In 1995, the first film based on the 2000 AD character Judge Dredd was unleashed onto movie goers, much like the black plague was unleashed onto Europe in the 14th century. To say that it was a complete train wreck would be insulting to train wrecks. The plot was a confusing mish-mash, the direction was bad, and even star Sylvester Stallone, who is actually a huge fan of the character, thought that it sucked. Judge Dredd spends half the movie without his helmet on, when his face has never been seen in the comics due to him supposed to be the personification of the faceless police state. The movie missed the point about as hard as it possibly could.
When it was announced they were making a new Judge Dredd movie, this time titled only Dredd, I was skeptical. Why should this new one be any better? But as information started to trickle out about it, my interest was piqued. Karl Urban, who is best known as playing Dr. McCoy in the 2010 Star Strek film, was cast as Dredd. They confirmed the helmet would never come off. At the very least, it at least looked like it "got" what the comics were about.
Then the first pictures of Urban in costume were released. I was... less than thrilled. The suit took on a more realistic, riot gear look, but the helmet remained the same. The problem with this is, with no shoulder pads to offset it, it makes the wearer look more like Judge Bobble-Hedd than Judge Dredd. The trailer, just released today, does not fill me with confidence either.
The movie certainly looks more cohesive than the previous outting, but it also looks incredibly cheap. It seems to mostly take place in a single building, as Dredd and his rookie partner, Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) working their way up level by level to take down drug dealing crime lord Madeline "Ma-Ma" Madrigal (Lena Headey). The drug she's dealing, slow mo, looks to be nothing more than a reason to have slow motion, Matrix-esque action scenes. The shots inside the building look like they just filmed them in the first run down warehouse they came across. The shots of Mega City One look different from the comics, but I do like it. It looks like a gritty, post-apocalyptic place that's terrible to live.
All in all, I don't think that the film looks bad. Just cheap. Really, really cheap. That doesn't surprise me, though, as the 1995 movie bombed, and bombed hard, so even producing this one is a risk. That being said, I still wish that they would have gone a bit higher budget than they seem to have here. The director, Pete Traviss, is also mostly unproven here, only having a few other films under his belt. I'll still be seeing, and reviewing, the film, but I'm going to be remaining skeptical about the quality of the film until then.
Dredd hits theaters September 21st, 2012.