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From Under A Rock: Dredd

December 10, 2016 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
Karl Urban Judge Dredd
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From Under A Rock: Dredd  


On an unrelated tangent; Incarnate released in theaters. It’s an exorcism movie released by WWE Studios and has Aaron Eckhart using the plot of Inception to kill demons. So Aaron got his wish, and there’s a secular exorcism movie out.

Aaron regrets wishing for one now.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Michael showed Aaron the greatest Christmas movie of all time, Die Hard. This week Aaron takes Michael out from under the proverbial rock for Dredd.

Released: September 7th, 2012
Directed by: Pete Travis
Written by: Alex Garland
Karl Urban as Judge Dredd
Olivia Thirlby as Judge Cassandra Anderson
Lena Headey as Ma-Ma (Madeline Madrigal)
Wood Harris as Kay
Domhnall Gleeson as Unnamed Computer Expert

Aaron Hubbard: Honestly, I picked Dredd because I think it unfairly gets lost in the shuffle. It lives in the shadow of a dumb 1990’s action movie, so nobody saw it. And while it has 78% on Rotten Tomatoes, it just isn’t the type of movie that lands on best-of lists. So, hopefully one person will give this a shot and it can grow a cult following because I’d really dig a sequel.

Michael Ornelas: While I doubt the likelihood of a sequel, it’s totally right for it. Dredd is a character I can get behind, and much like one of my earlier picks for you (Crank), I just thought this was a non-stop blast.
Dystopian Dread
Aaron: So, Michael hasn’t seen the original film (I have it on as background noise as I write this), but I feel the best comparison I can make for this is this: Judge Dredd is Batman Forever and Dredd is Batman Begins. Just getting the tone of this movie would honestly be enough for fans of the comics, but we got a solid movie out of it anyway. I love the gritty urban despair of this movie; it’s depressing in just the right way. It also helps that this movie doesn’t take itself so seriously that it can’t tell a joke or revel in the ridiculousness of a drug called Slow Mo. It’s a careful balance and I think it toes the line very well.

Michael: I actually like Batman Forever…not better than the Nolan movies, but worth noting. I agree with you that the look of the “gritty urban despair”, as you put it, is almost a character in and of itself in this movie. The visual styling is so unique, for better or for worse. Now while you’re watching Judge Dredd in the background, I’m listening to the song “Shiny” from Moana, and that’s how I feel about this movie. The stuff with Slow Mo was rather glimmering, and immediately gave us an aesthetic to associate with this drug. It was really smart. Now the flip side of this coin is that I feel this movie was too catering to 3D shots. I even watched it in 3D, and I felt it was too much. Luckily, it seems like that phenomenon has subsided in Hollywood, where you can tell that shots were composed to exploit a 3D effect, but it does bog this movie down a little bit for me, even if I did really enjoy the film.

Aaron: I have avoided 3D as often as I can, so I haven’t had that detract from my experience, but I’m sorry that it hurt your experience. I think what I appreciate most about the presentation is that it informs the movie’s views on poverty and crime. The isn’t a black and white view of criminals; the movie has a nuanced approach to how someone gets roped into that lifestyle and how we can make snap judgments. It also can’t help being a commentary on police brutality and when discretion. Not bad for a fun little action movie.
High Rise, High Stakes
Michael: I’m a big fan of tension — it’s why I gravitate toward horror movies. If I feel that the stakes are so high that I truly doubt that the main character will survive, I’m in for a good time. That’s what I got with this film. Dredd was a great judge, but it wouldn’t have shocked me if the movie ended with a mutual destruction between Lena Headey’s character and the titular badass. The ending of the first act, where the lockdown begins and the announcement is made that immediately turns the entire building on Dredd…it gave me a reaction of “Fuck yeah!!” because I had a reason to care and root for the protagonist.

Aaron: There’s an extra layer of tension there to be sure, with urgency and a goal in mind, but also the realization that this is going to be a major challenge. I also want to give some serious credit to Lena Headey here; she’s an utterly convincing complete monster. I buy that she’s sadistic enough to keep the gang in line, and her constant threatening treatment of Domhnall Gleeson’s character really stood out to me. She’s 100% in control of the situation, with influence stretching to the cops. Honestly, she’s one of the best female villains I’ve ever seen in a movie, and it helps give Dredd a bit more of an identity. And really, until Fury Road came out last year, this may have been the best modern action movie in terms of female representation.

Michael: She brought a ton to the table and added that pressure to Dredd. She actually, in some aspects, reminded me of Hans Gruber from last week’s review. She always had a way to play mind games and stay a step ahead all in the name of self-preservation. Her bluff at the climax about the building blowing up if her heart stopped beating was a thing of beauty.
Static Energy
Aaron: So the first thing any wannabe screenwriter thinks they know about good storytelling is that characters should have arcs. While there is nothing wrong with arcs, I don’t believe it’s necessary. Consider this film; neither Dredd nor Anderson are dynamic characters. They don’t evolve or change much; the drama of the partnership comes from their personalities rubbing against each other and forcing them to work together to be stronger as a team. Combined with the tension of the film and the trials they endure, we get a story. And it works just fine. Dredd and Anderson are good individually and really good playing off of each other.

Michael: I completely agree. Sometimes an audience just wants to watch a capable character be put in a situation where they can excel and create drama. It’s the idea that you can be destined for greatness but until greatness is thrust upon you, you’ll never know it. I think of origins like Hercules in the Disney version where he just lives with a couple human parents until his abilities make him a fish out of water. But when you find him the right setting, he is the hero everyone’s been waiting for. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a character arc, I’m just saying ingredients make a dish, and they don’t all have to be the same. I agree with you: arcs are overrated (not that a movie should be devoid of them, just that they don’t have to accompany the main character).

Aaron: I think it’s a matter of striking the right balance for the story. Some characters are not meant to evolve, and Dredd is one of them.

Aaron: From my desire for this to get a sequel, you can tell I really enjoy this movie. It’s not what I’d consider great, but “really good” is nothing to be ashamed of. It did justice by the character, it’s a ton of fun and there’s just enough bubbling under the surface to make it subtly thought provoking.


Michael: So. For as fun as I thought the movie was, this is where “type” matters. This wasn’t the type of movie that scores an A+. This was fun, and solid with a well-written story and structure, but given its visual styling (which were unique, but a little too catered to 3D) and a few other factors (acting was fine but no one impressed me), it sadly scores lower as a movie than the amount I enjoyed it. And I’m fickle. Sometimes I’ll go A+ on a subpar movie just because of the enjoyment factor. I did really like Dredd, but I feel my rating is about as much as it can get from me.


Michael: I support your desire for a sequel. I think this is a world I’d definitely like to revisit.

Aaron: There’s no official plans yet, but I think a sequel would do better now that this has garnered a cult following.

Are you the law?

Next week:

Michael: I’m so sorry buddy, but it’s Christmastime, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story comes out next week…and I’m going to merge the two together.
Star WArs
Aaron: I’m going to work on learning how to Force Choke you for this.

Michael: Good luuuuck!

Check Rotten Tomatoes; the score for this pick actually isn’t abysmal.

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Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop, The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man 2, Prometheus, Scarface, Gattaca, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Equilibrium, City of God, The Graduate, Face/Off, Snowpiercer, The Exorcist, Hellboy, Village of the Damned, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Idiocracy, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Fly (1986), Under the Skin, Die Hard, Dredd

Aaron Has Another Column!
This week, I get annoyed at the comics book industry in the movie industry and how they affect each other. Specifically, Marvel and Fox. Enjoy!

Aaron is now on Letterboxd!
Check me out here to see my star ratings for almost 650 films. Recent reviews include some of 2016’s best: Moonlight, The Edge of Seventeen and Moonlight. I’ve also written detailed reviews of The Princess Bride and The Fellowship of the Ring.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Whether you're new to the character or want a Judge Dredd adaptation that fits the mood of the comics, Dredd will likely be a satisfying watch. Stylish and moody, action packed but with plenty of character depth, it's a hidden gem of an action film, one of the best this decade. Check it out if you haven't, and if you have, do so again.