Directed by: Pete Travis
Written By: Alex Garland
I can trace the steps of how I became a fan of the fantasy/sf/horror/fantastika/call-it-what-you-will genres. In my first year at high school, way back in the last century, we had The Hobbit as a set book in English, which made me a fantasy fan, which led me the local library and Conan and to the local games shop and D and D which led me to White Dwarf (then a magazine about all sorts of role-playing games) where I read Dave Langford’s review columns and bought (from Exeter’s much missed Read ‘n’ Return bookshop), The Stainless Steel Rat and Friday. The other thing I also had at this time was a paper round, which led me to 2000AD and years of reading of Judge Dredd (and others).
I stopped reading 2000AD a couple of decades ago, but still have very vivid memories of the series I read, which doubtless makes me an unsuitable viewer for this film version. My memories of the Dredd strips I read as (just) a teenager, are of a futuristic, brightly coloured sort of bonkers setting lying behind the character (if such he is, rather than an icon) of Dredd. To my own individual set of nerdy nostalgic memories, then, Karl Urban is a better Dredd than Stallone was in 1995, but, the equally important character of Mega-City One seems here to be barely futuristic at all, beyond some huger-than-now tower blocks.
Of course, there are completely valid budgetary reasons for this, beyond the obvious one of there being no sensible reason to make a film specifically for my own particular memories, and I know the early Dredd strips were in black-and-white and so on; but as a general point I tend to think the word “dark” is a disaster for films based on comics; and I retain a greater affection for the brightly coloured Fantastic Four films, than I do for, say, the (admirable, perhaps, but not always enjoyable (to me, anyway) Nolan’s Batmans…) For goodness sake, I didn’t even hate Catwoman.
Anyhoo, I still liked this version of Dredd for several reasons. For a start, there is no time wasted on origin stories, the bane of modern comics-based films (especially as they now tend to be “re-booted” every five minutes); and the fact that John Wagner was on hand as consultant meant any temptation for Dredd and Anderson to indulge in pointless snogging etc. was correctly vetoed (if only Doctor Who would take note!) Too, for old people like me, there was still the voice activated Lawgiver with Dredd announcing the r0unds before firing, and Urban, Olivia Thirlby (as a new version of Anderson), and Lena Headey (as Ma-Ma) were all excellent.
In summary, then, one of those adaptations that deserves a sequel but which, like John Carter, probably won’t get one, which is a shame.
Two more things: 3D. The reason I didn’t watch this in the cinema was that there wasn’t a 2D version near me at a time I could go. The more I see of 3D, the more I think it, in my grumpy old way, just an expensive way to ruin the experience of watching films, and unless a 3D showing of a children’s film is the only one I can take my daughter too, I now refuse to watch anything in 3D. (The one exception I have made to this rule is John Carter, which I would have gone to see however many D it was in.) I almost felt guilty watching the scant extras on the DVD (the fact that you now seem to have to fork out for a Blu-Ray player and the Blu-Ray discs to get decent extras is a rant for another time), where various members of cast and crew explained the trouble they’d gone to with the 3D, but only almost. If nothing else, 2D is still brighter…
Also, and more refreshingly and importantly, as this article in the New Statesman by Laura Sneddon points out [though SPOILERS, perhaps], it was splendid to watch an action film where, for once, the female characters weren’t all Bechdel Test-failing sexualised weaklings.
So, I would watch a sequel even it was in 3D, and you really can’t say fairer than that, nowadays…