Saturday, 9 February 2013

Judge Dredd

When I was a young archaeologist, camping out over the summer somewhere near Preston, one of the other diggers used to buy a 2000AD comic, which he would share around in the site hut. It was my first introduction to comics that were not June and Schoolfriend, or Bunty, or Mandy - so a bit of a culture shock!
One of the most popular characters, of course, was Judge Dredd, dispensing The Law in Mega City One. It was violent, and sometimes funny, and we all enjoyed it (though some of us got slightly worried about the sort of children who sent in pictures of alien plague bugs they had drawn!).
When a film was announced, I was quite interested - it would be good to see a story move from British comic to Hollywood big screen.
Then they said that Sylvester Stallone would be starring in it. Hmmm, not sure about that.
And then in the movie - he took his helmet off!!!!
If there is one element of the character that is non-negotiable, it is that Judge Dredd NEVER takes his helmet off.
There were other things wrong with that movie as well, but never mind them....

More recently, there was an announcement that there would be a new Judge Dredd film. I was quite interested.
Then they said that Karl Urban would be starring in it. So, that's the Karl Urban who was Eomer in Lord of the Rings, and Doctor McCoy in the Star Trek re-boot? This could be good....
Then they said that Karl Urban is a fan of Judge Dredd himself, and only took the part on condition that he never took the helmet off!
That's when I knew the film was in safe hands.
I was a bit unsure about actually going to see it, though - I'm not over-keen on violent films, and to be true to the comics it would have to be violent.
I needn't have worried. It is very violent. Many people die horribly - but it is all integral to the plot. It's all necessary to show what Mega City One is like and why the Judges are so - uncompromising. They're fighting a losing battle, and can only ever deal with a tiny fraction of the crime that goes on there. Karl Urban said that the fans would want to see him in the helmet, and riding his Lawmaster motorbike through heavy traffic, and you got all of that right at the start of the movie. It's a proper, powerful motorbike, too, unlike the one in the previous film with the really wide tires (which were like the comic strip, but not actually practical). Where the first film went for the look of the comic, this film went for the reality behind the pictures, and they got it. When Dredd finally says the iconic line: "I am the Law," you really believe it.
It's a very good script. It was a good idea to start with Judge Anderson's first day on the job - it means Dredd has someone to explain things to for the audience, and Judge Anderson is a popular character in the comic. They did a good job with different camera techniques to show her psychic abilities and the effects of the slow-mo drug that the villain of the piece was peddling.
Lena Headey played the villain - and Ma-Ma was very different from Cercei Lannister in Game of Thrones! Just as ruthless, though.
The film even passes the Bechdel Test! There are two female characters who talk to each other - and not about a man. In such a testosterone fuelled film as this, that's something to celebrate.
ComicbookGRRRL has a very fine review of the film on her blog, dated last October.

Really, I think it's best to pretend that the Stallone film never happened. Karl Urban is The Law.
I hope they do another one.

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