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Dredd Movie Review

Dredd 2012 Movie Poster

The 2012 movie Dredd came and went having barely registered a blip on my radar. This was for a couple of reasons. It was a big time for comic cross-over films (think The Avengers and The Amazing Spiderman) and I can distinctly remember being quite bored with most of them. That, and the fact that I loathed the 1995 “Judge Dredd” starring Sly Stallone left me less than motivated to see this new imagining of Dredd about which I had heard nothing. A friend of mine went along to see it and afterwards told me that I should take a look. It took me more than a year but last December I watched the DVD and was (very) impressed. I watched it again yesterday and was impressed again, impressed enough to pen this review.

The movie itself depicts a dystopian, post nuclear holocaust future where mankind is huddled into “mega-cities” with populations of nearly a billion people. “Mega-City One” is depicted in the movie as a sprawling walled city that looks for all the world like Los Angeles but sprinkled with towering 200 story apartment blocks that house 50,000 plus people. As you’d imagine such an environment has rampant crime (with more than 17,000 crimes reported daily according to a voice-over), extreme poverty and unemployment, and plot-device appropriate highly addictive narcotics. Law in Mega City One is enforced by “judges” who act as police officer, juror, judge, and in some cases executioner when a “perp” deserves such justice. These one man (or woman) armies ride around on motorcycles (the Lawmaster) dispensing justice with their sophisticated side-arm (the Lawgiver). They wear black armour and a face covering helmet that makes them look for all the world like slightly grungy Darth Vader wannabees.

That all sounds pretty grim and with almost all comic book cross-over movies depicting a some sort of bleak future with a troubled hero it seems almost de-rigueur. But unlike so many other movies Dredd is faithful to the source material, and if anything, guilty of perhaps underselling how bad life in a mega city might be. And Judge Dredd (for whom the movie is named) is not your typical angsty troubled super-hero of the last 15 years. He’s a cold, imposing bad-ass. Karl Urban (who we know from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Star Trek reboots, and a couple of the Bourne movies) plays Dredd as an anonymous, incorruptible, unstoppable figure who cuts a path through this movie like an elemental force. When the helmeted Urban (we never see his entire face during the movie) announces over a PA system that “I am the Law” I grinned in anticipation at the mayhem that would ensue. When Sylvester Stallone uttered the same words in the execrable 1995 “Judge Dredd” he sounded like a brain damaged Rocky Balboa. While we’re talking about actors, there’s a couple of others I recognised in this movie. There’s Lena Headley (from The 300 and The Game of Thrones) who plays the scar-faced gang leader “Ma-Ma” and Olivia Thirlby who we saw in Juno and the neat Russian sci-fi movie, The Darkest Hour. Thirlby plays Dredd’s psychic rookie partner “Judge Anderson” who is a recurring character in the 2000AD source material.

The movie itself has a basic plot (which I won’t bother talking about) and a grim and grimy appearance. Most of the action takes place in one of the 200 story mega towers called Peach Trees and when I say action I mean action. There’s a lot of it and most of it is both visually spectacular and confronting. This is not a movie for the squeamish. Some of the deaths depicted are fairly horrific. The special effects appeared to be mostly practical (not much CGI to see here) with costumes, props, and weapons being fairly recognisable. It’s not hard to see the technology depicted in this movie being available just 10 or 20 years from now. This makes it a lot more involving for me, as compared with for example, the technology depicted the recent (and enjoyable) movie, Oblivion.

Two viewings of the movie have left me wanting to get my hands on some 2000AD comics. I read a number of them in my early teens and I can remember them being grim, gory affairs and quite distinct to the other comics I happened to be reading at the time. It’s also left me wanting to watch the movie again because I actually found the second viewing quite a bit more fun than the first. A sequel would be great too but given the poor box-office that’s highly unlikely. ┬áThere is bit of a campaign by fans to get a sequel made including a Make a Dredd Sequel Facebook page and I can only wish them best of luck. Dredd is a look at what is an unlikely future but a future that is easily understood by anyone from modern western society. It’s visually confronting and has a superb depiction of a classic comic book hero. Sure the plot is simple but one cannot help but enjoy the ride on the shoulders of Judge Dredd as he dispenses justice without bias or favour. If you’re a fan of sci-fi and don’t mind a bit of gore then I cannot recommend Dredd any more highly.

Why I Liked World War Z

First, a disclaimer. I love zombies. In the last few years zombies have entered the mainstream and I’ve loved every bit of it. So I went into World War Z wanting to love it. I wanted to love it despite the troubled development of the movie, the constant negative press leading up to it’s release, and the warnings that the adherence to the source material (Max Brooks’ book, World War Z) was poor. Did I love it? No. But I did like it quite a bit.

First, the movie itself. It’s split clearly into three acts. The first sets up the the character of Gerry Lane (played by Brad Pitt), his family, and the fall of the world to the so-called zombie plague. This act plays out well with a fast and tense opening and the appearance of the first zombies is quite shocking. For the zombie aficionados the zombies in World War Z are initially portrayed as fast-movers, contrary to the book where they were definitely slow.

The second act, takes us through Lane’s global journey as he tries to seek the source of the out-break of the zombie plague. There’s some spectacular action shots in this act, with hordes of thousands of zombies running amok in the streets of Jerusalem. I can see where the (supposed) $200 million spent making this movie went when I see these scenes. The only comparable “horde” CGI shots that I can recall are some of those seen in The Return of the King.

The final act, which is probably the weakest, resolves Lane’s quest. It’s at this point that the movie reverts to costumed zombies that we’re all more used to seeing in movies such as Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, and the rather hilarious Zombieland. There’s some tense moments and I certainly jumped a few times. The resolution to the movie is a little weak and from what I understand it’s this part of the plot that caused the most troubles during development and it shows. The ending is a little open and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a sequel.

Given that this movie is a hardcore action blockbuster I’d dare to say that there’s very little character development in the movie other than with Pitt’s character. We learn he loves his family, has a somewhat shady past working for the United Nations, and has a surprising ability to survive airline crashes and being impaled on aircraft components. Other characters are something of non-entities with only a couple springing to mind. The first, Pitt’s wife, Karin Lane (played by Mireille Enos) is something of a non-entity who should know that ringing someone’s phone when they are in a zombie infested area is usually a bad idea. The second, is a zombie who appears on screen for nearly 5 minutes towards the end of the movie. Never did I think that bad dentures, rolling eyes, and grey corpse like make-up could convey such humour and menace. Yet, somehow they did, much to the amusement of myself and many others in the cinema.

It’s worth me spending a few lines talking about how the movie adheres to the book by Max Brooks. Basically, it doesn’t. There’s some echoes of it in a couple of spots. The strongest of these is when Lane talks to a US special forces captain in South Korea (played by James Badge Dale) and he starts re-counting the sort of zombie origin tale that was at the core of the original book. However, shame on the producers changing the origin to South Korea instead of the China as stated in the book. I understand this was done to not offend the Chinese film market. So, if you’re a lover of the book don’t expect much homage paid to it by the movie.

I wanted to love this movie since the first day I’d heard about it, and given all the bad press I went in expecting to hate it. I left quite satisfied, having enjoyed the journey. It’s a fun ride from beginning to end, with the required number shocks to make me jump in my seat and enough zombies to satisfy even the most ardent fan. Recommended.

Prometheus – Hit or Miss

I went to see Prometheus last night. This is the long awaited “prequel” for the move Alien and the first time that the director of that fine film, Ridley Scott, had returned to the Alien franchise. Now the first two Alien movies were excellent, the third was ok, and the fourth was execrable while the spin off “Alien vs Predator” movies have been deplorable beyond belief. So, aficionado’s of the series (myself included) expected a lot of Prometheus and sadly it largely failed to deliver for me. I found the character development to be somewhat childish and the sound-track just didn’t fit with the subject matter of the movie. The biggest failure of the movie though, was the complete lack of suspense or edge of the seat thrills that Alien and Aliens both had in spades. So I guess that makes Prometheus a miss for me.

All that being said I did like the premise behind the movie being a “parallel” prequel rather than a direct lead up to the events on LV-426 shown in Alien and Aliens. I also liked the idea that the acid-for-blood aliens in the original movies could have many different variations that evolved on different planets in isolation to each other. However, despite these positives I am not naive enough to miss that this parallel prequel strategy leaves the franchise wide open for (and I am going to copyright this phrase), prequel-sequels.