Movies based on comics are a big deal nowadays. So, to show how up-to-the-minute I HATE HATE!!! really is, here’s a review of a 3 years old film!
Back in 2012, I wrote a post about the then-soon-to-be-released movie Dredd and my thoughts on the concept of a new Dredd movie, sight unseen. Although comics producers have far more respect and even control in the movie industry than used to be the case, I still was wary. The ghost of Sylvester Stallone’s 1995 crap Judge Dredd had to the struggle with the “A new 2000AD movie? Cool!” components in my brain. I ended that piece with a note of wary optimism. And I was right to be happy (yeah yeah, not so happy that it didn’t take 4 YEARS to write this piece here, but what can I say to placate any comics fans out there? I got a life beyond I HATE HATE!!! and comics-based movies, y’know? On second thoughts, you probably don’t know. But anyway.
“There’s ten of us and only two of you.”
One point in the movie’s favour is the fact that Karl Urban. who plays Dredd, doesn’t take his helmet off once. The uninitiated probably don’t see the significance in this: but it is a big deal. in the near-to-40 years of 2000AD history, Dredd has hardly ever been seen by readers with no helmet. I seem to remember from my childhood days that there was once a picture of him taking a shower with his helmet on! Comics-illiterate Stallone and his handlers have no understanding of the importance of comics tradition. But someone in the 2012 Dredd production did see the importance – long-time 200AD Judge Dredd artist Carlos Ezquerra was a co-writer, working with SF movie writer Alex Garland (Ex Machina, 28 Days Later, Sunshine) – and Karl kept his hat on throughout. Yay Dredd!
The female eye-candy, Olivia Thirlby, doesn’t wear her helmet at all, but the film creates a plausible-sounding excuse for revealing her face: she’s a “psi” judge, meaning she has telepathic powers, and a helmet would affect her brain waves or whatever. 2000AD enthusiasts will blow holes through this in a second – her character, Cassandra Anderson, in the comics is far older than the movie Anderson, and there is no way a judge like Dredd would be overseeing a psi cadet’s final assessment anyway. But this is movieland, not 2000AD, so I feel I can forgive Dredd‘s sins much more easily than the Stallone attempt. And Thirlby is certainly a pleasant-looking “Anderson” rookie.
Instead of creating a colossal event that might destroy Mega City one or even the world unless Dredd manages an edge-of-your-seat mission, the viewer gets a sort of “everyday life of a Judge”. Dredd goes to pick up a wanted perp and ends up in a life-or-death struggle to fight his way out of the Megablock against the forces of the block Queenpin, Ma-Ma (played by Lena Heady, aka Queen Cersei in Game of Thrones)
. There’s some corruption involving a few judges, a fun, over-the-top Ma-Ma (her final scene has a wonderful, dreamlike-yet-visceral feel), a lot of gun-play, but no ominous end-of-life-as-we-know-it threat hanging over our valiant heroes. A proper “this is what judges do” kind of film. Kind of depressed that other 2000AD movies of a similar vein haven’t been made. Or have they? Tell us in Comments if you know of any!
At the London Film and Comic Con in July 2012, Alex Garland claimed he was planning not only a sequel to Dredd but a trilogy! When I read that I emitted a little “ooh” but then remembered the Matrix Trilogy and cried “Nooo…!” like I was a slo-mo addict taking a tumble from the penthouse of a Megablock. But never fear: in March 2015, Garland said that a direct sequel would likely not happen in the near future, “at least not with the crew involved in the original film.” Kind of a shame: a Judge Death-related flick could be good, or one about the pro-democracy terrorists (a contemporary idea that might put some real-life proponents of democracy on the spot). But sequels can kill good ideas (the bloody Matrix, innit?) so let’s leave Dredd alone. But Strontium Dog, ABC Warriors, Slaine… 2000AD is full of wonderful material that any scriptwriter ought to want to kill for. In fact, once I’ve finished this blog post I may unearth my 2000AD collection and look for the Next Big Thing!
The rottentomatoes.com page for Dredd is at www.rottentomatoes.com/m/dredd/ and is interesting. Lots of positive comments. Lovely. Dredd was also nominated for a few film prizes, and won a few – see here for details.