Fantastic Fest 2012: ‘Dredd 3D’ – Diverting for 95 minutes, but nothing more

Dredd 3D
Directed by Pete Travis
Screenplay by Alex Garland
2012, USA

Based on the very popular and long running British comic strip, Dredd 3D is fuelled by highfalutin violence, nonstop gunfire and hyper-stylized 3D action sequences. But any creativity that went into formulating the premise never found its way to the script writing stage. There isn’t much plot or even stakes for that matter. Never once do we sense our titular hero, nor his rookie sidekick are ever in any danger. Everyone is disposable; citizens are mowed down by bullets and nobody cares. So why should we?

As in The Raid: Redemption, the majority of the pic takes place within a high rise building that has been co-opted by gangsters. Dredd is an American law enforcement officer trapped inside and forced to infiltrate his way to the 200th floor and take out the chief bad guy, a strange dame named Ma-Ma, played with over-the-top zest by Lena Headey. The first 30 or so minutes of Dredd is an electrifyingly kinetic and frenetic action flick stacked with a need for speed car chase. But once the cops are locked into fighting their way out of the block, the film simply becomes a tiresome series of silly confrontations. Where as The Raid kept the action non stop, fresh and exciting, showcasing some of the finest martial arts sequences since Fist of Legend, Dredd isn’t anything more than gun shot after gun shot. We basically sit and watch Dredd either dodging or sheltering himself from bullets for 95 minutes. Even worse, Ma-Ma is so insignificant and their final confrontation so anti-climatic, it leaves us wondering how such a nondescript criminal could even come into power. There’s a serious disappointment here.

Screenwriter and producer Alex Garland is no strangers to dystopian sci-fi pictures, having previously scripted 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Never Let Me Go. Those movies have characters, story, plots and heart, all of which is sorely lacking in this soulless adaptation.

Dredd is less a character than an image. Karl Urban, stuck throughout the entire film acting from beneath a helmet, plays the hero: a cop, judge, jury and executioner. His jaw and mouth remain visible but his eyes are hidden beneath a visor limiting his performance and masking any bit of charisma and Urban is left delivering hissed one-liners in a scratchy monotone fashion. Than there is Olivia Thirlby, an actress who thankfully doesn’t wear a helmet because it would interfere with her character’s psychic abilities. Sadly, she’s left to carry the entire emotional weight of the film. Another disappointment.

Visually, Dredd is impressive, and the deadpan humour helps inject some life into the one dimensional characters. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, a key player in contemporary digital aesthetics, adds a slightly artistic edge to the proceedings and the throbbing score helps elevate the action. But Dredd is a one night stand, beautiful but dull, and not something you’ll ever need to see again. When the credits roll, you can be forgiven a sense of dissatisfaction because unlike classics such as John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, there’s no personality here – and guys like Karl Urban don’t hold a candle to the likes of Kurt Russell. Thus the major problem with action movies post 1990: There are no iconic characters like Snake Plissken. Dredd 3D is clearly receiving critical acclaim. Yes, it is better than its predecessor, but that isn’t saying much.

- Ricky D

 Fantastic Fest runs September 20th – 27th.

 



By Ricky da Conceição

Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast and I edit.

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10 Responses to Fantastic Fest 2012: ‘Dredd 3D’ – Diverting for 95 minutes, but nothing more

  1. Mace Hane September 26, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    Not arguing! Saying what I think.

    Reply
  2. Ricky September 25, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    LAST REPLY TO MACE

    I don’t normally take so much time to answer to angry comments because quite frankly, it is exhausting, but I have some time to kill, so why the hell not.
    First: I never called ‘Escape From New York’ a great movie. That is something imagined.
    What I said was “ unlike classics such as John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, there’s no personality here – and guys like Karl Urban don’t hold a candle to the likes of Kurt Russell. Thus the major problem with action movies post 1990: There are no iconic characters like Snake Plissken”.
    Your recent comment actually backed up my claim when you also called Snake a “great character”.
    As I mentioned on the last Sordid Cinema podcast, it is my opinion that there are very few actors working today who can sell action movies. DREDD made only 6 million dollars. In other words it bombed. While I like the idea of having Dredd behind a mask as in the series, I think it was a disservice to the actor to keep him covered up. Basically I think Urban has the chops to maybe star in more genre flicks but they never allowed him to be anything but an image. So anyone could have played the role. So why hire him? Not that having him with his mask off would have helped the box office sales, but I am sort of hoping he’ll have another chance at either a DREDD movie or something else genre-like.
    In the first DREDD movie, we had the complete opposite. Stallone couldn’t keep the helmet on.
    Moving on…

    I started my review stating the following:
    Based on the very popular and long running British comic strip – FACT
    Dredd 3D is fuelled by highfalutin violence, nonstop gunfire and hyper-stylized 3D action sequences – this is also a FACT
    Any creativity that went into formulating the premise never found its way to the script writing stage. There isn’t much plot, characters or even stakes for that matter. OPINION but I hold to it. Atually the last of plot is a FACT
    Never once do we sense that our titular hero, nor his rookie sidekick are ever in any danger. – FACT – If you want to see stakes being raised to the limits, than check out LOOPER.
    Everyone is disposable; citizens are mowed down by bullets and nobody cares. Again another FACT
    As in The Raid: Redemption, the majority of the pic takes place within a high rise building that has been co-opted by gangsters – FACT – Did they copy The Raid: Redemption ?
    The first 30 or so minutes of Dredd is an electrifyingly kinetic and frenetic action flick stacked with a need for speed car chase. -Another FACT
    But once the cops are locked into fighting their way out of the block, the film simply becomes a tiresome series of silly confrontations. OPINON
    Where as The Raid kept the action non stop, fresh and exciting, showcasing some of the finest martial arts sequences since Fist of Legend, Dredd isn’t anything more than gun shot after gun shot.
    Another FACT – you can’t argue that DREDD is better than The Raid in action.
    Even worse, Ma-Ma is so insignificant and their final confrontation so anti-climatic, it leaves us wondering how such a nondescript criminal could even come into power. – FACT

    There’s a serious disappointment here. – FACT because I know if I am disappointed or not.

    Screenwriter and producer Alex Garland are no strangers to dystopian sci-fi pictures, having previously scripted 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Never Let Me Go. – FACT
    Those movies have characters, story, plots and heart, all of which is sorely lacking in this soulless adaptation. – OPINION but isn’t that the point of writing a review?
    Dredd is less a character than an image. Karl Urban, stuck throughout the entire film acting from beneath a helmet, plays the hero: a cop, judge, jury and executioner. FACT – and I understand that is what they are going for, but doesn’t mean I have to 100 % like it.
    His jaw and mouth remain visible but his eyes are hidden beneath a visor limiting his performance and masking any bit of charisma and Urban is left delivering hissed one-liners in a scratchy monotone fashion. –
    MORE FACT…
    wether you like it or not is your opinion, but it is still a fact

    Than there is Olivia Thirlby, an actress who thankfully doesn’t wear a helmet because it would interfere with her character’s psychic abilities. – MORE FACT
    Sadly, she’s left to carry the entire emotional weight of the film. FACT

    Another disappointment. – FACT , I was disappointed

    Now let us reflect on your comments: You said:
    This ‘review’, in my opinion, is not an honest reflection of the movie. If it IS, then I consider this person to have, shall we say, questionable taste”.
    Considering you don’t know me at all, I am not sure how you can judge me based on one review , much less be able to decide when I am being dishonest.

    If I have bad taste for not liking a movie like DREDD but adoring THE MASTER, than I will die a happy man knowing I have bad taste.

    You go on to say:

    “I have no problems reading/discussing opinions/reviews that are wholly at odds with my views”

    But if that is true than why would a grown man be so upset over one small review?

    You go on to say:
    “If a person reads the worst, gutter-level tabloid, their opinion on anything worth discussing is irrelevant”.
    If you believe our site is gutter-level-tabloid, than why come back?

    This is my favourite part. You go on to say:

    “This review isn’t a review worth making arguments over, and if my response is considered juvenile or a harsh over-reaction, then so be it.”

    So why are you arguing ?

    Reply
  3. Mace Hane September 25, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    @Deepayan
    YOU might want to look into the spelling of that word before you call me out on it. BOTH are acceptable but in the UK it is usually used with the ‘e’. Not difficult.
    As for shaky argument; to YOU perhaps, but not to me.
    I will admit that I did not bother to make much of an argument, but that’s simply because it’s not there(here)to be made. This ‘review’, in my opinion, is not an honest reflection of the movie. If it IS, then I consider this person to have, shall we say, questionable taste.
    I have no problems reading/discussing opinions/reviews that are wholly at odds with my views; here however, this just felt as though it wasn’t authentic, if you can understand my usage of that word.
    If a person reads the worst, gutter-level tabloid, their opinion on anything worth discussing is irrevlevant.
    If a person considers the Transformers movies to be brilliant works of entertainment, their opinions on anything movie-related are irrelevant.
    This review isn’t a review worth making arguments over, and if my response is considered juvenile or a harsh over-reaction, then so be it.
    I did read 2000 A.D. all through my formative teenage years and this movie was in no way disappointing.
    Lastly, I adore Carpenter’s films(NOT recent!)but Escape … is simply not a great film. Nowhere close. Kids wearing Snake t-shirts decades later does not make it a great film. Great character? Yeah. Great film? Nope.
    You know what, when it comes down to opinions in this wonderful world of films that Sound On Sight focus on, one can boil it all down to Christopher Nolan. There are those that think Inception and the Batman films to be works of transcendent art, and there are those that actually see just how much Nolan has lost himself up his own backside.

    Reply
    • Ricky September 25, 2012 at 8:34 pm

      @ Mace

      My opinion was honest. If you want me to write what you want to hear, than I would be lying.

      I recommend you listen to our last episode of the Sordid Cinema podcast. I think once you hear Simon and I discuss the film, you may calm down.

      Also… listen to our Dark Knight Rises review on the podcast … since you seem to assume we worship Nolan.

      Or better yet, listen to my Inception review.

      Reply
  4. Matt Marquissee September 23, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Geez. Let someone disagree

    Reply
  5. Ricky September 22, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    @ Ash and MAce

    I totally understand your point about his character being the “faceless law” – but those familiar with the comic series will tell you that the best story lines involved Dredd seriously questioning the entire ethical basis of the Judge system.

    So “NO” – IT IS NOT AT ALL the point of the character as written by John Wagner.

    This movies is basically a cash grab – so much so that they market the thing mostly based on AWESOME 3D EFFECTS

    Websites like Sound On Sight allow writers to express their opinions and that is all. We’d like to think that our readers are open minded enough to read our content and not feel the need to attack us with juvenile insults.

    John Carpenter is a far better filmmaker than Peter Travis and even his less successful efforts offered more than the recycled ideas SEEN in DREDD 3D

    Yes I enjoyed the movie to some degree. The first 35 minutes was spectacular but I think it is only fair to say that I am disappointed overall.

    The Raid had little if no plot like DREDD but at least the action was breathtaking and groundbreaking.

    The Dredd comic strip was the magazine’s longest running series… in other words they had so much material to work with but they decided to not use any of it and instead deliver a straight forward – plotless action flick. It would be the equivalent of Nolan taking Batman and sticking him in an apartment complex for 95 minutes, while omitting any of the major themes, iconic villains or story lines from the series.

    So for some of us, especially those familiar with the original source material… yes we can be somewhat disappointed.

    I still mentioned all the good things the film got right within the review… mostly the look, effects and doses of humour.

    Decades after “Escape” was released and people still wear Snake t-Shirts and take time to design fan-made posters and so on…

    Put aside the shortcomings of the flick – Kurt Russell and Carpenter created an iconic character.

    I’m not entirely sure if the director allowed KArl Urban – who is a fantastic actor – to distinguish himself from the other judges within the film.

    that is my opinion

    Reply
  6. Mace Hane September 22, 2012 at 4:16 am

    Jesus! You either really just don’t get it, or your taste is fucked, big time.
    And seriously – Escape From … a classic? Nope. Over-rated insanely, mostly because of Carpenter-nostalgia; it was his one dud from that time.
    Oftentimes, a persons opinion can be a benchmark of their ability to discern shit from shiny emeralds, and from there on out anything they say can be ignored as irrelevant.
    So it is with you I’m afraid. You are clearly wishing to stand out with your expressed ‘opinion’ of this film, and whether it’s that, or that you just DO have the taste of a philistine is not important. What is important is that this site is poorly served by your ‘judgement’.

    Reply
    • Josh Slater-Williams September 22, 2012 at 4:37 pm

      Wee bit of a harsh over-reaction there, Mace…

      Reply
    • Deepayan Sengupta September 22, 2012 at 11:20 pm

      You might want to look up the spelling of judgment before you declare someone incompetent next time, Mace. Typos don’t really help what was already a shaky argument to begin with.

      Reply
  7. Ash September 21, 2012 at 5:42 am

    “Dredd is less a character than an image. Karl Urban, stuck throughout the entire film acting from beneath a helmet, plays the hero: a cop, judge, jury and executioner. His jaw and mouth remain visible but his eyes are hidden beneath a visor limiting his performance and masking any bit of charisma.”

    But that’s the whole point of the character isn’t it? He’s the faceless embodiment of the law.

    Me thinks you totally missed the crux of Dredd as a character.
    If you want touchy feely, clear cut “heroes” stick to Disney films. Judge Dredd is not one of those characters, he is an anti-hero at his very core and that is why he is so interesting and compelling creation.

    Reply

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