless of name this is a digression from comic continuity. The 95 film also digressed on this matter, but in that film it was by using several Chief Judges to form the Council of Five, these characters were very badly used. Judge Griffin for example, a hero in the comic but a villain in the 95 movie. I consider this a lesser crime committed by this movie than the previous.

The Chief Judge introduces Dredd to Cadet Anderson. This is another large digression from 2000AD Judge Dredd continuity. In the comics Anderson is introduced as a full Judge and a junior member of the Psi Division, staffed by people with natural abilities such as telepathy and telekinesis. In the film there does not appear to be a Psi Division. Anderson is identified in the film as having a mild mutation that has given her psychic abilities including some form of mind reading. Anderson lived close to the walls and her family died from the radiation that gave her the abilities that the Chief Judge was interested in. We also learn Anderson has actually failed at the Academy, due to her high psychic ability the Chief Judge wants to give her a second chance, see how she performs in the field.

Here is a convenient point to discuss the Justice Department as depicted in the film. The Judges seem to be barely keeping the city in order. Dredd’s helmet shows severe wear and tear, suggesting that he is either tardy in his appearance or that the Justice Department is struggling. This film is likely set quite early in the Justice Department running the city and acting as its government, so this is possibly the case. Indeed the Chief Judge states that the Justice Department is losing the war for the city.  We see however a full Control room, the Judges there wearing a different base uniform to that of Dredd. Also outside the Hall of Justice we see Judges wearing long coats and with entirely black helmets, without the red trimming, these are credited as ‘Judge as Entrance’ on IMDB, I cannot recall how they were credited on the movie but I assume this is correct. However on a forthcoming sale of props from the movie these are listed as Judge security.

Dredd informs Anderson that incorrect sentencing, failing to obey an order or losing her primary weapon is an automatic fail. He then asks her if she is ready, when she says ‘Yes’ he says nothing at all. This is the start of a journey, clearly we are to expect some growth in this for Anderson, she is in a way the ‘in’ for the viewer, the human side of the Justice Department.

Madeline “Ma-Ma” Madrigal, the villain of the film, very well portrayed by Lena Headey. Ma-Ma is not to be mistaken for the character from the Judge Dredd Megazine story ‘Kuss Hard’, Mama Kuss. Though she also had a gang they were in fact all her own children, from multiple fathers. Ma-Ma’s back story is told in a prequel e-comic that was released to coincide with the film release. Ma-Ma runs a gang, the Ma-Ma Clan, in Peach Trees, a very down run city-block. The block was named after the Peach Tree cafe where Alex Garland met with John Wagner to discuss the film.

Ma-Ma is in the bath when we first see her. She has taken Slo-Mo and the 3D really kicks in with individual water droplets breaking away from her arm as she raises it. Ma-Ma is so absorbed it takes her second in command, Caleb, several attempts to get her attention. Cinematographer, Anthony Dod Mantel,  wanted to achieve different things with 3d to what we see in most movies where mostly it is depth and objects coming out toward the viewer.

Ma-Ma orders the execution of three block residents that have been selling Slo-Mo without permission.  She orders they be used as an example and has them skinned alive & thrown over the balcony to fall 200 floors. At the suggestion of the Clan member who runs the level the victims come from they are thrown over the balcony while under the influence of Slo-Mo. We see the victims view of slowly being launched over the balcony and falling. This scene is quite gory but the shots of the violence are brief. Two bodies fall very near a young mother and child, the third would have landed on them if she hadn’t looked up. This was met with mixes of laughter and intakes of breath at the screenings I saw.

Dredd and Anderson respond to the crime, Dredd having told Anderson that the Judges can only respond to 6% of reported crimes. More evidence that the Justice Department are not as much in control as they seem for most part in the comic.

On arriving at the block Dredd asks Anderson what she knows about it. Anderson informs him that there are 75,000 registered residents and that it has the highest crime rate in the city. Unemployment is at 96% and more than half the residential area is classed as slums. Peach Trees is not just a place for the majority of the action to take place. Peach Trees is almost a character.

In the comics the city is as much an integral part to the plot of most stories as the heroes and villains. The city blocks are usually named after famous people from history, show business or fictional characters. For example early on in the comics Dredd lives in Rowdy Yates block, Rowdy Yates was a character in the TV series Rawhide played by Clint Eastwood. Dredd is of course to some degree based on another Eastwood character, Detective Harry Callaghan from the Dirty Harry movies. Blocks in this film are mostly 2000Ad creators, including one named for long-time letterer of Dredd, Tom Frame, who died in 2006 from cancer. Peach Trees is named after the cafe Alex Garland and John Wagner met in to discuss the film, the cafe has the name Peach Tree and the tree was pluralised in error.

Dredd asks Anderson why she wants to be a Judge, she replies she wants to make a difference, she wants to help the citizens. Dredd clearly doesn’t think much of Anderson’s views on the citizens. Dredd holds the opinion that the citizens are all potential criminals, just as he has for most of the time in the comics. I’ve read some people’s comments that there is no comedy in the film, something that Dredd is known for in print, often dark comedy and satire. But the way Dredd responds to Anderson’s idealistic beliefs with the one line ‘Admirable’ said with deep sarcasm amused many viewers, me included.

It is important to know that Alex asked John Wagner to look at the dialogue and John cut out many lines and shortened others. Karl Urban also pared down his own lines. Dredd doesn’t give big speeches in the comic, he has few catchphrases. This film captures that aspect of the character perfectly.

Dredd and Anderson are greeted by a Paramedic, this character is used for plot exposition. He shows the Judges the crime scene and gives more detail about the drug Slo-mo, he informs them that makes time seem to pass at 1% of normal time. We learn that unlike the strip there is no Block Judge. The Paramedic works in the block’s medical centre. The medical centre’s computer has access to Justice Department records and schematics of the block. This suggests that it is linked to the Justice Department and that the Paramedic is an auxiliary, a member of the Department without being a Judge. This would fit close to the comic as there are many auxiliary posts, such as ambulance, or Meat wagon, crews.

Using the computer, as well as flashback scenes, the Paramedic details the rise to power of Ma-Ma and the fact she runs the Slo-Mo operation. She is an ex-prostitute who maimed her pimp by biting his genitals off. She took over his business then moved into Peach Trees, apparently with her lieutenant Caleb, and took over the top floor. She worked down the block defeating the three gangs that were already there; the Peyote Kings, Red Dragons and The Judged. He gives the Judges the location of the main Ma-Ma Clan operation on level 39, the level the three dead perps chad been resident.

Dredd and Anderson reach the door to the apartment where they expect to find members of the Clan. Dredd points out to Anderson that she has forgotten her helmet, she explains that it can disrupt her Psi abilities. Here is an explanation of something we constantly see in strip form, Dredd always wearing a helmet, Anderson almost never wearing one. This has never been explained in the comic and is purely a storytelling device Dredd is the faceless representative of the law and Anderson is the empathetic caring side. Clearly fellow Judges see Dredd’s face and clearly Anderson wears a helmet much of the time. From the perspective of this film Anderson didn’t wear her helmet because as I stated earlier she was there as the viewers ‘in’ the human side to sympathise with.

Arriving at the Slo-mo den Dredd asks Anderson again if she is ready, she replies that she is. Dredd responds that she doesn’t look ready and she defends herself stating it is merely adrenaline. Dredd uses an explosive device from his kit, this exists in the comic, to open the locked door. Inside the occupants are taking Slo-Mo so we are treated to their perspective of the raid. The extreme violence is all in slow motion and we see realistic rippling of flesh from the blast from the explosion and the shots from the Judges’ guns. Once the room is secure Dredd tells Anderson to sentence the survivors. She tells Dredd what sentence she is giving, Dredd tells her she is supposed to be telling Control. This establishes that Anderson doesn’t fully understand, or easily forgets due to pressure, correct procedure.

Anderson identifies the person that skinned the three murder victims from a flash of telepathy. Dredd questioned how certain she is and she shows doubt. Dredd decides to leave the rest of the prisoners to be collected by others Control would send but to take in the suspect, Kay, themselves. In the comic Judges often leave perps at the scene for a Patrol Wagon to collect them.

Dredd, Anderson and Kay are seen on camera by a young man, billed as Clan Techie, who clearly has prosthetic eyes that have . The Techie alerts Caleb and Ma-Ma orders the block to be locked down. Caleb and a group of Clan members attack the security room, also possibly auxiliaries but this isn’t as clear as the situation with the Paramedic. The Techie calls through to the Justice Department and bluffs through alerting them to a test of the block’s war defenses. Ma-Ma is stood over him and it is fairly clear that he isn’t entirely a willing participant, he is also clearly a victim of Ma-Ma’s violence from the earlier flashbacks. He has prosthetic eyes, something that Dredd has in the comic but aren’t referred to in the film, in comic continuity this happened long after he had met Anderson.

Security screens come down on all windows and entrances/exits, sealing off some teenagers on a skate-park several floors up and crushing a vagrant that Dredd had ordered to leave the area. Ma-Ma speaks over the Block intercom to alert all Clan members to hunt down the two Judges and everyone else to stay out of the way.

Finding they cannot contact Control the Judges decide to return to the Medical Centre as that is the most secure area.

The fight scene on the stairs is a very good example of how this film went for some degree of realism. Dredd shoots each Clan member twice, a double tap, he does not just run gun blazing as in most action films. There were only four actors in this scene but as it was filmed with two cameras the footage is re-used, I believe with some recolouring, to increase the flights of stairs involved and double the attackers to eight. Then in a fight at the top of the stairs the Judges use a flash-bang grenade to cause confusion and Dredd reloads his gun, even though he hadn’t finished the clip, a valid tactic as he knew he had fired almost all his rounds and wouldn’t want to have to reload mid fight. Any trained soldier or armed response policeman will probably confirm this is good practice.

One of that group of Clan members at the top of the stairs is injured but alive. Dredd tells Anderson to sentence him, she sentences him to death for attempted murder of two Judges. Reluctantly she carries out the sentence. Whether there is or is not a death sentence in the comics has varied over the years. Dredd certainly kills a lot of people who don’t come quietly, however he has rarely executed anyone after capturing them. At times it has been stated there is no death penalty and at other times the sentence has been ‘Death!’ This is explained away by changes in legislation and that some crimes, such as treason  have always carried the death sentence even if violent crimes against other citizens doesn’t.

The Paramedic refuses the Judges entry stating that with all the Ma-Ma clan after them they are already dead.

Anderson is concerned that the prisoner is now a liability, Dredd asks her if she wants to cut him loose. This is clearly a test and Anderson passes by saying no and collecting him from where she had made him kneel.

Working through the corridors they find Clan members searching for them. Anderson uses her psychic ability to learn the name of a resident and talk to her through the door intercom to convince her to open the door. Dredd and Anderson hide in the apartment, she has a child and Anderson discovers that the father is a clan member out looking for them. Kathy gives them an escape route to take them away from her family. Anderson discovers the executed man is Kathy’s partner, Anderson clearly has difficulty coming to terms with the fact she killed the child’s father.

The Clan Techie shows Ma-Ma how effective the Judges have been in avoiding, and killing, her people. He secures the area that the Judges are in. The Judges split up, Dredd doesn’t explain where he is going but advises Anderson where to defend and to save a bullet for herself rather than get captured. As Dredd walks through the corridor citizens are barricading their doors.

Kay uses this opportunity to try to put Anderson off her guard. He discusses her mutant status and abilities and tries to affect her by thinking about raping her. She feigns that it doesn’t affect her but his next thought clearly does and she cuffs him into silence.

Ma-Ma is clearly annoyed at Dredd’s ability to stay one step ahead of her Clan and now she thinks they have them cornered they bring out three huge guns that shoot through walls. Though much bigger this seems to be a reference to Stub Guns from the comic, though they are hand-held lasers and these guns are more like Gatling guns. Entire walls are destroyed and many block inhabitants killed. Dredd sees a hole in the exterior wall and shoots a hi-explosive round to open up an escape root. Dredd, Anderson and Kay jump out of the building and land in the skate-park.

Outside the block’s security they are able to contact Control and request back up. When offered rescue from where they are Dredd refuses as he knows they would be found by the Clan before a vehicle arrives to pick them up. They g back in to the block.

Dredd works through the Clan members that are searching for their bodies and captures Caleb. Without a word he picks him up and throws him off the balcony, only to turn and walk into the dust clouds and out of Ma-Ma’s sight.

Dredd and Anderson take Kay into a room, which turns out to be a schoolroom. There is a flag on the wall much like the Stars and Stripes of USA but with only 5 stars. This may be to do with how many ‘safe’ areas there are in USA rather than states. In the comics these are not ruled over by any central Government but do appear to be allied. There is a Mega City Two on the Western seaboard; Mega City Three in Texas (also known as Texas City); Las Vegas, where the mafia took over the Justice Department and possibly the fifth would be Alaska.

Dredd starts to interrogate Kay by physically beating him, Anderson suggests she can obtain information from him and uses her abilities to enter his head. She is then alone with Kay inside his mind, she comments that it is rather empty in his head which obviously received laughter at every screening I saw. Kay tests her defences, trying to shoot her and then thinking of sexual activities. Anderson turns the table on him and puts him in the position of the pimp Ma-Ma assaulted. She then takes full control and goes through his mind looking for evidence, seeing the murders that brought the Judges to Peach Tress and learning of the Slo-mo production.

Two Judges arrive as back up for Dredd and Anderson but the Clan Techie stalls them with the War Protocol story. He tells them he has temporarily lost control of the system and that they have had a fire on Level 76. All the way through this conversation Ma-Ma is stood by him, clearly threatening him.

Dredd asks Anderson how to proceed, she suggests waiting for back-up. He prefers to take the fight to Ma-Ma. Two teenagers are seen tracking them at this point, both nervous. While Dredd checks the schematics of the building the teenagers get closer. They challenge the Judges shouting ‘Freeze’ Dredd stalls them with conversation and bluffs that they have safety on. He uses stun rounds to disable them and Kay uses the brief fight to capture Anderson, take her in an elevator to Level 200. There are no stun rounds in the Lawgiver in the comic but it has been used to fire an electrical pulse that acts like a strong taser disabling the perp, it is possible that this is actually what is used here.

Ma-Ma tells Kay that all of the trouble was his fault, he should have killed the Judges during the bust or died trying to kill them. She informs him that she would kill him herself but she has lost too many people. She orders Anderson not be harmed as she needs to fake her death in a shoot out, one on level 25 and the other in the Slo-mo den on level 39 where the bust took place. The Clan Techie tells Ma-Ma that Dredd is trying to access the PA and that if she lets him he can trace exactly where Dredd is talking from. Dredd makes an announcement that Ma-Ma is guilty of crimes and sentenced to death, warning that anyone obstructing him would be considered accessories. Clan Techie identifies the terminal in use as being 10 floors down.

The terminal is outside a cinema complex, we see doors to Theatre One and Theatre Two, a poster advertises a film that seems to be called Krysler’s mark – a possible reference to the Judge Child from a Dredd epic of the same name, the child in the picture doesn’t look like Owen Krysler. The Clan members converge on the booth but it is a trap, a dead body is suspended inside. Dredd uses Incendiary round to deal with the Clan members sent to kill him. In the comics an incendiary round explodes on contact or at a designated range and is similar to napalm, engulfing a target and burning uncontrollably  In the film however the incendiary acts more like a white phosphorous grenade.

Kay asks how they are going to stop Dredd, Ma-Ma replies ‘Call 911’.  There is nothing in the comic to say if a specific number is called to contact Justice Department, I assume this is simply Ma-Ma using antiquated language.

Four Judges arrive supposedly in response to the 10-24, Judges under fire, that Dredd had called in. They are given admittance and dismiss the two Judges that were waiting outside. The four Judges discuss what has happened, assuming that Dredd and Anderson were dead the Paramedic has seen them arriving and tells them the actual events. One of the Judges executes him with a shot to the head at point blank range.

Judge Lex, the leader of the group asks for one million credits to kill Dredd. He leaves one of his people, a female Judge named Kaplan, to protect ‘the client’, Ma-Ma, taking the other two to find Dredd. Judge Chan, who identifies himself of being from Sector 9, finds Dredd first, Dredd realises there is something wrong when Chan doesn’t ask about Anderson. In a brief fight he shoots Chan in the feet, headbutts him then collapses his windpipe with a blow from the hand grip of his lawgiver.

Kay, having been ordered to kill Anderson talks about her inadequacy as a Judge and decides to kill her with her own gun. Aiming the lawgiver he sets off its security protocol and it blows up, destroying his hand. Anderson kicks him in the head, possibly killing him. She then gets a weapon from Clan member and starts to escape, clearly Anderson’s combat training has been efficient.  The female Judge leaves Ma-Ma to go after Anderson.

Lex and Alvarez close in, finding Chan dead. Dredd escapes into the Slo-mo factory, the other Judges pursue him. While Lex and Dredd talk Alvarez maneuvers. Lex talks of the city, he has been on the streets for twenty years and has clearly given up  where as Dredd is still convinced that the Law is all important. Dredd is out of most of the ammo in his gun and kills Alvarez with a Hi-Ex.

Kaplan attempts to fool Anderson that she is her back up, but either through telepathy or precognition the rookie realises it is a trap and simply shoots the other Judge and moves on.

Dredd, out of ammo is hidden behind a wall and Lex fires several armour piercing rounds, hitting Dredd in the back, leaving a large exit wound in his side. As Lex moves in to finish him off Dredd asks him to wait, Lex enters a monologue about what he is waiting for only for Anderson to shoot him from behind. Dredd must have seen her creeping towards him unless he was hoping he came close enough to use his dagger.

Dredd is on his feet quickly, which suggests he had been exaggerating how much the wound was affecting him, which may support my theory that he hadn’t seen Anderson and was stalling for any chance that arose. Dredd applies a first aid kit, injecting a gel like substance into the wound and using a device to apply sutures. The gel is probably an antiseptic and pain killer, it could have glue properties also, sutures may not be enough for a Judge to go straight back in to physical activity. Dredd then takes Lex’s ammo. He asks Anderson for a third time in the movie if she is ready, she says yes and this time he says that she looks ready.

They capture the Clan Techie who, scared offers them the combination to Ma-Ma’s private quarters where she is holed up. Anderson states she can get the information without his co-operation and reads his mind. She sees how he has been treated, including the fact that Ma-Ma poked his eyes out, and releases him. She tells Dredd that though she has failed by losing her primary weapon she is still on assessment and is entitled to dispense justice, even if this is only difference she will ever make.

Dredd and Anderson work towards Ma-Ma taking out Clan members along the way in effective style. Reaching Ma-Ma her personal body guards attempt a final defence. Anderson is injured with a shot to the side of her chest but only Ma-Ma remains.

Ma-Ma explains the transmitter that is attached to her wrist will send a signal if her heart stops. There is enough explosives at the top of the block to destroy the top fifty levels. If the top is destroyed she says the whole block would be destroyed.

Dredd sentences her to Death, Ma-Ma is convinced he won’t shoot, but he does. He wounds her, talks about how far the signal will travel and gives her a shot of Slo-mo. He tells her the crimes she is charged with and throws her through a window to fall the 200 floors to her death. We follow that journey mostly from her perspective with her falling seemingly gracefully among the shards of glass, arms out to her side. we then see the fall in real time for part of the fall and then back into Slo-mo to

The scene cuts to the blast door at the South Entrance of the block opening. Numerous Judges and Paramedics are outside  including some black helmeted Security. Dredd informs Anderson that her assessment is now over – Anderson assumes she has failed and hands him her badge and heads to a paramedic ambulance for treatment.

The Chief Judge passes her and tells Dredd she thought she should come in person as she had forced the rookie on him. She asks him what happened and Dredd replies simply, ‘Drugs Bust’ . The Chief Judge comments on the injury and Dredd replies, ‘Perps were uncooperative. Asked by the Chief Judge he says of Anderson, ‘She’s a pass’.

The final scene is of a Judge speeding off on a Lawmaster, presumably Anderson, with a voice over referring to the only thing keeping the city safe is the Judges.

Karl Urban did a marvelous job with both the delivery of lines, just the right amount of sarcasm, and acting with only half his face. His body language gave his attitude throughout the film.

Olivia Thirlby brings a very vulnerable element in to the portrayal of Anderson. She is quite different to the confident and rather anti-establishment Anderson we are used to in 2000AD and the Megazine.

Lena Headey was excellent, her understated constant menacing presence was perfect. Her clan ruled by fear of her, especially with her loyal bodyguards and Caleb almost always present.

Wood Harris as Kay, the human face we would rather not see. He was convincingly cruel of spirit and knew exactly what he wanted.

Domnhall Gleeson also deserves a mention for his role, the poor boy seems terrified throughout.

Alex Garland brought Dredd to the screen and it is a huge shame it didn’t do well at the box office. I agree that it could be partly due to how few 2d screenings there were in the UK and the fact that in the USA beyond the Stallone film, which was awful in my opinion. I’m hoping, probably hopelessly, that DVD and Blu-ray sales will be enough to secure a sequel. Perhaps those that didn’t go this time will redeem themselves if there is.

I wrote an article recently about how much change we are willing to accept from an adaptation. I’ve pointed out where many of the changes have been made, I’m willing to accept them all because the general feel of Dredd was preserved, the main character was as close as is likely to be seen.

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5 comments on “Dredd (2012) Retrospective – SPOILER HEAVY (intended for those that have seen the theatrical release)

  1. shakaama says:

    the reason this movie bombed was 2 fold. first, due to it’s R rating, blood and gore, a majority of the audience is going to be male. second, of the comics i did collect of Judge Dredd, I never saw a sidekick of any sort, and never saw a female at all, and this had 3, one of them even being a chief judge, again, something i’m not used to seeing in what comics i had. and, the main villain of the movie is a woman. this has to be the worst part of the movie and reason this movie bombed worst than the stallone box office returns. no man is going to want to see an end fight of a man vs a woman. it smacks of rape or something akin to it. and while in a book or comic, the author has plenty of time to setup why a woman is in charge of 300lb men, thieves, thugs, and a hive of scum and villainy, 60 minutes is not enough to setup, in a man’s mind how a 120lb woman could do this, no matter how much she cursed.

    i was hopeful, when I first heard of a judge dredd reboot, but when I saw a female sidekick, and a female villain, I dreaded ever going to see it. Instead of seeing testosterone charged, unleashed judge dredd, it was a baby’s day out movie, with blood and gore.

    • Well there have been two female Chief Judges in the comics. Both did two terms, both returning for a second term of office due to the city being in desperate need.

      Anderson is a major character and had adored Dredd several times. Also had her own starring roll.

      Dredd has had several passengers in his comic career, other than Anderson. Most notably Judges Giant snr, Giant jnr, his clones Rico (not the one in the Stallone film that was very inaccurate by the weary) & Dolman. One of his most trusted friends at the moment is Judge Beeny, a female.

      The Stallone film was much less like the comic, huge errors. This latest version was a lot closer.

  2. Katie says:

    I thought this movie was excellent. I was so surprised at how good it was. The man above, condemning the movie for being atrocious because of the women–that’s ridiculous. That’s his own sexist views coming in to play. The movie was written as not to be about gender roles. It was about humanity. The women weren’t written like weak, sappy wimps. And thank god. These are strong-willed women. Ma-Ma was incredible. She had such understated menace. And why wouldn’t anyone want to see a man vs a woman? It’s about the characters–good vs evil–not about gender.

    Anderson was also cool. I was afraid she was going to be the ultra-wimpy, lame, female that movies, video games and tv shows like to portray. But she actually showed some grit, intellect and she changed after her first real fights. Which was completely rational. Anyone would go through that sort of change. And she didn’t whine or complain.

    I thought this movie was awesome. And even if the guy above thinks that women are useless and weak–they very much are not. So maybe insecure guys like that should let go.

    • I agree.Katie. The characters were well formed and believable as far as I am concerned. The response shows a distinct lack of knowledge of Judge Dredd – as I mentioned in my response to it.

      The comic doesn’t divide characters by gender.

      There have been many strong female characters through the years. As you say it is the character not the gender that drives the story.

      Great film.

  3. bub says:

    Pal u need to get out more it’s a film

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