I’m not entirely sure how I ended up missing this movie last year, along with pretty much everyone else that missed this movie during it’s fairly poor theatrical run. I did actually watch it earlier this year before watching the Stallone Judge Dredd but I decided not to review it mainly because I watched it on my small laptop and the visuals, especially the slomo visuals were something that the little screen couldn’t appropriately capture. So instead I waited until I got around to watching it on my bigger screen TV so I could more appropriately judge the movie on the ever-important visuals and I was happily willing to watch it due to the interesting plot and characters. It is a far cry from the Stallone feature, both in quality of special effects, as well as the overall tone and level of violence. It is a very violent and bloody movie along the lines of what could be a Punisher movie, but it’s generally never excessive or reveling in the gore. And more to the point, especially for fans of the original character Dredd: he never takes off his helmet.
At the very start of the movie, there is the introduction of a character that actually does come from the comics even though I thought at first that she was designed specifically for the movie. Recruit Anderson is more or less the complete opposite of Judge Dredd, and yet the movie never feels like a stereotypical odd couple buddy cop movie. Where he is the seasoned veteran, she is the innocent young recruit who scored 3 points below a passing grade to become a Judge, and yet is still given consideration because she is a powerful psychic. Dredd is straight to the point, by the rules, hardened by the life of a Judge. Anderson is much more inclined to go with her instinct, and is very naive to the world of a judge and taking lives, though she quickly acclimates to the position over the course of the movie.
The plot of the movie is more or less Die Hard in a future skyscraper/apartment complex, with Dredd and Anderson getting trapped within the Peach Trees complex that’s completely controlled by a single gang led by ex-prostitute and now drug-kingpin Ma Ma. While it takes place in the future, the vision of the future is very near-future. There are still things like smartphones, like early on during a crime scene investigation there is a crowd of bystandards and a few of them are videoing from their smartphones like we would be doing today. The motorcycle and weapons technology is advanced, but still very reminiscent of something that we could be seeing today. The buildings and weapons are made up of nice clean, futuristic lines, but when you get inside and take a closer look, everything is dirty, grimy, and run down. A dystopia full of crime and only a handful of Judges to try and keep things from falling into complete and total chaos and anarchy. Of course, within the context of the movie, we only get to see a portion of this future, but there is enough here that gives a more complete vision of what this future holds.
One of the selling points of this movie are the several scenes involving the future drug Slomo, which causes the user to experience the world around them in super-slow-motion and their experience is visually shown to the audience with some very stunning scenes including explosions, shattering glass, water droplets, and several moments of slow-mo gore. It’s hard to tell for sure, but I get the impression that these scenes were done through a combination of high-speed cameras and a bit of digital enhancement, but I did think that they were done wonderfully for the most part. But I also think I could have done with about 2 or 3 fewer slow-mo scenes overall as it occasionally became tiresome. I also quite liked the visuals used to show when Anderson is using her psychic abilities, they were generally subtle, and yet obvious enough that you could quickly tell what exactly was going on.
Even with such a serious and dark movie as this, there are a few moments of humor, and I thought they were done effectively, without going the route of Rob Schneider in the earlier version. And as the main villain, Madeline Madrigal otherwise known as Ma Ma, I thought she was fairly interesting but kind of petered out towards the end. She’s set up as being a crazed and violent drug kingpin, yet we don’t really see very much of this except via a story of what happened to her previous pimp, which also gets called back to during a psychic trip into one of her henchman’s heads. She also has a reluctant tech-guy henchman whose eyes were pulled out, presumably either by her or by her command, and replaced with cybernetic eyes which don’t actually appear to do anything interesting aside from looking cool. But overall these are fairly minor nitpicks and the movie as a whole is quite engaging and action packed from start to finish with two main characters that feel like real characters that you care about and are interested in seeing succeed. And count me among those who would love to see an eventual sequel down the line, I would very much like to see Mega City One on screen again. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.