Does anyone remember the movie Judge Dredd with Sylvester Stallone from the mid-90's? If you do, those memories are probably full of disgust and disappointment. Or, if you're like me and actually enjoy horrifically bad movies, maybe you liked it. The truth is, the 90's was not a kind decade to superhero and comic book-inspired movies. This was, after all, the decade which produced Steel with basketball great Shaquille O'Neil and the ever-so-hated Batman and Robin starring George Clooney. The good news is, comic book movies have gotten much better and Dredd, the new adaptation of the character from the British comic magazine 2000 A.D. is no exception.
Dredd isn't the most original of movies out there, but that's because the Judge Dredd comic book wasn't either. In fact, I have yet to see a Post-Apocalyptic science fiction story that isn't derivative of just about every Post-Apocalyptic story out there (except the story "Superheroes are Gay" by Kevin Long, which is fantastically original). Boiled down to its barest essence, Judge Dredd is sort of an amalgamation of RoboCop and Mad Max. But I ask you, what the hell is so wrong with that? Nothing. It should also be noted that the original Judge Dredd comic books pre-date both RoboCop and Mad Max, so it isn't REALLY derivative, but being as how I was familiar with both of those before I had ever even heard of Judge Dredd, that's just how I tend to see it. And if you're not currently familiar with the character, that's a pretty good analogy to go into it with.
In the Judge Dredd world of Mega City One, the people are represented by only one group: the judges. The judges in this future world are the entire justice system. They are the police, the judges and the executioners. A criminal is apprehended, immediately tried on the scene by the arresting judge, and imposed a sentence right then and there. And if the sentence is death, it's carried out right then and there. Outside Mega City One is the Cursed Earth, a vast and barren fallout-infected planet. There is no law and order in the Cursed Earth. Inside Mega City One a new designer drug has hit the streets, Slo-Mo, which slows down the user's perception of time to 1% of normal. Judge Dredd, one of the most feared and hated judges on the force, and his new partner Judge Anderson are out to get Slo-Mo off the streets of Mega City One for good.
Ok, so the plot isn't much. In fact, for a sci-fi police action comic book film, it's pretty standard. In fact, it's basically the same plot as RoboCop 2. But everything else about this film more than makes up for it. Karl Urban (Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy in the rebooted Star Trek franchise) turns in a remarkable performance as Dredd. He more than gives Stallone a run for his money, and I felt that Stallone's performance in Judge Dredd was one of the good things about the original adaptation. Don't expect to recognize Bones, though. Staying true to the comics, you never see Dredd without his helmet on. And let me tell you, after 3 different Spider-Man flicks where Toby Mcguire couldn't seem to keep his frakkin' mask on to save his life, it was refreshing to see an actor who believes that staying true to the character is better than getting face time in front of the lens. I didn't spend the extra scratch to see Dredd in 3D, so I can't speak to that part of it, but the special effects and cinematography in 2D were phenomenal.
Bottom line, if you like comic books or science fiction or cop movies or science fiction cop movies based on comic books, Dredd is definitely for you. If you liked Judge Dredd, you like Dredd even more. If you hated Judge Dredd, Dredd will totally make up for that. Basically, everyone should go see this movie and hopefully they'll make a few more.