For some reason, this movie flopped.
Dredd 3D is a hypnotic, smoky, and gut-spilling explosion based on the British comic book series Judge Dredd, and holds its own in a year of particularly good comic book-to-movie adaptions. While the story provides too little a glimpse into the futuristic world in which it is set, the movie excels in nearly every other category – especially its bombastic action and beautifully graphic yet at the same time classy visual style. It’s a movie that, at the very least, should have outperformed the I-already-forget-what-happened House at the End of the Street at the box office.
But it didn’t. Which is why I’m bummed out.
Perhaps it’s because the movie is associated with the misfired 1995 Sylvester Stallone graphic novel adaption. The movie is universally hated. Even Stallone admitted it sucked. I haven’t seen it, but considering it’s Judge Dredd and Sylvester Stallone mixed with 1995, the whole film was probably one lengthy, unimpressive montage of devouring infernos and innocent melting skulls. 1995, am I right?
Luckily, Dredd 3D was much better, and had a story beyond the explosions (not that there was any shortage of those either). In the Dredd universe, the only site of human life in a futuristic North America is Mega-City One, an overheated whirlpool of pollution and crime that serves home to 800 million people (basically Philly). The human race is disgusting, we learn and agree, because they ruined every other part of North America. How do you even do that, though? Mega-City One has a reported 17,000 crimes a day (again, Philly) and a very limited number of people who are willing to help control them. That’s why these people, the futuristic version of policemen known as ‘Judges’, are allowed to evaluate and potentially kaboom criminals (or really just anyone who looks funny) on the spot.
The city needs a lot of help. With crime as widespread as it is, someone getting flattened by a vehicle on the way home from the grocery store is a common occurrence. Shopping malls need only half an hour to clean up and reopen their stores after three skinned corpses are dropped from one hundred stories above into the plaza. Most importantly, a drug called Slo-Mo, which influences the taker’s mind to perceive images and sensations at one hundred times slower their normal pace, is used as both an illegal, addictive stress reliever or a torture method, depending on who’s giving it to ya.
Not for long – judgement time! In comes the ruthless Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and telepathic trainee Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) to cleanse residential building Peach Trees (ghetto from the future) of the drug and about a dozen other crimes that happened earlier that day. Mafia leader Mama (Lena Headey), whose shifty-eyed insanity and affection for blood is easily scarier than anything in any horror movies I’ve recently seen (ahem), predicts the arrival of the Judges and traps them within Peach Trees, issuing an order to all citizens to exterminate them immediately if they ever wish to be released. As you can imagine, grossly severed limbs and concrete-crashing gunfire ensue.
Dredd is probably the most violent movie I’ve ever seen. Hands down the goriest I’ve seen in theaters. And the best part is I’m pretty sure every last drop of blood was laboriously edited to splash out of the screen into the third dimension. But even while the movie’s visuals were rolled in the dirt and beaten until they quite literally bled, there was still something classy about the finished product. There are many scenes viewed from the perspective of one taking Slo-Mo. The movie utilizes 3D to present stunning drugged-up effects: pooling blobs of random light, or glistening shards of glass and droplets of water erupting across the screen. It was, for lack of (patience to think of) a better word, trippy. The movie shows a range from utter violence to fanciness you’d expect but could never quite find in Titanic, both harmoniously juxtaposed against each other. This is how you use 3D.
Perhaps the movie’s downfall is its greatness. The exhilarating opening scene introduces us to a city we instantly want to know but never become fully acquainted with. What was the point of locking us up in the dank, 1 star hotel-esque Peach Trees rather than unleashing us to fully explore Mega-City One? Overall the picture felt like a brief snapshot into what could have been a fantastic adventure. Who goes to Paris to spend their entire vacation bumming in their hotel room? I feel like the movie owes me more.
Which is why, as I said in the beginning, I am sad. Because the thing undeservedly flopped, and we almost certainly won’t get more. It’s painful to see this movie pitifully miss the top 5 in its opening week, and even more so to see Looper (review coming soon) debut at second behind some animated Adam Sandler vampire slop. I’ve said this blog is a judge free zone before, or something, but seeing as this movie is about Judges, I’m cutting corners this once: ‘Merica, you got bad taste. Totally judging you.