Sunday, October 21, 2012
A Frank Review of "Dredd 3D" (2012)
The Short Version? "The Raid: Redemption" (2011)
What Is It? Comic booky sci-fi action.
Who Is In It? Eomer, Leah from Juno, Sarah Connor v2.0
Should I See It? No.
I saw Dredd a couple of weeks ago, on the same disappointing day I caught Looper. I rushed one of those reviews out because it was still a relatively new release, while Dredd was already a confirmed failure with a global take of less than half its fifty million dollar production budget. With low energy and little time, this one could wait. Based on other reviews I read, you'd have thought otherwise. People kept toting it as redemptive of the comic book franchise run aground with its first attempt, the 1995 Sylvester Stallone bomb Judge Dredd (which still managed to earn more than its budget, 2½ times that of Dredd 3D when adjusted for inflation.) Both films made the fatal mistake of taking their subject matter seriously, where the British comics have survived for thirty-five years thanks to their violent satirizing of exactly these sorts of movies. All in all, Demolition Man and Robocop are still better Judge Dredd movies than any featuring the actual character.
In a nuke ravaged future, the surviving masses huddle in squalid tenements that reach up to the skies in the massive Mega-City One. With crime epidemic, the law is doled out by motorcycle riding fascistic executioners called Judges, of which Dredd is hardest. On this particular day, he's saddled with a new graduate from the Judge program named Anderson, who technically failed, but is given a pass by the brass because she's a mutant with psychic powers. However, Dredd will be the ultimate judge of her fitness for the position through a one day ride along. Called to a slum highrise to investigate drug-related murders, Dredd and Anderson are eventually trapped, as everyone in the building either hides or comes gunning for them. There have been a number of extended epic storylines in the Judge Dredd comics, which the 1995 movie tried and terrifically failed to emulate. This film is closer to the short stories Dredd is more commonly featured in. However, those tales typically have a novel hook and a few laughs to carry them over a half dozen pages. This flick tries to apply the exact same ammunition across ninety minutes.
Dredd is actually a stealth Psi-Judge Anderson movie, referring to the spin-off heroine who tended to be featured in more straightforward dramatic stories. When Dredd works, it's usually because it's focusing on Anderson-- her powers, her conflicts, the lovely actress Olivia Thirlby. Unfortunately, Karl Urban's Judge Dredd is comically arch in a movie without a sense of humor, and his taking up the lion's share of the screen time renders it a joyless affair. Aside from Anderson's telepathic adventures, the only other kick is the use of Slo-Mo, a drug that alters the perception of time. There's one excellent sequence of a massacre rendered in this deliberate, stylish fashion, but its every other usage was more in line with the tedious bullet time sequences in the Matrix sequels. This was without a doubt the worst 3D movie I've ever seen in a theater. Wally Pfister may have called out Marvel's The Avengers for arbitrarily shooting angles solely for the 3D, but I'll take that over the dull flatness of Dredd in every respect, but especially in its shoddy employment of its named gimmick. I remember exactly three instances of notable 3D: a credit sequence moment of Dredd getting dressed with his elbow sticking way out, a scene in a restaurant where a chicken carcass hung on a hook, and an air-conditioning mount that was clearly ahead of the Judges in a hallway. The film is dark, so most of these three images were near entirely silhouetted.
Lena Headey gives a much better performance as the kingpin Ma-Ma than is on the page, but the rest of the actors are as stock as written. Alex Garland, who previously got a screenwriting credit for cobbling together bits of zombie movies into 28 Days Later, offers a perfunctory action script which when translated through the lens director Pete Travis is indistinguishable from any other random Redbox selection of comparable budget. There's maybe ten minutes of film worth sitting through, so someone should make a totally boss YouTube sizzle cut and leave the rest of this boring number on the floor.
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