Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Movie Review: Dredd 3D (R - 95 minutes)

Judge Dredd's first appearance was in the 1977 British comic strip, created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra.  He was an American 'Judge' in the dystopian future of 2099.  The Judges were a law enforcement agency empowered to arrest, sentence, and even execute criminals on the spot as they patrolled the giant future 'Mega-City One' which takes up most of what used to be the American East Coast. 
Dredd took the Dirty Harry cop mentality to a new end, with his custom 'Lawgiver' pistol (which fired 6 types of ammunition, and was coded to his palmprint) and 'Lawmaster' motorcycle.  Dredd famously never removed his helmet and when pictured in flashbacks - his face is obscured. 
In 1995, Danny Cannon directed the first film escapade of Judge Dredd.  It starred Slyvester Stallone and Rob Schneider as well as Diane Lane and Armand Assante.
The film is widely regarded as one of the worst movies ever.  The trailer above actually makes it look pretty good.  Trust me, it is not.  It could not maintain the gritty, urban feel of the comic, threw in a useless comic sidekick, plus, in a move that angered all the Dredd fans - he rarely wears the helmet.  It truly is terrible, but if you are curious - you can Netflix it, but you have been warned.

The new Dredd shot in 3D in Cape Town, South Africa gets everything right that the first one got wrong.  It's directed by Pete Travis, who also did Vantage Point, in which a presidential assasination attempt gets retold from several different 'vantage points' - get it?  I really liked that movie - you should rent it and check it out. 

Vantage Point was gritty and quick; a style that lends itself to the new Dredd.
Real-life Dredd fan Karl Urban stars as Judge Dredd, attempting to maintain peace and order in the giant Mega-City One.  Dredd gets assigned to run an assesment on a new young recruit to the Judges force, who just happens to be a mutant.  Not a fun, X-men, brightly-colored, superpowered type of mutant, but a quiet, nervous, psychic mutant.  He picks her up at the Hall of Justice (anyone else have a hard time hearing that without going, "Meanwhile...at the ..."), she decides they should head out to solve a triple murder at one of the giant residential buildings called Peach Trees.  Unbeknownst to the two of them, the majority of the Peach Trees (200 levels) is run by a vicious drug lord Ma-Ma, who is making and distributing a new drug that is spreading through Mega City One, called Slo-Mo.  The drug makes the user feel like time is moving at 1% of its normal pace.  The two judges capture one of Ma-Ma's distributors, and to prevent them from taking him back to the Hall of Justice ("Meanwhile...at the Legion of Doom...") for interrogation, she forces the building into lockdown, trapping the judges inside, and asks the residents to deliver the judges to her.  They then need to get out alive with their captive, while avoiding her henchmen.  Simple, clean, easy to understand and well put together.
The genius of making the Slo-Mo drug have the time slowing effect makes for some fantastic use of the 3D.  The first time it is used is in a car chase, and just briefly.  There is then a shot of Ma-Ma in a bathtub, watching the water drip from her hand while on the drug.  The effects are stunning.  The violence is frequent and brutal, but again, looks very cool in the Slo-Mo setting.  I also found it interesting that in this movie, nothing is wasted, every flashback has information that is used again later in the story.  That's how you get the most from your budget, and is a trick Travis used previously in Vantage Point. 
The cast is relatively small, and very good.
  • Unlike Stallone, who had never heard of Judge Dredd until he got the role, Karl Urban has been a fan since his teenage years.  He has been building quite the career in genre-based entertainment since 1996 on Hercules: the Legendary Journeys.  He followed that up with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which shot in his native New Zeland, Ghost Ship, Chronicles of Riddick, Bourne Supremecy, Doom, Pathfinder, R.E.D, Star Trek and Priest.  He completely embodies Dredd, giving him a determined growl, and hey - true fans - he never removes the helmet!
  • Olivia Thirlby is a classically trained actress from New York who has done mostly small independent movies up to this point.  She plays Judge Anderson, the new young psychic recruit to the judges.  She gives Anderson a quiet confidence with a determination to become a judge and help make the world better.  The psychic abilities are not overused, although, conveniently, they work better without the helmet, so she spends most of the movie without hers. 
  • Wood Harris is Ma-Ma's Slo-Mo distributor that they capture and have to lug around for the majority of the movie.  He does a good job with what could have a been a minor character, but turns out to be very interesting.  I particularly like the mental battle he has with Thirlby's phsychic Judge Anderson, where he thinks he might be able to shock her, and she proves him wrong.
  • Lena Heady plays Ma-Ma and is the most memorable thing in this movie.  From her opening sequence where she is on Slo-Mo and moves the water in her tub, to the flashbacks that show her rise from former hooker to ultra-violent drug lord, to the scenes where she shuts down the building and demands the judges - she is captivating.  I first remember seeing her in 300, then Terminator: the Sarah Conner Chronicles, and most recently on Game of Thrones.  She just reads as mean, tough, and evil.  And thanks to my rabid viewing of FaceOff on SyFy, I was very impressed with the scar on her face!

I really enjoyed this movie, top to bottom.  The effects are great, the story is simple - and hey! it's only an hour and a half long.  I particularly enjoyed Thirlby's performance, more than I expected, as sometimes the female characters are at best two dimensional in these types of movies (tough for me, because I love these types of movies and want to see more strong females in them) and at worst, dumb, useless throw-away characters.  The mutant psychic powers were understated, and well used.  There is one scene where she gets captured, and again I was worried we were going to have to see what had been a strong female character (up to that point) resuced by the male lead.  She actually resuces herself, kills some bad guys, evades capture, then makes it just in time to rescue Dredd!  Awesome.  Go see this - in 3D, it's well worth it!
8 out of 10 - Gained points for Judge Anderson being badass, Lost points for all the slow motion bullets ripping through cheeks - ick.  Gained points for the almost real-time unfolding and the trapped in a building setup.  That's how you save money.

Bonus Video 1:  Urban on Hercules/Xena...

Bonus Video 2: Headey in 300 - in case you had forgotten the visual masterpiece that was 300. 
 Bonus Video 3:  Cast Interviews:


  1. The cast is good and the action is inspired, and I think that’s where Dredd stands above all of the other remakes that continue to get churned out almost every month. Nice review Jeanette.

  2. What's strange is that I didn't think about the Hall of Justice thing at all until you mentioned it. That's pretty funny. My friend interviewed Karl Urban recently and was amused because he insisted he wasn't nerdy despite being in all these nerdy movies. We think he's a closet nerd haha.