A sign of a good comic movie is it makes you want to dust off those old graphic novels, and get stuck in, or in Dredd's case place a bucket on your head and yell: "I AM THE LAW'. Well, maybe that's just me.
Firstly I must admit to being a big 2000AD fan, which itself brings a lot of baggage to the process of watching a film like Dredd. The comics are both dark and silly, including such wonderful characters as Chief Jude Cal who is loosely based on Caligula, and took great pleasure in dipping people in vinegar... But don't we all? Then there was his successor, and one of my personal favourites: Judge Fish (yes, he's a fish). But watching the trailer for Dredd I felt this silliness may be something avoided by the film, and sure enough (no spoilers) Dredd focuses on the gritty and hard aspects of Mega City One.
It is also a film that stays close to Dredd (played by Karl Urban), and rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) focusing on the horror of living a single day as a judge. There is however humour in the script, often found through the bleakness of situations and Dredd's dogmatic attitude as judge and executioner. Not a bad call when my earliest memory of 2000AD was opening the comic at Christmas to see Dredd blowing Santa out of the sky. His reason: Father Christmas had illegally entered Mega City's airspace. Mega City One is a place of horror, and Dredd is its spawn.
Despite a principle theme of the movie being Dredd's zealous drive to uphold the law there is little back story for the uninitiated. Don't expect to get inside Dredd's head as we live the film from Anderson's perspective, and follow her emotional ark through the adventure. This feels a shame when there is such a wealth of backstory to draw on for Dredd. Even a couple of glimpses into his character would have helped the casual viewer understand his extreme nature. is he a tea or coffee man?
It would have been exciting to see more of a variety in Mega City One's inhabitants, something the comic always managed to express. I wanted more mad punks, monks, and cyber gluttons. Still this is firmly an action movie, not a travel show, and we are treated to some great action scenes. Dredd is not a glitzy Hollywood blockbuster, it's a series of brutal brawls. An action horror. The camera lingers on killed henchmen mournfully making us ask 'is Dredd really the good guy?'.
That is not to say that director Pete Travis doesn't treat us to some stunning and beautiful moments in the movie which, like in the comic, often come from the last remnants of nature in Dredd's polluted world: The slow spray of water drops, the flow of blood. It is a triumph of the film to include this warped sense of beauty amongst the violence.
There are however a few scenes in the film I felt were fumbled, Dredd is not perfect, but these moments are dwarfed by it's achievements. To make us mourn violence, to question brutality, to want kick ass guns.
The big surprise of Dredd was I didn't expect it to be a film which would make me revel in it's violence then reflect on that reaction. It's a perfect reboot for the Judge, treating us to his trademark brutality, whilst mourning it's necessity.
In short this Dredd fan was most pleased, and certainly won't dread the chance of a sequel.
Yes I went there.