What we learned from the Dredd trailer
The first trailer for Dredd finally landed - but what did it tell us about the movie?
The eagerly-awaited first trailer for Dredd finally hit the internet this week (it's here) – and swiftly proved that it doesn't take a lot to wash the taste of Danny Cannon's Sylvester Stallone-starring 1995 ‘opus’ out of the mouths of comic book fans everywhere. We previously knew very little about the new reboot – except for a few glimpses at Karl Urban in-costume as the Mega City One lawman and the repeated suggestion that we were in for a darker, grittier take on the classic 2000AD character – so did this trailer give us a better flavour of what's to come in September? Well, read on for what we reckon we've learned…
Lawman of the… Present?
A consequence of adapting in 2009 a comic that originated in 1977 is that the future it portrays – the original Judge Dredd strips were set in 2099 – is much closer to the ‘present’. Nevertheless, it's a still little disappointing that Dredd looks like it could be set in a particularly near-future. Okay, so everything's that bit bigger – of which more shortly – and the world is clearly living in the aftermath of some form of apocalypse. But from the judges' disappointingly functional uniforms (and Lawmaster bikes), to cars on the street that look like – if anything - they're from the past rather than the future, it doesn't look like the film is paying much more than lip service to its heavily sci-fi roots.
‘Mega’ City One
Key to this feeling is the way the immense metropolis of Mega City One looks to have been presented. The wider glimpses of the city caught in the trailer show us that at least one aspect – the sheer size of the city – has been captured perfectly, but if there's a let-down, it's that it seems to be based on quite uniform architecture, with a repetitive skyline of tall rectangular towers. Perhaps this is intended to suggest a fascistic future state – but the sprawling, labyrinthine city created by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra and an array of artists was always a thrilling visual feast. It'd be a shame if that idiosyncrasy is lost entirely.
Of course, one thing the trailer does reveal is that the plot of the film seems to centre more around a single location than the wider city in general. Evidently the bulk of the story looks to involve Dredd and rookie Judge Anderson working their way through a two-hundred-storey tower block filled with hostile perps to reach Lena Headey's bad-ass drug pusher Ma-Ma.
Unfortunately, back when Dredd was originally scripted – original drafts date back to 2009 – writer Alex Garland and director Pete Travis surely couldn't have known that a little Indonesian action thriller called The Raid would hit western cinemas six months before them and steal their thunder somewhat. While the plots do look similar, however, what you can at least say about Dredd is that everything is on a significantly larger scale.
At the very least, while it's perhaps a shame that we won't get to see Dredd policing the city, throwing him into this environment does seem to be a good way of letting him do what he does best: busting perps, and lots of them.
Gaze Into The Fist Of Dredd!
Judge Dredd is a violent comic. Dredd looks set to be a violent film. That's not necessarily a bad thing – it's certainly something that the Stallone film shied away from to a frankly silly extent – and those who come to the film looking for an excess of action certainly won't be disappointed. Our concern is that the original satirical bent of the series – Dredd and his fellow Judges, lest we forget, are the appointed tools of an authoritarian police state – might be lost in the midst of all the blood and thunder. There's no doubt that Ma-Ma is an out-and-out villain – but that doesn't necessarily mean Dredd is one hundred per cent hero, either.
Anderson: Rookie Division
Judge Cassandra Anderson is one of 2000AD's more fascinating characters – originally appearing in Judge Dredd before moving on to her own strip, Anderson: PSI Division. As the name of that series suggests, she has ‘psi’ powers – telepathy and precognition – and her methods of achieving justice are generally a softer counterpoint to Dredd's violence-at-all-costs.
Interestingly, the makers of Dredd have decided to make Anderson the main supporting character – but here, it looks like all the psychic elements of the character have been left out entirely, as she's instead a fairly straightforward (if surprisingly capable) young rookie, acting as Dredd's sidekick on this particular case. Might we see a subplot develop that could be set up for her to take a more prominent role in a potential sequel or spinoff? It's a bit early to tell from the trailer, but it looks here like Olivia Thirlby does a good job of balancing wide-eyed innocence with kick-ass action.
He Is The Law
If this run-through has sounded fairly negative, then it's reflective of the fact that the trailer – lacking as it is the sense of garish fun and over-the-top action that has always been the comics' stock-in-trade – simply isn't hugely exciting. But if there's one very significant positive, it's in finally getting to see Karl Urban in action. It's early days, of course, but it seems a fairly safe bet that his casting is going to be one of the best things about the film.
Arguably the one truly great moment in the Stallone movie (at least for this writer) was the first utterance of the immortal ‘I AM THE LAW!’ catchphrase. Urban gets his own version in this trailer – and it's a much more restrained interpretation, but it drips with menacing authority nevertheless. And it's in keeping with his performance throughout the trailer – from which we learn that, since Clint Eastwood is now far too old to play a character that was originally based on him, the makers have decided to cast someone doing a spot-on Eastwood impersonation instead. Well, it works for us.
Oh, and while the majority of the outfit is a bit dull (where's our giant metal eagle shoulder thingy, eh?) that helmet is absolutely dead on.
While Dredd looks in a few ways to deviate heavily from its original source material, it also seems to contain a few nods to classic 2000AD lore. Written on the side of a building at the beginning of the trailer is the name ‘STERNHAMMER’ – the surname of Wulf, the Viking sidekick to Strontium Dog's Johnny Alpha – and although we didn't clock any others in this particular trailer, it wouldn't surprise us if there are a few similar references hidden throughout. Although really, all this particular mention has done is make us pretty desperate for a Strontium Dog movie next…
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