The film is neither deep nor meaningful, and that's probably for the best. Any moralising would have been detrimental, to what was, at it's core an action flick.That's not to say there wasn't substance.
Let's get it out in the open now. Karl Urban did a fantastic job as Dredd. There's a presence to him on screen that works, and the jutting chin and permanently down-turned mouth are spot on. Most importantly the helmet stays on. While Dredd does growl his way through the movie, it never feels forced, unlike Batman. Talking of Bats, Dredd is a long way from other comic book film, which is fitting given that the source material is so different. There isn't the fun and spectacle of the Avengers, but nor is there the overwrought angst of the Batman trilogy. It's also deeply refreshing to get a comic book film that is neither interested in telling an origin story, or setting up a sequel.
Olivia Thirlby was good as Anderson, and certainly ticks the boxes as strong female character, while still providing a counterweight to Dredd's bleakness. There's an impressive lack of sexualisation going on, which is admirable. Notable at this point is lack of any real difference between
the armour of Anderson and Dredd, lack of helmet, and consideration of build aside. There's good deviation from the mentor/rookie formula the film could have fallen into as well.
Her psychic powers were handled well, without resorting to unnecessary indulgence in the portrayal. There's a psychic interrogation that felt uncomfortable at the time, but looking back, could have worked no other way given the characters involved, and is better for not pulling the punches.
Lena Headey played Ma Ma with the kind of menacing undertone you'd normally associate with Christopher Walken, a portrayal that worked far better than a going down a more deranged route would have. She gets her hands bloody, sure, but it's worse for being calculated. (Also more plus points to the film, for not sexing up a female villain).
Onto the elephant in the title. I didn't go into the film with high hopes for the 3D. I'm not sure I came out feeling any different. There were a couple of nice effects, but I won't feel any the poorer watching this in 2D on DVD when it comes out. There are quiet a few shots from up high, and while 3D might have made the effect worse, if you dislike heights, you weren't going to like it anyway.
The Slow-Mo scenes, were the other main effects heavy part of the film, and provided a nice bit of relief in an otherwise fairly dark pallette of colours. Used for both pretty effects, and for emphasising the violence, they're an interesting inclusion, and one I liked, but not vital to the film. It was nice to see bullet time used for the complete opposite of dodging bullets.
Ah, yes, the violence. More bloodily matter of fact than needlessly gore splattered, and the film would have felt a different beast if it had been toned down. Things certainly didn't tend towards violence is cool, although there were some hilarious moments, although, that, I suspect, is more a reflection on me than on the film.I had one wince inducing moment that involved a throat, but that's a personal thing. The Slo-Mo scene shown in the trailer was more interesting from a stand point of what concussive force and bullets do to people than bullets are cool. The only questionable bit that stands out is the first shooting, but I'll leave you to discover why on your own. In terms of nastiness, and making shooting people seem an awesome thing to do, then Hot Fuzz is a worse offender.
As a related point, it was nice to see most of Dredd's ammo get shown off, without feeling shoehorned in.
The dialogue was spot on, with only the occasional iffy line, which only stood out against the quality of the rest of the script.Unless I missed them I'm not sure we heard any special 2000AD swears. Drokk. There was a bleak humour running through things, as in the comics, and there were a few moments when the cinema laughed.
The story was simple, and the film didn't last longer than it needed to. Any attempt to deal with the world on a bigger level would have only ended in disappointment I think, and the film gains some of it's punch from being framed as just one fairly normal day. I'm not sure about the ending, but aside from that there was only one iffy bit, involving guilt tripping Anderson, which felt unnecessary.
The Judge's costumes were good, treading the line between nods to the source material and practicality/realism.Certainly the Judges not on active duty could easily have pulled their wardrobe from the books.
The portrayal of the city is one thing that is going to come in for criticism from some quarters (it's also the one thing that the Stallone film did right). Aside from the sad lack of citizens with knee pads, I don't think there is much to really complain about. The choice of a more current feeling setting was a good one, as trying to do flying cars and the huge buildings of the Big Meg as seen in the comics would have sucked money from the budget, and ultimately not helped the story. I would have preferred a different look to the Lawmaster bikes to have a different, more blocky, look, but it's a minor niggle, and I'm not sure the chase scene would have worked with that style of bike.
What SFX there was on display didn't feel out of place, with nothing really screaming out as added in, beyond the effects that were meant to be obvious.
The sound track fitted the film perfectly, and I'm downloading from iTunes as I type this up. Also of note are Dredd's footsteps, a minor thing to pick up, but something that adds to the ambience, as he thumps across the screen.
I picked up a fair few Easter Eggs in the film, and there were likely many more I missed. If anyone spots Tharg, let me know, as I didn't.
I liked Dredd, and even after a few days of thinking it over and writing the above, I still feel very well disposed towards it. A very good example of a comic book movie done right, to please both fans and a wider audience, I'd happily watch it again.
It's not the Avengers, and it's not The Dark Knight Rises, and it's better for it. Although there is a precedent for a crossover...