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Monday, June 22, 2009

Judge Dredd, the most under rated super hero film of all time (movie review)

James "Bo" Gorcesky

Judge Dredd movie review

December 22, 2007

The Most Underrated Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Comic Book Film

Of All Time: Judge Dredd" target="_blank">.." border="0" alt="Photobucket">

Why Judge Dredd is considered such an underrated cult comic book film to me? Well, first off let me stack it up against other cult comic book inspired films out there that can come to my mind: Flash Gordon, Conan the Barbarian, Daredevil, The Fantastic Four (the unreleased 1994 version), Howard the Duck, Superman III – what is one thing they all have in common? They primarily all had mixed reviews by the critics and the common fan base, they all had fairly weak box office sales, but most importantly, there were just a small element or two that caused the true die hard fans to create a cult following of that film. I am surprised to talk to some fans and would dare to utter such words as, "Oh c'mon, Daredevil wasn't that bad." Or, "Man, I can't wait for the unrated special collector's edition of Howard the Duck on high-def DVD!" But as these fans grow older, they are gathering in numbers on the internet and creating petitions to get their favorite films back out of film limbo, or are actually making the decisions in ..:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Hollywood to turn their favorite properties into movie franchises.

With that being said, and some of our other favorite cult films out of the way, I'd like the rest of this article to focus on the 1995's Judge Dredd directed by Danny Cannon and starring Sylvester Stallone, Diane Lane, Rob Schnieder and the legendary Max "please stop calling me Ming the Merciless" Von Sydow. Considering that this film was released by Walt Disney pictures, and was rated R (for what I am guessing is extremely ridiculous scenes of violence,) which probably hurt it's initial release. More often than not, you try to find a happy medium with the comic book fans with a PG-13 rating, so that way you can have some sexy stuff and some violence, but with some fun stuff for the kiddies as well. But Dredd, much like it's action packed Von Sydow predecessor Conan the Barbarian (which was also rated R and also brought to the screen thanks to Edward R. Pressman) will doom it's box office sales as too risqué.

The film did stir up enough excitement and reviews amongst the Sci-Fi fan base, as it was nominated for several Saturn Awards for it's excellent costume and makeup work. Which, I must say, I really like comic book films that make it look like they took a panel from a book and made it come to life like an Alex Ross painting. The Judge Dredd costume looks highly authentic to the pictures in the books, and you could almost feel the cheesy plastic on their helmets. But only using some eye catchy makeup and costume design work (that sometimes makes some of the costumes look like it came out of Masters of the Universe mixed with a Imperial Storm trooper) does not gratify enough success. Some might feel a similar connection to another cult Von Sydow film, Flash Gordon which was also praised for it's set and costume design, but hugely failed in the writing and acting department. But aside from the eye candy featurettes, the post apocalyptic city is just enough to get a few ooh's and aah's out of people and will shortly thereafter begin to chuckle at Stallone's cheesy one liners (I knew you'd say dat.)

Ah yes, Stallone. How fitting that the crooked lipped action hero should play a cop in the future – he has played a cop in nearly every other genre so far. How many films can you think of where Stallone has played a cop? I'll give you a few seconds then I'll just shoot off from memory………


Cop Land

Demolition Man

Tango & Cash




Stop! Or my mom will shoot

Talk about being type cast right? Actually, Stallone's acting and tight lipped one liners and total devoid of humanity in his role as Judge Dredd earned him a Razzi Award for worst actor (a rather prestigious account since he was simultaneously nominated for worst actor in Assassins for the same year). But where Stallone fails, he has his much more sympathetic partner and romance Judge Hershey (played by Diane Lane) and Dredd's kooky and streetwise sidekick and comedy relief Rob Schneider. Oh, but do we need to mention that the villain in the film is the psychotic (and also a cloned twin brother) of Judge Dredd – RICO! Just hearing Stallone say "Rico" in his crooked lipped way is hilarious. With the aid of some dazzling sparkling blue matching contacts and oozing super Italian charm, Hollywood decided that Armand Assante would be the best choice for a Bizarro Judge Dredd.

Now that the acting is out of the way, let us try to focus on the story. The film itself underwent several changes. Stallone was such a spoiled little brat that kept demanding changes; supposedly the original shooting script and the finished product are two entirely separate entities. But to get to his roots, Judge Dredd is based on a late 70's action hero that was initially published in Britain in the book 2000 AD. In a desolate world, there is too much violence and crime, so society created "Judges" members that upheld THE LAW as Judge, Jury and rarely as Executioner. Their world is in a post apocalyptic setting, as much has been destroyed from nuclear bombings and Judgment day. Most of the world is covered in desolate wastelands, while others have come together to create huge towering mega-oplis called Mega City 1 (which stretches from about Baltimore to Charlotte). In a land without law, only the few represent the law – like Judge Joseph Dredd.

SO that is the world as to what the comic book showcases, and the film is pretty close adaptation to it as well. The film is also pretty accurate on visualizing a 3-D world that is based from a 2-D medium. Many of the supporting characters have been brought to the screen, and I personally feel that the art department did an OUTSTANDING job of bringing some of those things to life to look just like the comic book. I feel that too often when there is a film adaptation of a comic book, costume designers and the rest of the art department try to go for this plush leather or art nouveux look (think of your initial response to the costume work in X-Men).

But what they did do successfully adapting was the visuals, but not the methodology of the world or the personalities of many of the characters. For example, in the comic book, Judge Dredd has only removed his helmet twice (within thirty years of comic book continuity), and in the book, his face is still censored. And from the look of people that see "old stony face's" appearance, are normally appalled with disgust. In the film, we see Dredd's face for a huge chunk of the film. Which is a constant dispute and cause of disruptions in Hollywood with, "but we need to see the actor's face to convey emotions to the audience. They can't think for themselves! We need to tell them what to think and how to feel based on the portrayal of our leads." Okay, my tirade is over. Actually, did you know that the role of Judge Dredd was initially offered to Arnold Schwarzenegger but he turned it down because he didn't like the idea that his face would be covered through out the whole film. Which would then cause Stallone to step in, demand all of the numerous changes to the script, and that is probably why you see Dredd "helmetless" throughout a majority of the film.

Secondly, it is FORBIDDEN for Judges to embrace a romantic relationship. Figure, this way they could focus solely on their work, not on the lives of others. Judges are also conditioned to be devoid of romance at an early age and also of corruption. Which also helps to play into the universal irony on our own government which the Dredd books frequently poke at. Yes, there is a lot of ironic humor abound in the Dredd books, and if you are a political weirdo, then it may be the book for you. So, when Dredd starts up with this lovely relationship with Hershey, they again break the rules of the Dredd mythos. What he shoulda done after he saved her was pull a lil Jack Burton on her and ride off into the sunset.

Well, I guess I have nothing else to offer for this film review. Again, like I said, I feel that Judge Dredd is an under rated action/sci-fi/comic book film. There have been a LOT worse (cough cough, the Hulk cough cough Fantastic Four series) but don't let Stallone's tight faced expressions and cheesy one liners bring ya down – embrace them! "I knew you'd say dat" Stallone is pretty bad ass in this movie, and it is probably my favorite of his cop portrayals. And just imagine if we could all ban together, we could get a petition together and get a special edition of this DVD out to the world of the underground cult comic book fans! So…who's with me?!

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