Pete Travis’s Dredd (2012) has been tragically shortchanged by audiences. Perhaps it’s been tainted by the memory of the lackluster 1995 Judge Dredd starring Sylvester Stallone, or maybe Dredd just too closely resembles Gareth Evan’s The Raid (2011). Whatever the reason, the returns on Dredd at the box office were extremely poor and virtually no one, not even the majority of students in my superhero film genre course last fall were talking about it. With any luck, however, the home video release of Dredd will change all that, and sell boatloads of copies, inspiring Hollywood moneymen to fund a much-needed follow-up featuring Judge Death as the villain. So on January 8, 2013, when Lionsgate Home Entertainment releases Dredd on Blu-ray, head on out to [insert the name of your local movie store here] to secure your copy the film, thereby ensuring the future of Judge Dredd on film.
Dredd stars Karl Urban as the titular Judge, Judges being the law enforcement officials of the future who serve as judge, jury, and executioner on the streets of Mega City One. Although Dredd may be but one of many Judges, he is without a doubt the hardest, most ass-kickingest badass among them. If you’re one of the many viewers who hold a grudge against the 1995 adaptation, I assure you that Dredd’s presentation of the character is far more true to the comics than that film. We never see Dredd sans helmet, he has no interests or goals apart from upholding the law, and he most certainly is not followed around by Rob Schneider! Now, Dredd does learn a little something about himself by the film’s end, and that might conflict with many viewers’ understanding of the character who rarely, if ever, changes in the comics. But the change in him here is minor in comparison to the changes most other film characters undergo, and accounts for but a few minutes of screen time at most.
This leaves more time for badassery, and badassery the film delivers in spades as Dredd and a recruit Judge (Olivia Thirlby) are locked inside a high-rise housing complex filled with gun-toting thugs in the employ of the brutal drug lord, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). The pair quickly determine to work their way toward the top floor of the high-rise where Ma-Ma resides, and thus they find themselves forced to lay waste to wave after wave of thugs if they hope to make it out alive. On paper, then, the film looks an awful lot like The Raid, but it’s far from being a rip-off. After all, the pair of films were developed virtually simultaneously and each has its unique advantage over the other. The Raid benefits from the inclusion of an incredible form of martial arts unique to Indonesia, while Dredd of course benefits from having one of the most hardcore comic book characters in history at the center of its narrative. In short, if you liked The Raid and you think Judge Dredd is cool, you’ll probably love Dredd.
Another thing Dredd has that The Raid doesn’t is 3D visuals. Having now seen Dredd at home in its standard, non-3D format, I do so wish that I had gone to seen the film in 3D or that my home system were 3D-compatible. The sequences wherein characters are high on Ma-Ma’s designer drug “Slo-Mo,” which were shot specifically for exhibition in 3D, are a spectacle to behold, even in the standard format. So I can sadly only imagine how remarkable they must look in their intended dimensionality.
Fortunately for you, if you own a 3D-capable system, the Lionsgate Blu-ray release of Dredd includes the 3D version of the film as well as the standard version on the one disc, and it comes with a code good for a Digital Copy as well as an Ultraviolet copy of the film. Special features include a terrific look back at the last 35 years of Judge Dredd in comic books with many of the writers and artists who have worked on the series, five additional featurettes about the film itself, and a motion comic prequel to the film.