Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Dredd 3D, a review

Despite the above average reviews, I had no hopes for this. I suffered through what Gitmo interrogators call "neo-cinematic downshifting" when I forced myself to endure the first film. So, I was less than interested in sitting through another two hours in the electric chair.

So imagine me eating my own words right now.

In a futuristic dystopia, cops are like Judy Judy with bigger pecs and monochromatic personalities. Oh, and they wield awesome guns. Judge Dredd is on a routine traffic stop when he uncovers a drug-addled murder scene involving the dead goons of a thug nasty crime boss named Ma-Ma.

Along comes a fresh off the boat psychic who is not only pretty, but along for the training day of her life.

TECHNICAL

For around 30 million, the film looks pretty incredible. The exterior shots of a hollowed out desert city with skyscrapers spiking the sky makes for an industrial wasteland kind of cool. The buildings themselves are essentially robotic in that they can force out metal plating as an extra defense mechanism, and it all looks brilliant.

The effects of Slo-Mo are by far the best I've seen all summer. Seriously. The way they shoot it basically induces the Matrix in your head. Everything slows down, and every details becomes so amplified that it nearly becomes a sensory overload. And it is awesome.

The costumes are adequate, reflecting the grungy aspect of the dirty future, and the cinematography mostly avoids the annoying shaky cam. This pleased me. Do yourself a favor and watch this in 3D.

NARRATIVE

I am mixed about this one. It starts off really well, highlighting the unknown world through the eyes of a rookie psychic cop. The pacing is adequate, allowing enough few moments of character depth to create just enough resonance until the next body part gets blown off. However, towards the end of the film, the pacing takes a sledgehammer to the face.

The finale is underwhelming, as we've been anticipating a climactic boss fight this entire time, and all we get is a little bit of showboating before it becomes a case of a woo chipper fighting a teddy bear. The effects of Slo-Mo are used in an earlier action sequence to marvelous effect, but they either ran out of money or didn't want to overwhelm us with an epic final battle scene in sparkly slo-mo.

The acting is around the board adequate, with Karl Urban essentially acting through an upturned smile the entire time, and belting out one-liners like a b-movie Christian Bale. And it works. He takes cheesy lines and makes them just tongue-in-cheek enough to induce a chuckle. Olivia Thurby is fun and wide-eyed, making the most of a sincere character who has a little more depth than anticipated.

THEMES

The concepts of justice and mercy are given some brief screen time, and they revolve around showing mercy to an uncooperative individual who deserves death. The force of Dredd versus his supporting officer clashes at the end, with the debate coming to a head whether or not mercy is necessary, or if it can include justice.

George MacDonald once said in his sermon entitled 'Justice', "There is no opposition, no strife whatever, between mercy and justice. Those who say justice means the punishing of sin, and mercy the not punishing of sin, and attribute both to God, would make a schism in the very idea of God."  

CONCLUSION

The themes are somewhat hidden, but they are indeed there. The effects are great, the acting is fun. However, the pacing and horrible finale do ruin the good time coming off the previous 80 minutes. Definitely worth your time, but the finale may ruin it for you.

3 out of 5.

--Nick

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