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Best comic adaptation of 2012
on September 25, 2012
First off, let me say that I am biased to this particular comic book character. I've been a fan since the late '80s and have wanted a film adaptation for a long time. I am not saying that I am pre-disposed to like this film. In fact, quite the contrary is true. I'm not only coming at this from the point of view of somebody who wants to see a good movie, but as somebody who will be judging this by its adherence to and respect for its source material.
I've been disappointed before. The Stallone version of the '90s failed this test on both counts. In fact, the only thing that movie got right was a few beautifully rendered hyper dense scenic shots of Mega City one. This film didn't have those shots. In fact, the scenic shots of the city didn't seem that dense at all...yeah there were tall building....but spaced far apart. It seemed almost like a quaint small city trying to be a big one at the edge of a dessert. That is...until we are taken inside the city.
This is one of the real coups the film pulls over on us. A few quick shots of the area around these mega blocks (big...REALLY big...More then twice the size of the Twin Towers big) reveal some familiar (especially if you are a New Yorker) buildings that frankly look like kids toys in comparison. When we are informed that the city has over 800 million people covering a land mass that stretches from Boston to DC, you have to intake air when you realize the true scale of the shots looking at the city from the dessert.
We are quickly given a day in a life type story focusing on two characters who have an importent yet oddly impotent job in the city. To maintain order. And it doesn't take too long until we realize how futile that task is in a city so enormous.
The plot details are somewhere along the lines of a Die Hard film from that point on, but the feelings this setting evokes in us are more akin to District 9. It's an all together beautiful and disturbing combination the filmmakers utilize quite adeptly.
At some point we are inside one of these big blocks, and the Judges (a hybrid cop/judge given powers to dispense instant justice) we are following through their sadly ordinary day had to shoot lots of people and utter caustic lines like "Defense noted" or "you have ten seconds to comply".
Did I mention lots of people get shot? Well... let me put it this way: LOTS of people get shot. And we are not spared one ounce of gore when this happens.
The film never really lets up, rather it moves at a brisk pace as our protagonists go about their job. The titular Judge Dredd is the experienced mentor, putting Judge Anderson through the ropes here. For those of us familiar with the comics, these are the two biggest characters in the world of Mega City one. While Anderson does go through changes, this film gives us a bit of her origins (placing this story actually BEFORE the comics really take place). While she goes from barely competent and wishy washy cadet to the beginnings of the kick ass PSI Judge we all know and love, Dredd himself never breaks a sweat. In fact, you get the sense that this particular day was no better or worse for him then the day before or the day after. His actions in the last scene of the film really hammer this home.
This characterization is what really makes the film work. The sense that this is the norm in this city informes us of the prevailing fatalism that must soak into every citizen. It is a very bleak dystopian view of the future, that sadly looks all too understandable and real. We are never told how the human race came to be in those cities, or why they still exist there. It's only that they ARE there. And it's left up to us to fill in the importance of that.