There are a lot of superhero flicks out there. Some might say too many. I say not enough, however; there are plenty of superhero flicks that go either unnoticed or unloved. I plan on dedicating the month of January to re-watching and shedding some light on superhero flicks that have either been largely forgotten, scoffed at or ignored by the viewing public. You won't find stuff like The Avengers on this list. No Dark Knights or Hellboys. If there's a movie you'd like me to tackle, comment and let me know and I'll do my damndest to find it and add it to the series. The criteria for this is pretty loose, if the movie features a superhero, you're in. It doesn't have to be a DC or Marvel guy. Anyways, let's do this thing.
Dredd is a movie that needed to hit and hit big. It's a smart flick, wonderfully-acted, brilliantly directed and with shootouts that are just plain awesome. I know plenty of folks cite The Raid as a clear influence on Dredd and that's fine, it totally is, but with that established, Dredd is its own ugly, violent, vicious animal. Our hero is literally judge, jury and executioner. Karl Urban perfectly embodies the lead role (previously occupied by Sylvester Stallone in a far-inferior take on the Judge Dredd property). Urban's one of those actors who I'd literally watch in anything. The dude is stellar in the Star Trek reboots as "Bones" McCoy, chief medical officer of the starship Enterprise. The comedic elements he brings to that role are left to the wayside here, as he's a stern and (no pun intended) dreadfully serious officer of the law.
He also never takes his helmet off. What was probably a healthy mix of Stallone vanity and studio pressure, the original film (which featured a sidekick in the form of Rob Schneider, a guy I typically dig) saw the helmeted hero operate without his trademark helmet for the better part of the film. While not a terribly negative thing, Judge Dredd is a character who barely removes his helmet.
In a just world, Dredd would've been a monster hit. A script by Alex Garland that crafts a deep, heavy science fiction universe packed with memorable characters and fascinating situations. Pete Travis, a director who I haven't seen much from (other than the average-Vantage Point), seems to understand the material perfectly. I'd love to see Travis be given the keys to the kingdom with a follow-up to Dredd, which is something that's supposedly happening. I'll believe it when Urban, Olivia Thirlby and others get locked up, contract-wise.
While I could sing the praises of Urban, Thirlby, Travis and Garland all day, Lena Headey of Game of Thrones is a fantastic villain, as well. Ma-Ma is a tough cookie, forged by hate, sex and drugs. The perfect balance to Judge Dredd himself, who has dedicated his life to law and order. with Ma-Ma being the primary pusher behind the fantastical narcotic "Slo-Mo," we have all the elements of your standard dealers VS. cops storyline. New Jack City meets Mass Effect.
It would've been easy to make this a dark and gritty flick like so many other superhero films. While not necessarily a bad thing, Dredd is an ultra-vibrant and flashy film, smart and colorful while also brutal in every way. I don't know where Travis' directorial chops emerged from, as Vantage Point is a fairly by-the-numbers actioner, but he really hit a grand slam with Dredd in just about every way. I can see the 3-D element bothering folks, but really, its passable.
Every part of me loves Dredd, even with its trendy 3-D stuff. A great villain, an interesting setting, a no-nonsense hero and a wide universe help it stand out from the crowd. Not nearly enough people enjoyed this film, which is a shame. You can discover it on home video and the film works just as well as it did in theatres, but really, the theatrical experience, with all of its adrenaline and badassery knocks Dredd out of the park.
There's even a Snuff Box reference to add to the awesomeness.