Wednesday, 2 December 2015
Judge Dredd vs Dredd
It's been a while but Original vs Remake is back! This time I'm taking on the Judges and in all fairness, this isn't a fair fight.
Someone argued that 1995's Judge Dredd starring Sylvester Stallone as the Judge, or 'The Law' himself was a, 'so bad it's good' film. Having read around on the film bloggershere, others have called it one of the worst films ever made, biggest flop, even cult classic. I only recently watched the film and oh dear gad, I hope to never see it again. Starting with such a strong statement might just give away my verdict at the end but for anyone who has seen Judge Dredd will understand, surely.
The two films that are going head to head are Judge Dredd, directed by Danny Cannon and 2012's Dredd, directed by Pete Travis. Both directors are British, and both have directed TV episodes of successful television shows. Cannon directed the pilot of Gotham but mainly produces. Travis' last directing job was on the rather good spy drama for the BBC, Legacy. My point here is that you might not have heard of these directors, so the films were relying on the 'star' power and source material to hook you in.
Back in the 90's, Stallone was rather a big household name when it came to action films (apart from Antz) and is the absolute perfect choice for Dredd. Also back in the 90's filmmakers didn't really know how to tackle comic book adaptations. Of course Batman Returns is the acception to the rule. The atmosphere of the film, the sets, costumes the typical 90's actors appearing, including an over glamorised appearence from Twin Peak's Joan Chen, her character was borderline pointless, all created the perfect set up for a great film about a post apocolyptic world where Judges are the law, trying to clear up scum bags off the streets of Mega City One. But the film is let down on three fronts.
The first, the explanation in the exposition. It's just words on a screen, no vision. The first scene we see is Rob Schneider's petty tech thief being released back into the city after serving time in jail. We, the audience don't really get a feel for the environment until the shooting starts and people start talking about 'block wars'.
The second is the most obviously the script and story. The story is poor in that this film was mean to be an introduction to Judge Dredd to those who weren't familiar to comics and was meant entice the die hard fans of 2000 AD. Instead the story that is chosen is one shattering the named character's life. He finds out he was part of an experiement and that his background was all a lie AND that his previous evil partner is actually his brother. Seems all too much for a film that only has Dredd follow the law for about 15 minutes before he gets framed and arrested for murder. It would have worked much better to see a film where Dredd is in full action mode. All he really does in this film is scream 'I AM THE LAW'. After a while he sounded like a whiny child. Granted there are quite few characters and storylines used for the story but really, its just one big narrative mess.
Thirdly, a minor detail was massively overlooked and I'm guessing it was due to the storyline. In the comics, Dredd never removed his helmet. What does Dredd do in this film, rather quickly, he takes off his helmet. Illusion shattered. Another reason why he took his helmet off was probably Stallone being a diva, he's a movie start after all. It's a small element but there is alot to be said for just maybe following this little important part of a cult character. Stallone is an absolute perfect choice for Dredd, despite the yelling and annoying lines, his jawline is just perfect for this character. But there in lies the problem, he looks the part but he's not Dredd.
Looking at the posters, even they express a different meaning. One says 'In the future, only one man is the law' and the other 'Judgement is coming'. The first is all about one man and nothing else it seems, whereas the second is implying judgement is coming for all, the background also makes the world bigger than Dredd himself, meaning, more to the story than this one guy.
On a brighter notes, it can't all be negative, the only really impressive part of the film, I found, were the costumes and theres no surprise why they were all weird and wonderful as they were designed by Versace.
Onto Dredd, which I saw against my will in 3D. This films is brilliant, 3D is not needed. Dredd is played by Karl Urban and he does an excellent job playing the ultimate Judge. He doesn't have the strong jaw line and his voice isn't the deepest and booming voice you've heard but he has precence. I was surprised that Urban was cast in this iconic role as he's not exactly top shelf but he's damm good in Dredd. He doesn't make the story about himself, he glides through the film with ease admid the violence and chaos and even gets injured which I thought was important to see. He's not a god, he's just a guy.
The story is extremely entertaining, I actually watch Dredd as my rainy day film or when I'm feeling ill film. For some reason it comforts me. It was unfortunate that The Raid, which had a similar storyline/setting, came out at the same time, but other than that, they are completely different. Still set in Mega-City One, we are introduced to the spralling city through a voice over intro, far more affective than writing. In the opening sequence we see the city, its people and the judges in action. The main film focuses on one mega block where a drug gang has taken over, it is discovered that this this distribution centre for a new drug in the city. Dredd and his rookie, Anderson are sent in after three gang members are found dead. They have to battle their way to the top floor take out the gang leadr after the block goes into lockdown. It's very bloody and yes, violent but throughout entertaining. Oh and Dredd never removes his helmet.
Although Diane Lane plays the 'female' judge in the 1995 film, she is literally just that. She is out manned by criminals and needs assistance, then she makes mistakes in the courtroom and then only fights another girl in the end fight. Oh and yes, kisses Dredd (???). But in 2012, things are better. Not only is the main villain sadistic and crazy, she is also a woman, complete with background story that you believe. There are also a few other women dotted around the film, including Dredd's superior and a woman who helps the two judges escape to another floor in the building. The main female character, Judge Anderson, played by Olivia Thirlby. She can hold her own, defending herself even when she is captured, she fights her own battles and has fair judgement. She is also a great contrast to Dredd in that she never wears a helmet in the film. I liked that touch (if it was deliberate). She has psychic powers which is why she doesn't wear it. Another brilliant and overlooked success at Anderson and Dredd's partnership is that there is literally no hint of romance. While watcing the film, you don't think about this but once its pointed out you realise. It's a true partnership or mentor/mentee relationship and works so well.
Verdict: There are two ways to look at these films, as adaptations and as just action films. As I don't really know much about the original comics and have onlt tried to read one comic once (I did't like the artwork) as adaptations I would say that both used elements of stories and characters to apease the fans but 1995 Judge Dredd failed in consistancy, 2012 Dredd was better as the writing was better, the story more compact while still in keeping in the film world of 2000 AD. If I was just comparing two actions films, Dredd, of course wins no questions asked.