Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dredd 3D (2012)

Title: Dredd 3-D (2012)

Director: Pete Travis

Writer: Alex Garland

Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey


Why does a film like Dredd 3-D fail so harshly at the box office? It has all the necessary ingredients for a good sci-fi/action film; in my book it should have been a moderately successful film, to have it fail so disastrously kind of boggles my film connoisseur mind. The film has good production values, it looks great, Judge Dredd looks and behaves like he should, there’s tons of violence, gore, visual eye candy, the computer generated effects are well achieved...I mean, yeah, it needed to be a bit more ‘spectacular’ I guess we could say, but in the end, even if it isn’t as loud and bombastic as Stallone’s Judge Dredd (1995), I don’t think it should have failed the way it did. Reportedly it’s only made 10 million dollars on a 50 million dollar budget!? Why didn’t this new Dredd movie take off?

Same as Judge Dredd (1995), Dredd 3-D starts out by giving us a quick intro about who Dredd is, and why these judges exist via a quick voiceover. They explain all about the escalating crime scene which has skyrocketed out of control. Chaos and anarchy rule the streets; the judges are a police force with special weapons and armor sent out to eradicate crime; something that they are currently having a difficult time doing. Mega City One is filled with violence and death; it’s like the eternal ghetto. The queen of this ghetto is a drug lord known as Ma-Ma, and Ma-Ma sells this drug called Slo-Mo, which when you take it, makes you see everything shiny and colorful and slows things down to the point where you feel as if you were watching life in slow motion, hence the name. Of course, this drug has to be eradicated and Dredd knows where Ma-Ma lives. It’s up to him and a his newly assigned telepathic rookie to find Ma-Ma and destroy her drug dealing empire.

Does Dredd 3D’s failure at the box office mean that the ‘R’ rated action film is now dead? I really don’t think so. We have seen various ‘R’ rated action films flourish in theaters, a recent example of this would be The Expendables franchise, it’s going strong on it’s second film, and it’s got tons of action and gore. So, I ask again, why did Dredd 3D fail? All I can say is that as the tried and true (and sometimes unpredictable) waters of mass consumption have proven, it is a very rare occasion when the public will go see a film about a character they don’t know much about. Unfortunately, a lot of people are not tuned into Judge Dredd’s comic book origins. To top things off, Judge Dredd starring Sylvester Stallone also failed at the box office. To be honest, I didn’t feel like that film deserved to fail as badly as it did either. What can I say, sometimes the masses just don’t like a character and they never give it a chance to lift off the ground no matter how many times Hollywood tries; just look at The Punisher character. They have tried with three different films already; all three films failed to impress at the box office. So maybe audiences just don’t like the idea of Dredd, though I don't see why they wouldn't. I mean Judge Dredd isn't all that different from Robocop (1987), a huge box office success that spawned two sequels, a television show, comic books, an animated show, action figures for children and is currently getting the reboot treatment. So I don't know what gives with this film. 

In comparison to Sylvester Stallone’s film, this one is smaller in scale, I mean it’s not a low budget flick, but to give you an idea, Stallone’s film had 70 million dollar budget while Dredd 3D had 50. And apparently 70 million in ’94 could buy you a really expensive looking film because in my book Judge Dredd is a massive, sci-fi action epic, I loved that about it, you could see those millions up on the screen, this was when films really looked expensive as opposed to nowadays where everything just looks computer generated. While Judge Dredd concerns itself with Mega City One being taken over by a power hungry mad man, Dredd 3D is simply about Dredd showing a rookie cop what it means to be a Judge. Together they enter Ma-Ma’s domain to try and stop Slo-Mo production. Unfortunately, Ma-Ma resides on the 200th floor of the Peach Trees apartment complex. The film doesn’t go much further then Dredd going up the tower, facing Ma-Ma’s weapons and henchmen. The film does borrow this ‘going up a tower to meet a drug dealer at the top’ premise from The Raid:  Redemption (2011), there’s no denying that, but where The Raid made things interesting by giving us a heavy dose of martial arts fighting, Dredd 3D fails in making each floor of the building more interesting. The film can be described as one long shoot out, with lots of bullets whizzing by, and piercing flesh, people hiding in corners…it gets a bit redundant. This simplistic approach towards the film was kind of a let down for me considering that Alex Garland, a writer I commonly rely on for good story and character development wrote the script. It seems like Garland deliberately kept the scope of the story small for budget reasons. 

And here’s where I go into the films one negative point: the film needed a bit more showmanship to it. It needed to be more spectacular. Shoot outs will never replace the adrenaline rush of a well orchestrated action sequence. The film opens up with a cool motorcycle chase sequence, reminiscent of the opening sequences for Robocop, but after that there’s not a whole lot of action in my book. The film does give us an over abundance of bullets and blood and that was cool, but it needed a hell of a lot more action because for a movie about cops in a chaotic crime ridden city from the future, this one felt a bit restrained in this department. What it did have a lot of was style, the camera angles were awesome, and the way the effects of Slo-Mo were achieved was visually interesting, especially in 3-D. So this is where the movie excels. Another high point was Karl Urban as Dredd, he doesn’t talk much, his basically a walking tank, if you mess with him you are dead, which is really the way Dredd should be, so the portrayal of the character they got just right. And for you puritans out there, Urban never takes the helmet off, something Stallone was guilty off and heavily criticized for. In the end, even with its hiccups, this was not a bad film, it should have made its money back, sadly, Dredd 3D is currently dying a quick death at the box office. I have a feeling that this is going to be one of those movies that audiences will discover once it hits home video. 

Rating: 4 out of 5   


Jack Thursby said...

Yeah, it is a shame the film flopped at the box office. I think it's just a mix of bad marketing and bad luck. It was far from a bad film. There's always a handful of films every year that just don't gel with the cinema audiences. That said I think it will do great on DVD etc.

I think the recent success of Taken 2 (with its PG13 rating) is a sign of the times. We'll likely get less and less R rated films at the cinema next year and more PG13. It's a business thing, nothing more.

I think R rated films will still survive but they are only going to be successful in the future on DVD/on demand.

Anyway, back to the film. Yeah I agree with you. It was lacking showmanship and verve. Travis did a decent job but it needed more "Wow". When you set a film in a small location you really need to pull out all the stops to make it interesting for the audience and I don't think Garland or Travis did enough with the story or the action. It was just too linear.

I know Dredd gets compared to Robocop a lot because of the visual similarity and the fact it was a futuristic satire too. But there's a big difference between Alex Murphy and Dredd. In Robocop Murphy gradually claws back his humanity whereas Dredd keeps his tightly under wraps. I guess that can get frustrating for an audience who are used to empathising with the lead character in movies.

Franco Macabro said...

Agree about 'R' rated films, we are getting less and less of them as time goes by.

Here's one thing I don't get, the MPAA is not allowing violence in cinemas because I guess they don't want people being exposed to violence or whatever...but violence is permitted to governments in war and in oppression. Yet the idea of violence in the minds of the people, in the movies they watch? No siree!

Now there's a contradiction/conundrum if there ever was any!

Agree about R rated films only making it to DVD, it's already happened with horror films, you only get the truly gory ones on DVD, the PG-13 rated ones go to cinemas.

As for the action in the film, I liked that bit where Ma-Ma was shooting her big guns, that was pretty cool, we needed just a bit more then that.

Agree about the differences and similarities in DREDD and Robocop, that whole chase sequence with DREDD on his motorcycle reminded me of Murphy and Lewis after those bad guys in the opening of Robocop, and also the fact that DREDD walks around with this blond woman cop, with short hair, who is tough yet still vulnerable, kind of like Murphy and Lewis.

I hear ya, ROBOCOP and DREDD are different in that way, Robo searches out his human side, DREDD hides it almost entirely.

Thanks for commenting Jack!

Unknown said...

I also think that it bombed at the box office because there was still the stink of Stallone's version hanging around. A lot of people figured, oh a remake of a lame Stallone action film. Eh, I'll wait 'til video. Which is too bad. Also, the lack of movie starts probably didn't help it in North America.

I love the comic book and can't wait to see it. I missed it in theaters simply 'cos I just didn't have the $$ to spare but I fully intend to catch it on DVD/Blu.

Nice review!

Franco Macabro said...

Agree about the lack of movie stars, it needed someone a bit bigger then Karl Urban, but in all honesty, I think he did a fantastic job as DREDD.

I mean, the previous film had freakin Stallone in it and it still didn't take off, I'm still sratching my head with that one because I recently had a chance to re-watch it and loved it every step of the way. It's so big, so rich, but more on this Stallone film on my review for it, which should be emerging some time after Halloween. During October it's all going to be about zombies, zombies, zombies, with the ocassional review of something new I've seen, like this review for DREDD 3D.

Hope you enjoy it when you finally get to see it on DVD.

Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

You and I are pretty much on the same page in regards to Dredd, Francisco. I am as familiar with the comic book character as you can be in the States and I've only read about thirty or so of Judge Dredd’s comics stories. So I do think this is a very difficult character to sell to American audiences. The fact that it is a British satire of an urban America, set in a dystopian future makes for a very hard sell indeed. Unfortunately, these qualities are precisely what make Judge Dredd so unique and his futuristic environment so unique and ultimately so well plagiarized by films for the past thirty years. There is definitely a feeling of “seen it” with this film and even though the Judge Dredd comic was doing this type of dystopian futuristic satire years before even Mad Max and later Robocop, Americans weren't able to read the British comic 2000 A.D. here, so they’re not familiar with it.

While I loved many things about Dredd – things that you pointed out so well in your review – it still left me feeling just a bit unimpressed or let down. I too felt the story was just a little too simplistic and would have liked to see a lot more of the Mega City world that Dredd inhabits. Placing three-quarters of the film’s action in that one slum tower was most likely a budgetary restriction, but with a little imagination it could have taken better advantage of more locals in Mega City. The film Looper was made on even a lower budget than Dredd, yet it gave the illusion of a larger world by showing a variety of different – if limited in scope – locations.

Karl Urban was the best Dredd… period. Stallone’s Dredd was just Stallone in the costume. Urban really captured the dead-inside quality of Dredd, while still maintaining a modicum of humanity. I think Olivia Thirlby as Judge Cassandra Anderson was just as important to the film’s success as Urban’s, because she was the viewpoint character and helped give just a little better feel for the darkness at the heart of Dredd and his world. While not a perfect film, it was far superior to the 1995 Judge Dredd in all but scope. Because it did so poorly at the box office (surprisingly, it didn’t do much better world-wide than in the States – despite good reviews) we probably won’t get another, bigger Dredd film.

Franco Macabro said...

I've seen some of the artwork for the Judge Dredd comics, but I've never had the pleasure of reading them, I'm sure I would love them though. I do have a run of Judge Dredd comics that DC Comics published in '94 when Stallones film came out, that's about it. I will be searching out those original 2,000 A.D. comics though, I want them!

Agree about LOOPER, loved how they pulled off such a wonderful film on such a low budget, it just shows that if you have a good script, which is the foundation of any film, then chances are you'll pull off a good movie even with a small budget. The guys behind DREDD ended up with a good film, it just needed a bit more meat to it thats all. In comparison, Stallone's film touches upon so many themes about society and the way it functions. This is one of the things that I enjoyed the most about it, that it had a depth to it.

Karl Urban was great as DREDD, Olivia Thirlby did great as well, I liked her telepathic powers, a strong female character.

Sad to know we wont be seeing more of Judge Dredd for a while due to this films small intake...jeez, even worldwide!

Thanks for commenting Fritz!

Saidi of the 90's said...

Well Mr Gonzalez, I honestly love your blog ! Though I might be late to the party, Here's what I have to say about both this flick and the supposedly "more faithful" one.

"Judge Dredd" - Excellent first 15 minutes with the whole assault on MegaCity. THAT's Judge Dredd ; a satire of an over-zealous and fascist law-enforcer. Then right after that, it becomes Judge John Spartan rather than Judge Joseph Dredd for better or worse. To its credit though, it is still tons of fun to (re)watch and tries to tell a story. Flawed as it is, it still has some merits.

"Dredd" - Very cool introduction of the main character and Judge Anderson for the first 15 minutes. Then right after that... IT's BORING ! For Fuck sake, how creatively bankrupt can you get ?! This is not a movie , this is a fucking Video Game cutscene that goes on for waaaaaay too long. Karl Urban plays a faithful to the comics Judge Dredd so credit's where it's due BUT he has NOTHING to play off of ! And the villains ? How do you make film thugs BORING ?! I don't know, but they've succeeded !

With that said I enjoyed reading your thoughts in both of them.

Franco Macabro said...

I totally agree with you on the DREDD, though stylistically it has its moments (love that slow mo) it needed to amp up the action quotent, which is something that the 90's Judge Dredd film had in abundance, to me that one is waaaaay more fun. It captured the silliness of the old Dredd comics, and trust me they were silly as hell, but ultra cool. I recommend reading the early DREDD comics, then you will see just how much of that is in the 90's adaptation, and for that I applaud it. Thanks for commenting!


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