Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dredd 3D - The Verdict - Spoiler-free

June 1995; The Space Shuttle Atlantis docks with the Russian Space Station Mir for the first time, Jacques Chirac resumes nuclear testing in French Polynesia, Stuart Maconie is busy scribbling down notes about what he's watching on television for his inevitable appearance on "I love 1995", South Africa has just won the Rugby world cup and a 24 year old me sits down in the Odeon cinema in Coventry with his friend Gary to watch Judge Dredd.

The cinema darkens and (after being handily informed about the availability of cold drinks in the foyer by an anthropomorphised drink carton and the proximity of local curry houses which I might like to try) the credits roll. The awesome swell of the (underrated) Alan Silvestri soundtrack plays over a backdrop of a flickering montage of Dredd panels, and then we see The Cursed Earth (also known as Bigg Market) and some exposition read out by Darth Vader.  "It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base..".  Or something like that.

A H-Wagon approaches a city from the Cursed Earth, docks inside the City Wall and then we see our first glimpse of the metropolis of Mega City One - at first crowded streets which then open out onto a huge vista, a megascape of vast city blocks and flying vehicles. "This is it", I think, tears of emotion welling in my eyes, "This is Mega City One. This is the city I've been reading about since I was six years old, the city I've had countless roleplaying adventures in. This is soooooo cool. (Or 'wicked' as may have been a popular colloquialism back in the mid nineties).

And then the vehicle we're following descends (and in hindsight, so did the quality of the film) and we find ourselves at ground level watching two Judges caught in the crossfire of a block war awaiting backup.

Hershey and Brisco in position outside Heavenly Haven! We're under fire from the upper floors. Request backup! Cell "B" in Heavenly Haven, on the corner of Abbott and Costello - request backup!

Cue a dreadul slow motion shot of a lawmaster bike approaching through flames and slowing to a halt. And then the driver dismounts, only his huge ridiculous boots in shot. This has to be Dredd.

Holy crud! He's a sitting duck out there!
He knows what he's doing.

And then.. wait for it.... It's Sylvester Stallone!

Armour designed by Gianni Versace. I shit you not.
Uuuuh uhhhhm.. thuuuuuh luuuurrrrh!
Druuuuhp yuuuuuh wuuhpuuuns!
These bluuuuuhks.. are uuuuuhnder.. uhhrest!

Somehow Stallone achieves the impossible - with every single unintelligible word he utters, the film becomes noticeably worse. It's a rare talent. And you see he's got a gleaming codpiece. And it gets worse. And says the catchphrase, "I knuuuh yuuuud say thuuuut". And it gets worse. And a comedy sidekick is introduced - and it's Rob Schneider - who has never been funny. And it gets worse. And then you think "Man, this can't get any worse", and he takes the helmet off without batting an eyelid and the film achieves what you'd thought impossible - It gets worse.

Flying lawmasters that only work when the plot dictates Dredd killing more Judges than any of the villains. Dredd kissing Hershey. Rob bloody Schneider.

And you end up sitting through a Judge Dredd film assembled by a committee - a melting pot of disparate plot lines. It's like a Jive Bunny megamix of what Dredd should be. Hey, lets throw in the Angel Gang! And somebody can go on The Long Walk! And lets have an ABC Warrior!

And I came out of that cinema, blinking into the daylight, and did something I never did again until I went to see Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.  I convinced myself it was good. I'd gone in with such expectations and couldn't quite come to terms with how bad it was, so tried to convince myself - but it never quite worked. Luckily it never put me off Dredd himself though, a fact that regular readers of this blog (and friends of mine on Facebook) are probably bored sick of.

Thing is, with hindsight, Judge Dredd is quite a reasonable throwaway eighties movie. Unfortunately, it was an eighties movie made in the mid-nineties.

But, by Grud, let's put aside memories from 1995 and fly kicking and screaming into the year 2012 and the release of Dredd 3D.

Expectations for this have been high, with only a trickle of publicity surrounding the film. The trailer was released only recently - but was well received - as was an exclusive showing of the movie to fans at San Diego Comic Con. For all intents and purposes Karl Urban makes a great Dredd, and - most importantly - the helmet stays on, as it has done throughout the characters illustrious comic career.

So.. last week I received an email from Michael Molcher, the PR coordinator for Rebellion (publishers of 2000ad) asking me if I'd like to attend a private screening of Dredd 3D for fans in Soho on the evening of the 30th of August, with a meet-and-greet with Karl Urban (Dredd) and Alex Garland (the writer) before the screening. How could I refuse?

And then the nerves sank in. Days passed without hearing anything. Did they get my confirmation? Had I been forgotten about? Was my invitation a huge, ghastly mistake? And then the email arrived, and what a relief - 1 seat for the screening, arrive at 6:30 for a 7 p.m. showing at the private screening in London. So, with train and hotel booked, off to That London again with the missus (who, despite not being able to see the film - despite trying to win a ticket via competitions - can catch up with some of our old friends in London.. which I'm off to do now). I seem to be making a habit of travelling to the capital on the days following Olympic Opening Ceremonies.

And I've literally just left the screening and am on the way for drinks now. It's 17 years since I saw Stallones Dredd and here I am again, blinking back into the real world.

When I arrived at the screening, it was a relief to see some of the Minty crew there. John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra were there also (who both graciously signed my dredd travel pass holder, the only Dredd related thing I had) and after a brief intro from Alex and Karl, the film began...

And then 95 minutes later drew to a close and was met by rapturous applause... Which must have come as a relief to the writer Alex Garland who had already said in his intro that this was one of the most nerve-wracking screenings he had ever attended.

The verdict? Amazing. The Dredd film that we should have had back in the nineties. Urban has absolutely nailed it. Incredibly (and brutally) violent but with a satirical sense of humour and a firm grounding in reality.

There are plenty of little touches in there to keep the seasoned 2000ad fan happy, but it is also an incredibly well written introduction to the character.

Face off.

The ghost of the Stallone version has finally been wiped out, presumably by Karl Urbans Dredd armed with an exorcist bullet. This is the definitive Dredd movie.

I for one cannot wait to see it again.


  1. I for one welcome our new Dredd overlords. Glad for you I have been , Ezquerra (by the way were there hints of any Strontium Dog or Rogue Trooper possibilities in the future?)

  2. I hope that pouch of disappointment stones has been cut from your backpack to let your true +90 elf mage storm forth like a boss now that the spectre of Dredd 1995 is killed. Although I can't help thinking opportunistic TV networks will flood their airtime with old versions of the film to be desparately 'with it' as if by association.

  3. No harm in that Mr Spencer! Stallone's thing is a travesty, but watchable in a cheesy-old-Stallone-film way, and the person who has their expectation level set by that film is likely to be honestly dumbfounded by the leap in quality brought about by the people who have just made DREDD.

    This is one pretty good grud-damn sci-fi action film: it feels like a new 'stepping-stone' in the development of the genre.


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