Dredd 3D is an action-packed reboot of the popular comic book character and franchise that is Judge Dredd. It is a gritty, visual feast of violence and gore, however the story and characters unfortunately lack any depth.
In a future, desolate America, the population is crammed into a violent, crime-ridden city known as Mega-City One. The only law enforcement keeping the peace are known as Judges. They wield the power of a judge, jury and executioner, handing out sentences to criminals on the spot. One Judge, Dredd, is given the task to take a new rookie out into the field for examination. The Judges chase up a lead in one of the mega-towers, where they end up trapped and hunted by its inhabitants, forced to fight for survival.
Karl Urban plays the titular role, offering a grizzly interpretation of the character, devoid of any emotion. Dredd is a strict lawman with a sense of mystery about him. He is never shown with his helmet off and there is virtually no back-story for his character. This lack of character development diminishes an otherwise faultless performance from Urban. The same can be said about Lena Headey’s performance as Ma-Ma, the chief villain of the film. Headey plays a nasty and violent drug kingpin, but the lack of character development here leaves us without anyone to love or hate out of most of the key roles. Salvation comes in the form of Olivia Thirlby’s rookie Judge Anderson, as her character appears to be the only one with any sense of humanity left and does serve as a protagonist worthy of emotional investment. She is excellent in her role.
The plot of Dredd 3D is as basic as they come in the scope of action films. It is full of violence and not too much else. The violence scale in this film is enormous. It is nearly horror-genre level at times, which serves little purpose except other than to be utilised as a shock tactic.
Dredd is visually, a highly stylized film. The scenes where people use the ‘Slo-Mo’ drug that causes everything around them to be slowed down to one percent of real time look amazing. The 3D works quite well during these scenes (which there are only a handful of), but not so well with the rest of the film. The overall visual design of the film is quite well thought out and each of the sets and city designs look realistic and believable.
Overall, Dredd 3D is a solid action film. Its lack of a an interesting storyline hurts its validity as a top player in the comic book adaptation hierarchy of films, but it will still appeal to fans of the genre, fans of the comic books and action film fans.
Duncan Jones was offered the film, but turned it down, not because he didn’t like the Alex Garland script (Jones said it was great), but because he had such a strong idea of what he wanted to do with a Dredd movie, that he felt he could not bring himself to take it on and not do it his way.