If you read this blog with any regularity you know I'm a huge 2000 A.D. booster, so I have a great deal of desire to see any of the magazine's characters adapted at all and adapted well. Just by its mere existence this film is already better than the Stallone bomb, but after seeing this trailer I nonetheless feel a certain amount of trepidation. As a comics series, JUDGE DREDD at first looks to some newcomers like nothing more than the rote adventures of a heavily-armed cop of the future, and to me that is what this trailer seems to be giving to us. The comics, however, are far more than what they seem to be at first glance. Much, much more.
The elements that made the comics so interesting are many but front and center would be that when it's not concentrating on epic story arcs, JUDGE DREDD is a darkly-humorous and wildly exaggerated social satire that's aided and abetted by the undeniable fact that the series' setting, the sprawling Mega-City One, which stretches all the way from Toronto down to Florida, is itself a major character. Densely populated, the city is claustrophobic to an insane degree, with practically every inch of its landscape taken up by its citizens — a good percentage of whom are crazy and/or homicidal — traffic, advertising and towers that practically reach the sky. It's a place where pretty much anything can happen and it's unashamedly writ large, as is the look and feel of virtually everything in it, including its police force, the Judges.
The Judges are the ultimate arbiters of law and order and what they say goes. Or else. The outrageousness of the series' visual aesthetic was partially born out of Britain's original punk rock era, so the look of the judges bears that influence. They're decked out from head to toe in fetishistic skintight black leather with assorted accents, such as a huge golden eagle on the one shoulder, a large badge, and massive boots that you just know would be perfect for stomping the living shit out of perp.
For the upcoming movie, once again we get a hero's totally badassed comic book look kicked to the curb in favor of unnecessary realism.
The visual kick in the face delivered by the comics design has been utterly lost and now Dredd looks like either a generic SWAT team member or some dude who's geared-up for a weekend paintball getaway with his office's co-workers. The Judges' intimidating motorcycles, the Lawmasters, are also not beyond the reach of designs that strip them of their unique flavor. Here they are seen as sort of future-fitted Japanese racing bikes — possibly influenced by Kaneda's famous bike from AKIRA — instead of the fearsome and intimidating hogs that they should be. Even Mega-City One is also divested of its dense, visual cornucopia aspect and now looks like a slightly futuristic Los Angeles, which to me registers as a tremendous "so what?" Again, part of the magic that made JUDGE DREDD a classic series was its exaggerated flavor, and the apparent lack of that in regard to the look of its protagonist, his ride and his very world is heartbreaking.
It is, however, too early to be able to accurately get a handle on just what they're doing with this movie and my quibbles are those of a fan who knows the source material quite well, so this all may register as perfectly acceptable to the civilian. To me it looks like a fairly generic cop movie with a futuristic slant and GAME OF THRONES' Lena Headey as its big bad — an aspect that intrigues me because Headey's performance as Cersei Lannister on GAME OF THRONES has proven in no uncertain terms that she can knock it out of the park as an evil character — but DREDD could very well prove to be more than the sum of the glimpses seen in the trailer. Misgivings aside, I will give this film a chance and I will definitely see it when it opens. At least there's no Rob Schneider this time around...