12-year-old me loved Judge Dredd perhaps more than I can convey in words. So you can imagine my excitement when they decided to make a Hollywood blockbuster out of it. What was once a property that existed only in 2000 AD and in songs by Anthrax suddenly had Mattel action figures and a pinball machine in arcades. And then, well, Judge Dredd came out and the only people who cared about it any longer were the ones like me that know what the Cursed Earth is (not to mention stuff like the ABC Warriors and Strontium Dog; I’m not bragging, trust me).
Dredd is everything that movie should have been.
Directed by Pete Travers (Vantage Point) and starring Karl Urban as a Dredd who never takes his helmet off or shows mercy — so he’s pretty much the Judge Dredd we know and love — the film takes place in Mega City One, which is pretty much the East Coast of what’s left of the United States. There, 800 million residents commit 17,000 crimes every single day and only the Judges can keep law and order.
Dredd and new recruit Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) have come to the Peach Trees block, which is run by drug dealer Madeline “Ma-Ma” Madrigal (Lena Headey), the supplier of Slo-Mo, a drug that makes time move at a crawl for its users. She has rogue Judges on her payroll and an entire building in her employ, but Dredd is relentless in his pursuit of justice.
Written by Alex Garland (The Beach, the screenplays for 28 Days Later and Sunshine), this is a film that doesn’t just understand its subject matter, but completely gets how Dredd is less always meaning more. Dredd co-creator John Wagner also wrote a lot of the dialogue, so that definitely made this movie better.
While this has become a cult classic, it deserved so much better. Urban told Den of Geek that the issue was “zero audience awareness. Nobody knew the movie was being released. Dredd represents a failure in marketing, not filmmaking.”
So many of us hold out hope that a sequel or series will happen one day. Watch it and you’ll be one of us.