Saturday, September 22, 2012

Movie Review: Dredd 3D

Last night I went to see the newly released Dredd 3D, based on the 2000AD character and world of Judge Dredd. I wasn't sure what I was in for to be honest. I'd seen one or two clips, but generally avoided anything about the movie. All I knew was that it was going to be ultra violent, in 3D, have slow motion action scenes and star Doctor McCoy from Star Trek 2009 and Sarah Connor from the TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Very quickly after the movie started I learned that the entire cast and crew had clearly been assembled very carefully. From the few main characters, through the disposable single-scene walking corpses, to the choice for director, costume designer, Special Effects team and composer, every aspect of Dredd is lovingly and painstakingly rendered from someones imagination onto the big screen. And it shows. In every scene.

Judge Dredd's home of Mega City One is pulled back from the epicness of the comics incarnation to something closer to the modern view of a dystopian city. It is more open and brighter than the comics, with the huge mega block apartments dominating the skyline. I don't have an issue with this rather dramatic change. I've never had a problem with updates to ideas that were originally created 20, 30, or even 40 years ago, especially when the medium portraying the material is different from the original source. X-Men got their black leathers and Spider-Man's biting spider was genetically engineered, not radioactive. It's no big. The story is the important part.

The main plot of Dredd is that the title Judge and a newly assigned rookie have to go into a mega block, deal with a minor problem and then leave. Except things don't go as planned and Dredd and the rookie get trapped inside, fighting for their lives. However, the far more interesting story is the growth and development of Dredd's new sidekick, a fresh-faced young Judge on her first, and possibly last day. Karl Urban does a great job delivering Dredd's one-liners and grimaces, but Olivia Tirlby stole the entire movie for me. She was spectacular in the role of rookie Judge Anderson, and really sold the slow changes in Anderson's personality over the course of the movie, from a Judge who had never seen real combat to a meaner, tougher, deadlier one by her final scene.

I still dislike 3D. It's a gimmick that just is not going away, despite a friends assurance that it would be a short-lived fad many years ago. I dislike the uncomfortable glasses I have to wear over my own glasses[1], or the extra surcharge slapped onto ticket prices for a feature I almost entirely believe adds nothing to the final movie apart from eye strain and a potential headache. However, I really enjoyed the use of 3D in Dredd. Not only did it make the slo-mo action scenes have more punch, but director Pete Travis actually used the 3D to help tell the story in certain scenes, revealing different layers of the image slowly by moving from one depth to the next, or moving through a scene by changing the focus, not moving the actual camera itself. I genuinely believe that this is the first time I felt the 3D was used to positively enhance the story-telling in the movie. I enjoyed the 3D in The Amazing Spider-Man, but only because it was used in some clever ways, but it still didn't add anything to the final product. I would have happily watched Spider-Man in 2D had I the option, but with Dredd I'd recommend the 3D version to everyone.

There have been few movies lately that even scratch the levels of violence in Dredd. The slo-mo gun fights allow for spectacularly violent moments of gore, but everything is presented in an almost animated, cartoon fashion, with bright colours and bright red blood splatters. People die in bloody messes, and in their dozens, but it's hard to be shocked by anything due to how it was all presented. In fact, the slo-mo means that there are very few actual shocking moments, instead telegraphing everything at painfully slow speed so that you can almost feel every impact. During these moments, you can hear the entire theater holding their breathes, followed by a loud "Oooh" once the impact hits. If you've seen the movie, you know exactly the scene I'm taking about!

Dredd 3D is a spectacle best viewed on the big screen. Whether you believe my opinions on the 3D or not, do go see it in the theaters. It's a fun group experience, sharing in the "oohs" and the "ewws". The cast is strong, the effects are effective and the soundtrack even makes a Justin Bieber track bearable in one scene! Highly recommended.

[1]- I actually solved the problem of wearing the 3D glasses by keeping the really nice and comfortable pair I got attending The Amazing Spider-Man. They are light, soft and I don't even notice I'm wearing them. I brought them along to Dredd as well, which may have contributed to my overall enjoyment of the 3D.