Both underrated and under appreciated, this box-office disappointment has gained an incredible Internet following, including a petition to make a sequel. However, since it missed the opportunity to gather stronger praise from both audiences and critics, Dredd is this week’s victim of “re-imagining.” Without further ado, let’s load up and prepare for judgment day.
The Plot in a Nutshell (spoilers!)
Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and psychic rookie-cop Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) arrest a drug dealer who works for the ruthless crime lord, Mama (Lena Headey). Mama shuts down the entire block and forces all its inhabitants, and her subordinates, to hunt down Dredd and Anderson. The two evade hordes of criminals, corrupt Judges, and countless gunfire to bring down Mama and her empire.
The visuals are incredibly stunning. The acting is top-notch. The humor is timely. The action is relentlessly entertaining. However there’s too little character development. Even though Dredd should be as mysterious as possible, we never get the sense of how the other Judges think of him or how far his reputation reaches the entire criminal underworld. In fact, Mama doesn’t even know who he is. Isn’t Dredd supposed to be a legend?
What the writers should have done is shown Dredd’s relationship with other Judges. After he first meets Anderson at the Hall of Justice Headquarters, those four corrupt Judges we see later in the movie should pass by Dredd and make comments towards him. Comments similar to what Harry Callahan receives in Dirty Harry, e.g. how much he hates everyone, how by-the-book he is, or how no one wants to work with him because he’s so ruthless. It wouldn’t reveal too much about Dredd but it at least would intrigue us into Dredd’s character, therefore we’d be more invested. Plus, this scene would foreshadow a rivalry he has with other Judges and create a stronger emotional climax when he fights them.
Dredd and Mama should also have a history. Maybe they’ve crossed paths several times but Dredd was unable to bring her down. Now with a small-time hood willing to turn snitch, this is everything Dredd has needed to destroy the most ruthless crime lord in Mega City. This also creates a stronger emotional stake for Dredd and Mama because it would be personal, not business.
As for the action, as intense as it is, it’s mostly just running and shooting, i.e. it lacks variety and creativity. In Star Wars when Luke, Leia, Han, Chewy, and Kenobi try to escape from the Death Star, they face a multitude of different challenges, e.g. sneaking into the prison, stopping the garbage disposal, swinging across ledges, fighting with lightsabers, and running from stormtroopers. The action feels more suspenseful and relentless because it’s a new challenge every step of the way.
For this new version, Dredd and Anderson would jump, climb, and swing across ledges, climb through elevator shafts and garbage disposals, and have to protect not just the witness but civilians as well. Dredd could save a small child in the middle of the shootout, which would also show that he’s not just hell-bent on killing criminals but also possesses a deeper and mysterious care for protecting the innocent. A little variety of challenges would raise the stakes because everything in the environment would be against them. They would have to use both their physique and wits to escape.
One last point, Dredd misses out on several moments to use great one-liners. Action movies always need timely humor and this film has too few. In the end, when Mama asks Dredd if he’s willing to risk blowing up all of Peach Trees by killing her, Dredd only responds by shooting her. What he should say is, “I’ll be the judge of that.” Another scene is after Dredd kills Mama, he only says, “Yeah.” What he should say is, “Court’s adjourned,” especially since he sentences her right before killing her. These new lines are corny, but with Dredd’s gravely voice, they’re easily effective as comedic relief.
In conclusion, this re-imagined version doesn’t change the plot, characters, or visual style. These additions only enhance what’s already in the story by giving it a little more emotional stake, a variety of action, and a little more humor. In the end, Dredd is still an incredible action movie and is deserving of a sequel.
Thank you all for reading and I look forward to re-imagining another movie with you next week.