A Feeling of Dredd


I could only watch half the film. I say that; it was actually my other half who said, “I can’t watch any more of this,” and after some resistance (only a little bit), I agreed. One could say I can’t write a proper review of only half a film, to which I would respond…

A. I don’t write for ‘Total Film’ or rottentomatoes.com.

B.I think I watched enough of the film to get the feel of it.

And C. This piece is about ‘Dredd,’ but it is also about a wider issue which it has brought up in my head. To whit…

Why so damned dark?!

My personal reading of ‘Judge Dredd’ in the comic ‘2000AD’ mainly occurred in the 1980s, so references mainly relate to story arcs and themes around this era. I therefore apologise in advance to anyone who might say, “Well actually, the Dredd of the comics of 2013 is very close to that of the recent film” and suchlike, but I can only write about what I know – so here I am, writing about what I know.

As I said, I (and my other half) could only watch half the film. In truth, I think we only got that far out of curiosity and my personal nostalgic love of the Dredd of the (1980s) comics. We normally don’t watch 18 certificate films, due to not wanting to bring “those kind of vibes” into the house, but Jo conceded on this occasion when I said, “But it’s Dredd!” Dredd-love (on my part) took us 45 minutes. We were too sickened to go further.

I don’t want to go deeply into the plot of the film – for that, you can watch it yourself or Google it – suffice it to say that ‘Dredd’ is more realistic than the Stallone offering. Contained within the first half of the film are such delights as blood-spattered slo-mo gun battles, drug-use, eye-gouging, flaying, domestic violence and rape. Lovely. Yes, I suppose in a ‘real’ Mega City One, such things would no doubt take place in plentiful supply, but… that’s not Dredd! Not as I remember him. Not as I remember Mega City One. Yes, there was the ultra-violence, the grim urbanity, the drugs/narcs, etc… but where is the irony, the surreal, the sci-fi glamour, the HUMOUR? You’ve taken all this away from me, oh rebooters of Dredd! You’ve taken the variety that spiced up the darkness and left only bitterness, a lingering nausea and regret! (regret at spending 45 minutes corrupting my childhood memories)

(and did I mention this darkness was peppered with f-bomb expletives? Not a ‘crud’ in sight…)

But as I mentioned, this piece is not just about ‘Dredd’. It is also about the Dark Knight. And ‘gritty realism’. And darkness in movies in general.

Gritty realism has its place. It is important to tell stories about ‘real life’ – of course it is – but there seem to be fewer and fewer places to escape from this. It seems we want our heroes to be more human, our portrayals of the future to be closer to present (grim) reality… but where does that leave metaphor? Are we no longer able to watch a film that is pure fantasy, pure fiction, pure story – and to perceive the symbolism of reality without having it thrust in our faces? Can we no longer appreciate the subtle, the ironic, the joyfully surreal?

Here are some things I want to see in the next Dredd reboot…

[ click on pic to expand ]



3 comments on “A Feeling of Dredd

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Very fun and bloody, which makes it all the more entertaining and I can only wonder what they will do with the next installments of this series, if they can get there. Good review.

  2. pepsoid says:

    I don’t have a problem with “fun and bloody”! I am, for example, a big fan of the Resident Evil films. I find, however, that some of the violence in ‘Dredd’ is gratuitous and unnecessary – e.g. the flaying scenes and the ‘demasculating with teeth’ (which thankfully didn’t get quite as gratuitous as it might have done). I think I (that is, my partner and I) may have coped with this, however, if not for things like the rape scene – i.e. what Kay imagined he was doing to Anderson – I know it was only in his head, but to us viewers, it was all too real. I don’t even think these things necessarily needed to be removed from the plot, but they could have been more… suggested, rather than visually explicit. With a bit more visual diversion and suggestion, the film could have been certified a 15 or even a 12, appealed to a wider audience, and still been as good.

    I did like some aspects of the film! All the characters were great; Urban was pretty much a perfect Dredd. The Lawmaster was smaller and subtler than that of the comics, but this did not diminish its power and threat and the sense of fear it induced in perps – a lesson could have been learned here, I think, with respect of other aspects of the film! I liked the architecture of Peach Trees, but I thought Mega City One was a little too 2013… and it’s with this kind of thing, I think, that ‘Dredd’ went wrong in general. To me, MC1 is a big, unrealistic, ugly/beautiful metaphor for social degradation/chaos – not just a slightly more run-down version of your average modern city (the physical vastness of MC1, although mentioned by Dredd in the prologue, did not come across in the film).

    And then there’s the lack of Chopper, the League of Fatties, the Dark Judges, the Palais de Boing, Cursed Earth Muties, the Smokatorium, arrests for dropping litter/smoking/using sugar… etc. Another opportunity missed… 😦

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