Just back from a packed screening in Toronto as part of the film festival here. Dredd was also shown on Thursday night but as I was working, I went to the Saturday midday screening instead. I think it may have actually been full, there was a very lengthy queue to get in but luckily I arrived early so snagged myself a decent seat (Thursday's screening was also reportedly very busy, if not completely sold-out). There was also a pretty wide range of people there, from all ages (at least one of whom, standing behind me in the queue, was definitely not 18!). Of course, this was a film festival screening so perhaps that needs to be taken into account in terms of demographics.
As to the film itself, I'm just going to list out a few things I liked and also things that I feel could have been done better. Overall I really enjoyed it but I'm also aware that it's almost impossible for me to take any kind of objective view of things as a massive fan of Dredd for the best part of two decades now. I don't expect my views on the film (the good and the bad) are necessarily going to align with those of the regular filmgoing punter who isn't bringing any baggage to the film. To be honest, I have no idea what normos will think of it
For me, the strongest aspects of the film were the beginning and end. Karl Urban as Dredd was fantastic and gave some wonderful Dredd grimaces throughout. He managed to deliver a lot of the sometimes cheesy dialogue really well. The first Lawmaster scene was fantastic. In one scene, I thought I was looking at a recreation of a Cam Kennedy Dredd strip! Olivia Thrilby as Anderson was also wonderful, though at times she was weighed down by having to be Exposition Character #1. I loved the scenes where she took control and started taking out perps and I was actually a bit taken aback when she offed that first character.
Lena Headey was fantastic. A viscious snarl to compete with Dredd's grimace. She was also quite scary at the start. Funnily enough, during her first and last scenes (when she was on slo-mo) I was reminded of that short prologue story that was released last week and I felt a bit of sympathy for her. It was only during those scenes where she seemed at peace and actually human and - as vicious as she was - MaMa was also a product of her society. In many ways, her and Dredd were two sides of the same coin; Dredd has the law to give him a moral code but MaMa didn't have that. In another world, she probably would have made a great Judge. I do feel the film could have hinted at more of that depth that we learned of in the comic.
I hate 3D. Hate it. But... it was pretty good here. Frankly, I don't think it was really necessary for anything other than the initial world-building shots of MC-1 and the (brilliant) slo-mo scenes. Again, the repetition of dark, grungy corridors and pretty in-close shooting scenes didn't exactly scream out for the use of 3D.
The post-shootout scene where Dredd calmly walks MaMa's lieutenant out in front of her and launches him off the edge. Awesome.
Dredd's one-liners: Almost all brilliant. "You're the psychic."
The comic references. From the respect given to creators - I kind of wish they'd packed out Control with 2000AD alumni - to tags for Chopper and Kenny Who?, they were all great. I didn't spot the Tom Frame block, unfortunately. Oh, and in the scene where Dredd and Anderson first investigate MaMa's victims, there's a very odd looking guy in the crowd who I thought might be Otto Sump (!?)
There were a few things I think could have been done better. The entire middle segment of the film was a bit plodding. There were too many scenes of Dredd wandering around repetitive looking dark corridors. A lot of the shooting scenes/taking out perps were pretty dull with extras just running into bullets. I would have liked to see a bit more creativity in these scenes as at times it felt like I was just watching somebody else play a shoot-em-up computer game. I've seen plenty of dynamic action scenes in low-budget action flicks so I don't think there's really an excuse here; I think Travis could have choreographed and shot those action scenes much better, even under the inherent restrictions of a low budget. The middle segment unfortunately hobbles the pacing of the film quite a bit but it soon picks up steam again when the 'backup' arrives.
Why did Dredd give MaMa slo-mo before pushing her out the window? Seemed like an odd thing for the character to do. I mean, I know it looked amazing and was done for that reason but... it didn't make much sense for Dredd to do that.
"Judgment tiiiime" Really? Not "Judgment is coming"? It elicited a pretty big laugh from the audience though I think by then they have been won over and were willing to go along with the cheese. Also Anderson's "Let's finish this": a line that should never be allowed in an action film.
I liked the little references to aspects of Dredd's world like mutants, the effectiveness of the Judges (only able to handle 6% of crimes everyday) and even Fatties. However I do feel they could have alluded to more of the lifestyle of MC-1 as it provides the audience with a lot more imagination ammunition and makes them curious about exploring that world further in sequels. This is a very small, picky complaint, I know. I'm essentially saying I wanted more, so in that sense the film succeeded!
I absolutely LOVED that the first thing you see when the film ends is "Judge Dredd created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra" in massive, bold font. Has there been any other comic book film that has paid such respect to its original creators?
Overall: a very good, if flawed, film. Pretty much perfect in terms of character and it serves its small plot well. I think it's a good introduction to Dredd and the system of the Judges - though not so much his world - and hopefully if there are sequels we'll see a much more expansive take on things and slightly more impressive and dynamic action scenes. I have no idea how Joe Public will take to it, to be honest. Could go either way!
Oh and it was great to finally see justice done to Judge Dredd. When people say film adaptations don't matter - that they don't effect the comics - I think of Judge Dredd and how, post-Stallone, any mention of him to the general public was always - always
- followed up with mention of that
film. It's brilliant to finally see the character validated in the public consciousness as the tough, no-nonsense, grumpy fucker that he has always been and the one we've come to know and love.