Release Date(s)2012 (January 8th, 2013)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: C+
Comic book adaptations were in their infancy in the 1990s. Inspired by (but not really knowing what to make of the success of) Tim Burton’s Batman, a bunch of comic-book properties were purchased to be made into movies. Most of them ended up in the land of direct to video, like Captain America or Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher movie. Those that didn’t usually didn’t fare much better, as was the case with Judge Dredd. A huge production even by today’s standards, it featured the star power of Max Von Sydow, Rob Schneider and Armand Assante squaring off against Sylvester Stallone. But with a silly, weak script and costume design that probably was better left on the page, the movie failed to gain traction with fans or the general public and quickly became bargain bin fodder and mostly forgotten. Flash forward to 2012 – Dredd is back, this time armed with a crew that knows and loves him, a fantastic new Dredd in the form of Karl Urban, and a lower budget that probably helps the film more than it hurts it.
In the future, nuclear war has made much of the Earth uninhabitable and the remaining sections are grouped into MegaCities, unending urban sprawl ruled over by Judges who are the judge, jury and executioner men on the street. Judge Dredd (Urban) is one of the finest officers on the force, feared by the entire criminal element, and he’ll need that. Trapped inside a hundred story apartment building with the kingpins of the newest drug on the street, Slo-Mo, he’ll need all his wits, weapons and one-liners to send villain MaMa to her just desserts.
Shot in a mixture of native 3D and conversion, Dredd is the perfect title for showing off your 3D home theater system. Dredd never concerns itself with being pretty – the film takes place mostly in a decaying 200-story cookie-cutter apartment facility, but that never stops it from being visually interesting. Instead of concerning itself with expensive wow effects, Dredd makes the most of 3D, placing objects as benign as an air conditioner in key places to enhance depth and to provide visual cues that allow you to place things in space easily. The drug Slo-Mo is usually the one place where aesthetic becomes a factor, with gelatin soapy water and a ballet of bullets and gore paired with an a ton of “floaties” that sparkle out of your TV and just look fantastic. Dredd is a low budget production, but you’ll never care because of the great use of space – both with the camera movement and also clever set redressing so you never realize they’ve been running around the same couple floors for an hour and a half.
The audio space is equally impressive, with a near-field 7.1 mix that’s been extended for DTS’s new 11.1 Neo X. Dredd paints its space with a huge amount of directionality and fidelity. It’s not just bullets either: Karl Urban’s voice, intense LFE SFX growl from different speakers, the hiss of steam, the buzz of neon – all these things combine to create a holosonic space that really never lets up and keeps you in the movie’s world from beginning to end. If you check the extras section, there’s even a custom 5, 7 and 11.1 Dredd speaker check that’s as much useful as it is entertaining. This is a reference soundtrack by anyone’s standards.
Those who were unfamiliar with the character before seeing the movie will enjoy Mega-City Masters: 35 Years of Judge Dredd, a 15-minute featurette overview of the history of the character featuring the its creators and notable talent that’s worked on the comic, including Kick-Ass’s Mark Millar. Day of Chaos: The Visual Effects of Dredd concentrates mostly on the set extensions, the custom camera rigs and the slow motion shooting. The only other extra really worthy of note is the short motion comic that tells the origin story of MaMa. Featurette, Dredd’s Gear, Welcome to Peachtrees and The Third Dimension are all 2-minute fluff pieces designed for web distribution that you’ll pass right on by (Sadly, they could have been great with longer running times).
Dredd is one of the best times I’ve had at the movies last year. Karl Urban nails the character in much the way he did Bones in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek. Urban never takes his helmet off (an important character trait) and he delivers all of Dredd’s one liners with just enough sincerity that you laugh with him instead of at him – an important distinction from its predecessor. Dredd delivered a well scripted, well-paced action-fest that should have done gangbuster business, but didn’t. Hopefully, with this top notch visual and aural presentation, the film will find the audience on Blu-ray that it missed in theaters. Any fan of the character, or just good 80’s style action romps, should love this movie to death. Highly Recommended.
- Jeff Kleist