DUELING MOVIES / ULTIMATE REVIEW : JUDGE DREDD VS. DREDD 3-D…Not As Simple As You Think
This DUELING MOVIES is literally years in the making.
|OF ACTION A GO GO!|
Ever since JUDGE DREDD (1995) came out people have been complaining about it. It’s one of Stallone’s worst movies. It’s campy. In one review I read (I won’t name names) it was refereed to as “awful”.
To these people I ask, and please feel free to chime in, what the f*** are you smoking? The movie has an epic Sci-fi landscape, loads of action, great acting, and a story that actually makes sense. What else do you want? Are there weaknesses? Sure. He takes the helmet off. And it has Rob Schneider…but are those things unforgivable?
To those who cast doubt I say NAY! JUDGE DREDD is not awful…just a bit misguided.
But this brings us to our second challenger, DREDD 3-D, the movie meant to finally give Judge Dredd the cinematic reckoning he deserves. It’s been long rumored, in development for a while, and is finally out there for us to enjoy.
So who will win? Does the new DREDD 3-D deserve any praise? Is JUDGE DREDD actually the better picture after all? Should you skip both and just watch THE RAID: REDEMPTION (2011) instead?
Let’s get this party started. Just like THE RUNNING MAN VS. THE HUNGER GAMES we’re going to do a brief summary followed closely by 5 categories. Those categories are ACTING, STORY, THE FUTURE, SPECIAL EFFECTS, and ACTION.
Both films share the same basic premise. In the future the Earth has gone through chaos. The remnants of humanity have clumped into mega cities. Everything outside of the city is called the “cursed earth” because it is an irradiated wasteland. Mega City One is one of humanities last outposts, a city filled with hundreds of millions of people. Under the weight of such a huge population the justice system had to change. Police officers, Judges, jury’s, and executioners were all combined into the Street Judges. They are the one thing standing in front of a tidal wave of crime that could engulf Mega City One at any time. And Judge Dredd is the most infamous Street Judge there is.
JUDGE DREDD is Directed by Danny Cannon (The Young Americans (1993), and starring Sylvester Stallone as Judge Dredd and a host of actors that add some heft to this movie. Rico (played AMAZINGLY by Armand Assante) is a former Street Judge in jail for multiple massacres. He manages to break out of jail and get a hold of a special issue lawgiver firearm and Judge uniform. Soon Judge Dredd is framed for murder and chaos ensues in Mega City One.
In DREDD 3-D, directed by Pete Travis (VANTAGE POINT 1993), the scope is much more focused. In the movie, Judge Dredd (played by Karl Urban) is pushed to take a rookie by the name of Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) on her first day as a judge. It’s sink or swim, but this time it’s different because she happens to be a psychic. The psychic thing might sound lame, but it works. After they respond to a tipple homicide at one of the cities mega structures things get crazy fast. The crime lord Ma Ma (played by Lena Headey, GAME OF THRONES) discovers one of her underlings is being arrested and could undermine her drug running operation. She has the complex locked down and the whole building turns into 200 floors of terror that these two judges have to tame. Good stuff, and very reminiscent of THE RAID: REDEMPTION.
So now you know. On to the street fight….
CATAGOREY 1: THE PEOPLE WHO GET PAID TO TALK…
|Stallone shooting for a win here..|
This one might surprise. The cast for JUDGE DREDD is actually epic. Besides Stallone as the Dredd, you’ve got Diane Lane (The Perfect Storm (2000) as his partner, Judge Hersey, Max vos Sydow (The Seventh Seal (1951) as Chief Judge Fargo, Jürgen Prochnow (Das Boot (1981) as Judge Griffin, Joan Chen (LUST, CAUTION (2007) as Dr. Ilsa Hayde, and of course Armand Assante (AMERICAN GANSTER (2007) as the psychotic Rico. Oh, and this is one of the best (and most underrated) bad guy performances ever. And who could forget Rob Schneider in his post SNL glory days?
But read that roster again. Pretty impressive, right? Exactly. This ain’t Shakespeare, but every one of these actors brings it. Everyone claims that Stallone somehow ruins Dredd, but if you pay attention to his performance he doesn’t relent and he doesn’t change. He’s the same judgmental, unwavering sociopath he is at the beginning as he is at the end. And when his authority is questioned and he’s framed for murder Stallone bellows out “I AM THE LAW!” with such authority all you can do is nod in agreement. There’s a reason people still quote that line to this day.
As for the rest, Rob Schneider does bring a bit too much comic relief, but he does work as a counter balance that manages to raise some serious questions along the way. What if the Judge, Jury, and Executioner is wrong? What right do we have to judge each other all time?
Armand Assante…as Judge Rico…so good. So…so good. Rico is so maniacal, so persuasive, and so passionate it’s hard to not root for him at times. But then he say’s and does horrible things. Assante brings an incredible amount of passion to this characters eyes and when he finally goes toe to toe with Dredd there is surprisingly little fighting and a lot of talking. That turns out to be a good thing, as this brings a lot of tension and adds weight to the decisions these characters make.
In DREDD 3-D the opposite is true. Karl Urban ( LOTR: The Return of the King 2003) plays Dredd, and never takes off the helmet. That’s manna from heaven for true fans, but in a movie that makes for a lot of frowning. However, he does deliver his lines with intensity and a slight comedic undertone. The rest of the cast holds their own, but no one delivers a standout performance. Even Lena Headey’s performance as Ma Ma was surprisingly understated. Menacing, but understated. All of this adds up to a film whose characters are hard to care about, and that is a dangerous place to be in a film like this.
|Lena Headey as Ms. Bad Hair Day…I mean crime lord “Ma Ma”|
Having said that, it’s not bad. You’re not wincing at tone def performances or cringing at stupid lines. It’s just that back to back JUDGE DREDD captures something that DREDD 3-D fumbles with.
The winner here is JUDGE DREDD, with a landslide.
JUDGE DREDD 1 / DREDD 3-D 0
CATAGORY 2: THE STORY… (Warning; THERE BE (minor) SPOILERS)
This is a tough one.
JUDGE DREDD is actually pretty ambitious compared to DREDD 3-D. Dredd get’s framed for murder, and must claw his way back from the cursed earth into Mega City One. Along the way finds out that he was a clone, a test tube baby built to be the perfect Judge, emotionless and relentless. Rico is actually his “brother” built from the same genes. Not just that, Rico is out to build a clone army of Judges just as viscous as he is. There’s a giant war robot thrown into the mix and an awesome heavy metal landscape. That’s a lot going on for one movie and it actually manages to meld together well.
What about DREDD 3-d? Again, the exact opposite. Where JUDGE TRIED tries to juke and dive DREDD 3-D focuses on Dredd taking a rookie cop under his wing and all hell breaking loose once the mega block is sealed off. But one aspect manages to juxtapose these movies perfectly. The lawgiver, or multipurpose firearm every judge is given.
In the first scene of Judge Dredd, when the block war is going on, Dredd makes his way into the building. In the room where the bad guys are Dredd takes each guy out methodically, using the different rounds available in the gun, such as the double whammy, auto fire, and armor piercing. All in one scene.
DREDD 3-d takes it’s time throughout the movie to reveal what the lawgiver can do. In one scene the flair ends everything, in another auto fire makes its case, and in another scene armor piercing does its damage. It’s a genius move that peels back layer after layer.
But the genius moves don’t stop there. By sealing Dredd and the rookie off from the outside world you face the terror of knowing that the only thing separating civilization from chaos are a few sentences written on paper that people choose to abide by.
There are elements of this in JUDGE DREDD, such as the cannibal scene in the dessert, but they are taken for granted and glossed over. I could get into how these themes are rooted in the westerns that Hollywood used to love to make, but that’s a whole other thing. Oh, and there’s some definite sex role stuff going on, but I’ll let you try and figure that out.
Also, DREDD 3-D is dripping in style. The slow mo scenes are literally woven into the story in the best way seen since the Matrix, adding beautiful complexity to blood simple scenes.
|I can see into you mind…and yes, that is disgusting…|
And what they do with Anderson as a physic adds more complexity. What if you were a walking lie detector? Beyond that, when she gets into psycho’s heads and sees what makes them tick things get very entertaining very fast.
So, I don’t know if you can tell, but DREDD 3-D wins this round. JUDGE DREDD has brother against brother drama, clone ethics issues, and the judge as the judged, but it’s all thrown into a blender and shot out at the viewer. DREDD 3-D with its laser focus, rats in a cage setting, and inventiveness pull this one through.
The Winner here is DREDD 3-D. That’s it.
JUDGE DREDD 1 / DREDD 3-D 1
CATEGORY 3 : THE FUTURE….
Much like how we looked at THE RUNNING MAN VS THE HUNGER GAMES, one category is thrown in that both movies have that are directly compatible. These two movies are both set in the future, so how each interprets that future is a valid criteria to judge them.
When watching DREDD 3-D this literally slapped me in the face. Having grown up on JUDGE DREDD, and catching glimpses of the comic, I was shocked at how NOT Futuristic DREDD 3-D was.
For instance, at the beginning of the movie there is a motorcycle chase. DREDD is on his Lawmaster motorcycle and the bad guys are in…a bread van? A VW bus? And so is everybody else on the road? The chase is shot well, and the scene is a great introduction to this films Dredd, but this did not look like the future. It looked like last summer.
|We have this…|
After that, the film does pick up speed and plays a well done balancing act. When it does macro shots, like the city landscape, it manages to feel like a believable future. The mega blocks are mega, and hints of the future are sprinkled throughout. Things like drones constantly flying the sky and the judges computer being built into his armor. But sadly, those wiz bang moments that make a Sci Fi movie special are lacking.
|Compared to this…|
JUDGE DREDD on the other hand…this thing is a riot. The costume, while not techno wonderful, is oh so fascist and gives these judges real presence. Fun fact, they were actually designed by Gianni Versace, and we all know those Italians know a thing or two about fascism.
|Camera’s on…look hard!|
But this movie does not stop at costume design. The world this movie manages to create is pretty amazing. Huge buildings, flying cars, constant adds, and people dressed up in all manner of punk rock glitz. Oh, and when they step inside those buildings everything feels different. I mean, how do you make wood look futuristic? This movie manages to pull that off. It’s a shiny heavy metal masterpiece of a future.
|These shoulder pads just don’t cut the mustard at Action A Go Go|
Fast forward to DREDD 3-D and it all looks…boring. Definitely an opportunity missed here.
So JUDGE DREDD claws one back.
JUDGE DREDD 2 / DREDD 3-D 1
CATEGORY 4: SPECIAL EFFECTS
Let’s start with JUDGE DREDD. Jumping off from it’s take on the future, this movie is pretty epic in a lot of ways. From the vehicle designs to the incredibly large structures, there’s not one stone unturned when it comes to trying to attract the viewers eyes and scream out “HEY LOOK OVER HERE!”. The war bot is done well and has some art deco hints, and the flying lawmaster city chase doesn’t pull any punches. And if you ask me, George Lucas just lifted some elements and shoved them into STAR WARS: ATTACH OF THE CLONES (2002) and even before that THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997) probably took some detailed notes.
|The ABC Warrior, one of the best and weakest elements of the movie…|
Once you dig deeper, however, the polish begins to wear off. While some of the shot’s are amazing, others are rushed and chopped, and don’t seem to fit evenly. The touch screens and video effects manage to feel old. And there’s never a top to bottom shot of the robot, which sort of hurts. You can tell they are constantly shooting around on set limitations with that ABC bot. Things like that hold the overall experience back, and make you long for the lingering complexity of 1982’s BLADE RUNNER all over again.
|This…this just looks so good.|
DREDD 3-D, while far more modest in it’s special effects budget, manages to make those special effects seem so seamless it’s hard to believe I’m not looking at mega blocks outside my window right now.
It accomplishes this by focusing on the details and integrating all it’s visual elements perfectly. When slo mo happens your eyes get to take everything in and it is just dazzling. Violent, but dazzling. But most of all, where JUDGE DREDD feels cartoonish DREDD 3-D feels real, and that’s the ultimate test of any special effect. You can reach out and touch this movie it feels so real.
There are other elements of the affects that heavily affect our next category, so I will save those for later.
DREDD 3-D takes this one for quality over quantity.
JUDGE DREDD 2 / DREDD 3-D 2
CATEGORY 5: ACTION…..
Oh baby…the one element that makes our ACTION A GO GO world spin. So many attempt to bring eye popping action to the screen, but only so many succeed in doing it well.
One reason I love both these films is because each has plenty of it. But here’s where the problem set’s in for JUDGE DREDD. When you watch this movie, and pay attention to the details, this is not a rated R movie. Sure there is some blood, and lots of shooting, but this shouldn’t have been a rated R. The lack of cursing, sexual situations, and guts make that clear. It’s a shame, because in those situations, you really need to decide whether it’s go for broke like DREDD 3-D or pull back at ALL the right times like THE DARK KNIGHT (2008).
|Thank you Internet, for your bountiful GIF’s…|
Which brings us to DREDD 3-D. This movie rolls hard from the beginning and does not let go. Those (amazing) slo mo scenes, the shoot outs, the chasing through corridors, and the tension created in between make this a movie you can’t turn away from. I’ve already dished enough, but all I can say is that I cringed at least six times throughout the film, and that is a low estimate.
It’s just top notch action, and is could be…whisper it…the best real action movie of 2012.
I know, bold words, but this was one bold and bad ass movie that takes round 5…with a vengeance.
JUDGE DREDD 2 / DREDD 3-D 3
|THE VERDICT IS IN…..|
That’s it. DREDD 3-D wins it. I’ll be honest, I was pulling for JUDGE DREDD, but it just couldn’t match DREDD 3-D on every front.
The hard action, the quality of film making, and taught story pull it through. But make no mistake, JUDGE DREDD is not a bad movie. Quite the opposite. It’s a fun, entertaining movie that isn’t an affront to film making or Judge Dredd the comic. As a comic book fan myself, I’ve seen MUCH worse adaptations that don’t even give lip service to the source material (Deadpool in Wolverine: Origins (2009) anyone? Wait, f*** that, the entire movie! Yeah, you DREDD fans had it GREAT compared to us!) I hate this…I still this it may be truer to the comic in more ways than DREDD 3-D….
|Now we let JUDGE DREDD roll off proudly into action movie history…|
So let’s all calm down, relax, and enjoy two AWESOME action movies that are much better than you think they are.
PLEASE go see DREDD 3-D in theatres…IT NEEDS HELP… check out JUDGE DREDD if you dare!!!!
|YAY IT’S MOVIE TIME!!!|
|Action packed…I”m telling you…..|