This Month in Movie History: Dredd

Mega City One. 800 million people living in the ruin of the old world and the mega structures of the new one. Only one thing fighting for order in the chaos: judges. – Judge Dredd

Released five years ago, Dredd is one of the best movies of 2012. It may have been dismissed due to the 1995 Sylvester Stallone movie, Judge Dredd, but shares no commonality with it other than being based of the same comic series. While Dredd didn’t break any box office records and will likely never get a sequel, it is still very much worth watching.

Set in a not too distance future, the world has been rebuilt after years of nuclear war. Civilization has been consolidated into so-called Mega-Cities as much of the earth is irradiated from the war. Crime is rampant and the justice system has been streamlined to keep up. The new kind of law enforcement officers, known as Judges, can carry out sentences on the spot.

Mega-City One is a gritty, and fully realized world. It feels lived in and dirty, like a glimpse into a potential future. The city is vast and some buildings are densely packed together, while others rise hundreds of stories into the sky. One such building is Peach Trees, a arcology housing projects tower, one of the most seedy and dangerous in the city. The movie takes place over a 24 hour period of Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) training a new recruit, Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby). They find themselves locked in Peach Trees and have to fight their way to the top to take down the leader of the Ma-Ma clan gang and get out alive. Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) is the leader of the clan and serves are the film’s antagonist. Portrayed as calculated, sadistic, and a little psychotic, she has a very imposing presence on screen.

Dredd however is portrayed quite stoically. He never removes his helmet, as it is part of the Judge uniform, and is not given much characterization beyond being a man of few 

words and being very good at his job. He upholds the law even in the most dire of circumstances and isn’t swayed by the difficulties of the harsh world around him. Anderson is where most of the character development comes from. She is a rookie that hasn’t done too well in the academy, but she does possess psychic abilities. The ability is the reason why she made it so far and she often uses it to keep herself and Dredd alive and moving forward. It is also the reason why she has her helmet off throughout most of the movie, as it inhibits her psychic ability. The real reason is likely because the studio wanted audiences to see at least one of the protagonists’ faces in the movie.

Slow motion is a frequent component. These scenes are used to demonstrate a made up drug, “slow mo”, which has the brain perceive time moving at just 1% of normal speed. I hesitate to use the word gimmick, but the visual effect has no real bearing on the plot and serves mostly as eye candy. Still, visual effects can still greatly contribute to a film’s entertainment value and the scenes involving slow mo are a treat for the eyes. These scenes were filmed at 3,000 frames per second and it’s amazing to see all the motion that can take place in just a few seconds of real time.

The energetic electronic soundtrack is composed by Paul Leonard-Morgan and matches the action on screen excellently. It keeps the pace of the movie and gets the viewer excited for the upcoming action.

It is the recommendation of this reviewer that you see this movie if you haven’t and if you have… watch it again.

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