Last Wednesday night I had the opportunity to watch an advanced screening of the new Judge Dredd movie: DREDD 3D. For starters this is not the same Dredd as portrayed back in 1995 by Sylvester Stallone, this Dredd (played by Karl Urban) is much more gritty, dirty and brutally violent, akin to the character from the original comics.
Starts with a bang -This film from the get go sets the stage that in the world that Dredd lives in is not one for the weak, not for the timid and that only those strong enough to keep the peace are those of the law, the Judges from the Hall of Justice. From there we start immediately into an chase sequence with Dredd and some perps that is well choreographed and staged.
Pacing – The movie isn’t just all big booms and gunfire, there is a great little story that is told in the pauses and quiet moments sprinkled in the film. The action sequences get your motor going and then they slow down just in time before your engine overheats and lets you cool down and absorb what is going on story-wise until they ramp up the action again.
Details through actions – DREDD 3D tells a great story visually instead of verbally which makes the movie feel more real as if you are experiencing it yourself. For example the Judges guns are each DNA activated and coded specifically for each Judge. There is no long overdrawn exposition explaining this it is visually conveyed in the beginning when Dredd suits up. This is quite refreshing and a great way to keep a movie going without slowing it down with needless exposition. We also learn what happens when someone tries to use a Judges weapon, and it is quite graphic and to the point.
Day in the life – This is not an origin tale for Dredd, this is more of a day in the life of Mega-City 1′s best and most effective Judge as he trains a rookie. We get small glimpses of who Dredd is and what makes him tick but never really get past the surface. Instead we get a great baptism through fire story about Dredd’s rookie Judge Anderson. It is through her story that we learn a bit more about Dredd, drawing you in and making want to learn more about who he is and why he does what he does.
Action – Every action sequence is well thought out and extremely well choreographed. The gun battles are well executed and staged so you can see the damage and havoc that is being caused while still being able to spot where the characters are on screen. The hand to hand combat is hard-hitting and violent, which is well suited for the tone and the story this movie is telling.
Sets, backdrops and props – The city and many of the backdrops for the scenes are heavily comprised of concrete and metal. This gives off a really dirty, gritty industrial feel. It visually lets the viewers know this is a tough, bad-ass city, one that demands someone more tough to dispatch justice.
Many of the vehicles look to be from the 1980s, and being in a post-apocalyptic society it makes sense that much of society would revert back to the older less computer controlled vehicles, even the display on the Lawgiver resembles digital displays from the 80s, think of an old VCR display or those old ‘speak-n-say’ toys. It all works to help convey the sense despair and lawlessness that is perfect for Mega-City 1.
The Judge’s uniforms are well designed for practical usage while maintaining the overall look established from the comic. The helmets are substantially thick and look well armored and you can see scuffs and scratches on them showing that they do work. The suits each Judge wears is made of sectioned body armor and leather for some mobility while providing maximum protection.
VFX and 3D – Most Stereoscopic 3D movies that have been produced that I’ve seen so far have nothing of note added by the 3D tech. DREDD 3D is not one of those movies. The 3D is used to great effect from the opening shot of the wastelands heading into Mega-City 1 giving a sense of depth and distance from the outland to the city. Once in the city the 3D lends some believable depth to the wide city shots. Once the movie gets going and we are inside the 3D is used to great effect through shots from cracks and breaks in the wall and other small minute things that would be too numerous to mention.
The 3D also shines during the heavy VFX moments. The VFX in the film were generally used for the weaponry and the city scenes except for sequences involving slow motion. In these sequences the colors are tinted slightly warmer and is given a nice soft glow and sparkle that visually cues the audience that this is an altered state of mind. These scenes are really fantastic and beautiful, with the 3D tech really increasing the effect and for certain slow-mo scences the tension of the scene. I don’t think I have seen slow-mo used this effectively since John Woo used it early in his career and more recently in ‘The Matrix.’
Acting – Without the use of eyes and facial expressions Karl Urban is able to convey a grit and toughness with his voice and posture. In scenes with other characters Karl Urban creates an imposing figure that is stern and unyielding that commands attention and is able to make you believe if you’ve done something wrong he’ll know it without saying a word.
The beautiful Olivia Thirlby does a wonderful job as Rookie Judge Anderson goes from reluctant and timid to hard-nosed bad-ass. She does this well and convincingly, illustrating it through facial expressions and posture. You can relate to her as someone who is being thrown into the pit on the first day and has all the anxieties and insecurities, then as she quickly grows into her role as a Judge you begin to cheer for her as she begins to wreck shop on her own.
Lena Headey who has played many a strong woman, does so again as the villains Ma-Ma. Her presence commands attention and fear from everyone except Dredd. Headey’s facial expressions and collected speech really let you know Ma-ma isn’t someone to screw around with.
Nothing of note. Dredd 3D was immensely entertaining and had taken great care to represent the character properly.
If you haven’t seen the trailer or have heard anything about this new film incarnation of Dredd I suggest you check out the trailer, forget about the old movie and put DREDD 3D on your radar. With a solid cast, great action and some very inspired use of slow-mo, this is a great movie to go out to your local theater to see and experience.
DREDD 3D is set to release in the US on September 21st, and is produced by DNA Films, IM Global, Reliance Big Entertainment/Pictures and is distributed in the USA by Lionsgate.
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