Dredd (UK - BD RB)
Marcus kicks off the New Year by getting stuck in a Megablock with a Judge....
Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and his rookie in training Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) are called out to the Peach Tree Megablock after three people are murdered. Soon after their arrival and the arrest of a local thug, the crime boss of the Megablock, Madeline Madrigal, also known as "Ma-Ma" (Lena Headey) locks down the entire 200 floor block and says she’s not opening up again until the two judges are killed. Times are dire for the two law enforcers but one of those Judges is Judge Dredd and he’s not so easy to take out.
Last year Dredd proved to be somewhat of an antidote to the comic book hero movies that just keep on getting bigger and bigger. Dredd did what the Wolverine franchise needs to consider doing and kept things downsized. A simple premise, a limited cast and a gritty, violent approach that services the lead character's origins rather than hollows him out for mass consumption.
Of course, there’s nothing all that original here. This really is the same plot that most video games serve up every couple of months. Enclosed space. Weapons options. Increasingly more difficult foes as you work up the levels. It’s all typical stuff but when you throw Judge Dredd in to the mix, played by a perfectly grimacing Karl Urban this elevates into something way more fun than the basics would usually deliver.
Elevation is genuinely the key here. As the characters get higher up the Megablock everything seems to grow more and more extreme. Gunfire, blood sprays, gore, Ma Ma’s madness and just extreme amounts of destruction. Everything builds and builds but still there’s time for quiet moments between waves to fill out the world of Mega City One. Sure, it’s not exactly much in the way of set up and backstory for newbies to Judge Dredd but there’s enough to paint a bigger simple picture of his world and just how hard edged it is to warrant people like Judge Dredd to enforce the law.
Director Pete Travis has kept everything streamlined. We know the odds very early on. We know what’s at stake. We know Dredd has to look out for Anderson as she grows a backbone and we know Ma Ma is badass enough to throw all she can at the judges in order to come out of this one the victor. The real success here however is that Travis uses all of this to sell exactly how tough and driven Dredd is at every turn. Every set piece celebrates the 2000AD character like we've never seen on the big screen and it all works. Travis even pulls off the impossible and never has a single frame of Dredd out of his helmet. Karl Urban never really get much more to do that scowl but he does it well and Dredd comes out of this movie a hero I’d like to see again in sequels.
Well there’s talk the 2D presentation is very much a different experience on this disc than the 3D one, something I can’t confirm as 3D is not an option for me with my set up. So, solely commenting on the 2D version I would call this a bit of a mish mash visuals wise.
To begin with, when the scenes are well lit, the colours and the textures are really quite great. Dinks and scratches on Dredd’s helmet look fantastic as does the stubble on his chin and many a set pops with neon lighting and other well placed light sources. The Slo-Mo drug induced scenes pop with vivid colour and really play with images beautifully for an HD presentation but… and this is a big old but, every now and again this Blu-ray can look awful.
It begins with a real sense of heightened grain or indeed digital noise. It’s sometimes quite filmic and fitting for the style of the movie but at other times it’s like a veil has been placed over the screen. This mutes colours, dirties light sources and turns every deep black into a grubby dark green or blue. When this drop in quality occurs at its worst, it’s luckily only for a very short time before we pop back into a much better looking portion of a scene but between the low lighting, boosted with neon oranges, blues and reds there is a distinct murky feel to a lot of the corridors of this Megablock.
Lastly, and I'm not sure if this really is happening or not but I would say a handful of scenes have that 3D to 2D look to them. Y’know like how Jaws 3 looks like on DVD. It has a sense there’s still some edge touches on certain things to aid the 3D effects even though its a 2D presentation. This is most noticeable in the Slo-mo drug fuelled scenes and is more than likely intentional given the trippy visuals but I found it sometimes even occurred in well lit scenes with the judges. Very soft, often duel layered edges to things turn up, especially when heavily lit and it really did give that 3D tampered look to things. As I say, I'm not sure if it is anything to do with the 3D effects at all and it certainly doesn't let this presentation down in any real way but I did notice it and felt it needed mentioning.
And the award for aggressive bass 2012 goes to… Dredd! Goddamn the bass on this DTS-Master Audio track is relentless and I have to say it’s all in great ways. It almost becomes a supporting role as it lends so much to the film. Everything from the score to simply Dredd walking has a bass boost that will kick the hell out of you and it seems to be used throughout the film, even when you least expect it.
The bassy underpinning score gives the film a constant presence and when it’s not setting a mood, Dredd’s bike is rumbling in wonderful ways, guns are tearing up the Megablock or there are scenes filled out with the heavy end of dance music or crowd ambience, just to keep everything feeling like a heartbeat to the rawness of the film.
Because of all the bass and general boost to most things dialogue can sometimes feel a little bit low in quieter conversations but it’s certainly not a consistent thing as non whispered dialogue is generally strong and clear.
Both the 2D and 3D versions are found on this disc which is great but sadly, most of the extras felt like they were going to be great but ended up being far too short. ‘Dredd 2000AD The Original’ (03:28 HD) is a short featurette covering the history of Judge Dredd. ‘Slo-mo’ (02:12 HD) shows the ideas behind the drug induced visuals and the super slo-mo effect generated in the film. ‘Welcome to Peachtrees’ (02:34 HD) is a look at Mega City One's Megablocks. ‘The 3rd Dimension’ (02:00 HD) tackles the approach to the hyper stylised 3D in the film as well as the approach to added depth. ‘Dredd's Gear’ (02:32 HD) showsus the making of Dredd’s costume and the last of the short featurettes is ‘Dredd’ (01:52 HD) an EPK style overview of the film.
The biggest chunk on the extras are the ‘Interviews’ (26:35 HD), which are with all involved in the project. It’s a shame they are cobbled together with static question cards and bland talking head answers.
There’s also a selection of other trailers in the ‘Previews’ section and of course a DVD copy for the kids included as well.
Dredd maybe wasn’t quite as hard hitting this second time as it was the first time I saw it but even with that said, there’s a whole lot to enjoy here. Urban does Judge Dredd some real justice, the story is simple and to the point and extremely violent compared to the other comic book movies out there and really this ninety odd minute fight to get to the boss shootfest is exactly what the doctor ordered to kick the Judge Dredd franchise off to a good start. I really do hope sequels are enabled after this first outing and it would be good to see the world of Dredd expanded to all the places the comics go. The disc itself is great for the most part but a little chaotic in the visuals department and thin on real extras. That said the punchy audio set up should keep most happy as it captures the large cinematic oomph very well indeed.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 14th January 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Extras: Featurettes, Interviews, Previews
Easter Egg: No
Director: Pete Travis
Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Wood Harris, Lena Headey
Genre: Action and Adventure
Length: 95 minutes
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