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Retro Film Review: Judge Dredd (1995)
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Judge Dredd (1995). Directed by Danny Cannon and based on the 2000AD character. Set in a future where most of the Earth has been turned into a wasteland, the majority of the remaining population are packed into vast Mega Cities. Crime and insanity rule, which is where the judges come in. They are part police and part justice system, having been given the ultimate power to arrest, convict, and even execute criminals in an attempt to bring order. Judge Dredd is the most notorious judge of all, for both his skill and hard attitude. It's against this backdrop that Dredd is framed for a murder he didn't commit. I read 2000AD on and off for a couple of years when I was at 6th Form College (1988-1990), and also played the RPG game (although the miniatures were probably my favourite part of that). The stories within 2000AD were particularly brilliant, as was the artwork. Judge Dredd is the most famous story within 2000AD, so the idea of a film in the early 90s brought the usual mix of excitement and worry from fans. Unfortunately when the film was released most of the comic book fans switched to revulsion due to several factors e.g. the less than sensible dialogue, the mix/mess of various stories linked together to make the whole, and that Dredd took his helmet off (which he never did in 2000AD). I watched the film at the cinema on release and didn't mind it at all though, possibly because I wasn't an ultra hardcore fan, but also because I could see some good things within it e.g. Jurgen Prochnow and Max Von Sydow (and the slightly odd choice of Diane Lane, which worked well). The appearance of Rob Schneider as the comic relief (also used as a vehicle to introduce the viewer to the future world) was likely to upset most, but for me it sort of worked. Ironically Stallone's viewpoint some years later was that they should have made the film much funnier (!), which I think would have been a seriously bad move. Perhaps that proves he didn't really get it? Stony faced Stallone himself made a good stony faced Dredd though I think, aside from some of the daft dialogue, and was any star going to wear his helmet through the entire film? That was never going to happen, and realistically was a small sacrifice to the canon. Armand Assante was another good casting choice, perhaps even more so for the seriousness of both his dialogue and role. Other noteworthy items were the realisation of the Megacity and believe it or not the excellent costume design (but why was Versace drafted in to design the judges costumes when they should have been a straight lift from the comics?!). The special effects have mostly dated somewhat badly. For those that don't know, a future film is in the works, with Karl Urban playing Dredd - I like Urban, but I'm not convinced he's the best choice (my ideal choice in 1995 would have been Clancy Brown). My hope is that they go dark, much like the comics with their sometimes black humour (humour which if I recall correctly is markedly different from the 1995 film). I also hope they stick to a single storyline, doing it the justice it deserves, rather than trying to shoehorn in several plotlines and too many characters. If they go with an early story then there would be plenty of scope for sequels, if they can keep it consistent. Judge Dredd would almost lend itself to a TV series, but there simply wouldn't be that much budget available to do it properly. But going back to the 1995 film, I liked it. Hardcore Dredd fans will have already seen it (and hated it) or avoided it, but for those who aren't too fussy about their science fiction it's worth a watch. The sequences with Prochnow and Von Sydow give an indication of what a darker story might look like. 4/5 (Good)
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Ironically Stallone's viewpoint some years later was that they should have made the film much funnier (!), which I think would have been a seriously bad move.
I haven't read the comics, so I have no idea what the source material was like, but I think the movie suffered from trying to straddle a line between being grimdark-serious and comical. Had they gone a more action-comedy route and made the movie more self-aware of what it was, I think I would have really enjoyed it a whole lot more.

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