Thursday, 20 September 2012

Books: Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 03


Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 03
Written by John Wagner and Pat Mills
Art by Mike McMahon, Ron Smith, Dave Gibbons, Brian Bolland, Brendan McCarthy, Garry Leach, Ian Gibson, John Cooper and Barry Mitchell

Available now from Islington Libraries
You can reserve this item for free here:

This has grown into a bit of a Mega-post: so - you ready?

("You don't look ready").

Me? Well: yeah - I guess I've hated Alex Garland for a long, long time. I mean - I know that maybe "hate" is a strong word to use: but then again - I take my pop culture consumption very seriously and I don't like it when something gives me  indigestion - or makes me sick (so what the hey: "hate" it is!)

My first exposure I guess was The Beach (book - not the film). I'm pretty sure that I didn't read it when it first came out (back in 1996) but I remember hearing lots about and the rave reviews that came with it ("[Garland is a] natural-born storyteller" who "combines an unlikely group of influences - Heart of Darkness, Vietnam War movies, Lord of the Flies, the Super Mario Bros. video game - into ... ambitious, propulsive fiction." ... "A Lord of the Flies for Generation X" ... "Generation X's first great novel" ...“A furiously intelligent first novel … a book that moves with the kind of speed and grace many older writers can only day-dream about”): and - damn - this was when I was just a teenager so if this was a book that was appearing on my radar all the way back then: well - then I guess it must have been making lots of waves.

I can't remember what made me pick it up and read the stupid thing a few years after that... (Maybe it was the release of the Danny Boyle film or something? Although so scarred was I by the book that I didn't actually get around to watching that until a few years ago [1]) - but when I did: well - I liked the start, and yeah I thought the concept was kinda groovy (apparently backpacking being a big thing back then - but then I guess there's some clichés that never go out of fashion [2]: so hey - kudos to him for spotting that little gap in the market and writing something so zeitgeisty etc) but - oh boy - that ending. Maybe my sights were set too high - but I was left feeling personally wounded by the way it just sorta fizzled out completely - like a balloon with a hernia slowly bleeding to death: to say it was disappointing is a understatement: it's more accurate to say that it left me feeling really sad: like I'd made a new friend who then turned out to be a thief. Getting to the end of the Beach was like opening my wallet and noticing that Alex Garland had stolen my last tenner.

(But wait - what the hell has all this got to do with Judge Dredd? I can hear the less media-savvy of you say: just hang in there guys - I'm getting to it...)

Since that point I thought that I'd do well to steer clear of Alex Garland so that I wouldn't get hurt again. And - I mean - it's simple right? Just don't pick up any of his books: how hard can it be? Except - it wasn't that easy. Because of 28 Days Later.

I don't wanna spend all my time going through all this movie stuff before we get to Dredd: but this feels sorta necessary (I'm hoping that by the time I get to the end of this I'll feel some-sort of closure or something which - well - seems unlikely - but what the hey right?): 28 Days Later seemed like exactly my sort of film. I wasn't / I'm not the biggest Danny Boyle fan in the word [3] but - oh my god - a zombie film? I freaking love zombie films: and this was all the way back when nobody made zombie films (which of course - has all changed now [4]) and - oh my lord: this was a zombie film set in London which just made it all seem a thousand times better (come on: who doesn't want to see their hometown depicted as a savage post-apocalyptic zombie-filled wasteland?). So - yeah. Come opening day I was sat right at the front - popcorn in one hand - cold drink in the other all ready to be wowed. And - oh my god - that opening [5]: Cillian Murphy walking around Oxford Street, Westminster Bridge, that upturned red bus: not to mention the - is that? is that? is that Godspeed You Black Emperor!? playing on the soundtrack? (I think that might have been the exact moment that my mind split apart in two). I'm not sure if I realised before I entered the cinema that 28 Days was written by Alex Garland but at that point - oh boy - I don't know if I would have cared either way - the rush (and yeah it was a rush) was so intense and pure that I don't think I would have cared if someone told me that the script was written by Adolf freaking Hitler.

I mean I guess you could say that it couldn't last - and that with a start that great it's just the law of gravity that means that things are going to take a dip. But no. It's not that. It's that that as soon as Cillian Murphy starts meeting up with people the whole film falls apart like a cake that's been taken out of the oven too quickly... (I think that's the right metaphor - truth be told: I'm not that hot when it comes to baking) and all that's left is a sticky unappetizing mess - full of half-done George Romero steals and a bunch of people running around a house like they're in a Scooby Doo episode (sigh) [6].

28 Days left me feeling ultra bitter and even more determined never to trust Alex Garland again. As far as I was concerned he now owed me time wasted for his novel and his stupid zombie film. But hey at least I knew enough now to make sure that I wouldn't be fooled again...


Because - few years after that came Sunshine. A film whose last part is so awful that even Quentin Tarantino (who loves every film ever made) think's it's poo [7]. From the trailer [8], to the concept (bunch of astronauts fly directly into the sun) sounded like the kind of slightly berserk / slightly existential science-fiction concept that tends to form the type of movies that normally end up getting all the way under my skin [9]: and oh my god - wow: those first - what? 40? 50 minutes? The film is just totally, brilliantly sublime. That John Murphy soundtrack [10] that whole "What can you see?" to that ever-constant yellow glow that just bathes the whole film in this gorgeous yellow light so that everyone watching knows exactly why Searle spends all his time immersing himself in the light: it's great, great, great. And then: blam with no warning - the whole film nose-dives and switches from - one of the best science-fiction films ever made ever - into something approaching an embarrassment ("Oh god - yeah - Sunshine? Erm. I'd rather not talk about it - if that's ok?"). And of all the times Alex Garland has let me down (three and counting) that one hurt the most. I guess because his game in the first part was so on (come on Alex - you can do this - you can do this) that when the ball got dropped (I mean - shooting your bad guy with a blurry camera filter (or whatever): I mean - really? Really? I get all the deep reasons you thought you had - but it's like watching a sixth formers idea of doing something smart: and (for me) it just totally sinks the whole film [11]).  

Wow: this is getting pretty long. Ok - no matter - stay with it, stay with it. Because this is when we get to the point that I've trying to get to (struggle struggle struggle - and wham): the Dredd film. (Yeah boy).

I mean - like I think I've said - the inspiration for this whole writing up on the Judge Dredd Complete Case Files comes from the Dredd film. I saw it coming down the tubes and all the pre-publicity and stuff and I thought that I'd use it as an excuse to go through all the stories that I'd already read and haven't read and blah blah blah - I mean - the comics are always good for a laugh right?

But as for the film itself - well yeah. To be frank: I wasn't expecting anything good. All the signs looked like they were pointing to "bad." The director - Pete Travis - was (according to his wikipedia page) a TV director who had directed an episode of The Bill here (The Bill? Yawn) - two episodes of Cold Feet there and was the one responsible for the immensely forgettable Vantage Point (starring Jack from Lost!) [12]. Plus - Dredd doesn't really seem like a concept that would translate well to screen (I mean - like everyone else has already said: when it comes to character he's a bit of a void). And yeah - (the reasons why should be more than evident by now) there were those four words that send a shiver down my spine: "Screenplay by Alex Garland" (brrrr!) [13] and the little synopsis that came out - what? - made it sound like complete rubbish [14]: I mean - "Slo-Mo"? That just sounds like Brass Eye [15]. I mean - I guess it says something that I paid so much attention to it's development. But it seemed more like rubber-necking at a slow motion (or should I say "slo-mo"?) car crash. I mean - all the signs pointed to terrible and I guess I just wanted to know - how terrible. You know?

But - hell: last week me and my friends wanted something to do. My literary flatmate wanted to go to the cinema in order to see something to boast his spirits and what the hell - Dredd was showing. That very day I had read a review from Drew McWeeny (who I mostly tend to side with) who had praised it as: "a grimy hyper-violent faithful take on the comic icon", "Stylish and bloody" "Dredd 3D should give genre fans a thrill." [16]. I agreed to come along but only under duress and whining and complaining the whole way there ("So let me tell you all the reasons that this film is going to be totally awful.") and sharing my favourite Dredd stories that the film should have been based around (and yeah: The Graveyard shift was mentioned I'll admit it). And then we get to the cinema: and - it turns out that it's a little bit cheaper than what I feared. And it turns out that they're showing it on the main screen. And in 3-D. And - why did I not notice this before? - on the big white cinema sign outside above the doors (does that have a special name that I just don't know about?) next to Dredd it says "18." (Wow - I can't even remember the last time I went to see a film that was rated 18: especially not what is essentially a superhero comic-book film - nearly all of which tend to be rated on the baby end of the spectrum: The Dark Knight? The Dark Knight Rises? Iron Man? All rated: PG-13).

But still: when the lights went down - I readied myself for the worst: because this film was gonna stink - right?

Well - no. And this: All of this blah blah blah is to say: I was wrong. And going through all this Alex Garland history is my way of saying: hey Alex - you know what? You've finally managed to make something good. I didn't think you had it in you - but you've finally made something that I could bring myself (hell - want to) watch again. Well done. And seeing how I feel (in a roundabout sorta way) I've been a little bit harsh to the Dredd film (I think in the notes to the Complete Case Files 07 post I made a few snarky comments) I thought I would use this space to champion it because (damn) it's been lot much of a long time since I went to the cinema and had a good time and so I'm very much about championing the good stuff (and - hey - life should be about championing the good stuff - I mean - that's why we're all here: right?)

So yeah: Dredd (let's just ignore that 3-D thing yeah? [17]): let's talk Dredd.

It starts just like the Stallone version (at least I think so: it's been 17 years (oh my god) since that came out and I've never bothered to rewatch it since that first crushing disappointment in the cinema - so this is a pretty old memory yeah?): shot of the Mega City One from the Cursed Earth with a moody voice-over spelling everything out. I mean - I get why they did it: but it's not a good sign... And then. Well: I'm not going to give you a blow-by-blow account of the entire film and as usually like with how I try and write about the books: I'm not going to spoil all the plot points (so don't worry if you haven't seen it yet - this should be safe to read): but then you get your first look of Mega City One proper and - I'll admit - I was (well) stunned.

Because even if you've never read a Judge Dredd comic I'm pretty sure that you probably still know how Mega City One is supposed to look - right? Hundreds and thousands of City Blocks piled on top of each other as far as the eye can see: think Blade Runner or the Fifth Element: only more blocked in and much (much) more crazy. And in fact - if you think back to the Stallone Dredd: that's pretty much the only thing they got right: a never-ending megatropolis fall of flying cars and garish neon advertisements [18]. Yeah - well: the 2012 version of Dredd obviously wasn't paying attention: because their Mega City One is: better. Much better. With less of the "Mega" but much more of the "City." What the film absolutely nails is the basic idea that cities don't every radically change: but rather - are built up - bit by bit by bit over and around the city that's already there. Mega City One in the comics has always been rather cartoony (I mean - it depends who's drawing it true - but even at the most realistic Arther Ranson-end of things (see: Judge Anderson: Satan below if you're interested in that sort of thing) - it's always future future future and grey City Blocks and things. When I first saw the trailer to Dredd [19] and it's aerial-view of the city I just assumed that it was because the movie was going to suck: instead of buildings upon buildings - it was like looking at a graveyard: empty spaces with isolated markers sticking out from the ground here and there - in a very un-cluttered, un-Mega City-like way [20]. But then: why assume that there isn't enough room for the new and the old? In the comics (urg: I hate that phrase: "In the comics" but still) i think (?) the idea is that Mega City One is built upon the ruins of the old cities: there was a big war and so they just decided to lay concrete over it all and start again. And altho this idea has a lot going for it - namely it's appeal to that deep-seated human urge about fresh starts and blank states and stuff (I'm thinking about that bit in Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: "Blank Is Beautiful: Three Decades of Erasing and Remaking the World" and all that [21]) - it's also massively unrealistic: an unobtainable ideal and yeah I know it's science-fiction and stuff (and so really only one small step away from fantasy): but - hell - things ususally tend to get more interesting when you start to subject it to a little dose of reality. Which is exactly what the Dredd film does: giving us a future city that still has lots and lots of traces and features and buildings of the old - which for me: is just all kinds of brilliant and puts the film into a reality that feels much closer to home than I thought it could get and kinda makes the comic books (which up until this point seemed to be a sort of unquestionable authority that could accept no deviations lest the critic be excommunicated) seem - well - kinda comic booky.Because - yeah: stating the totally obvious: the future is going to look a lot like the present. If someone from 1970 were suddenly transported into now - yeah they'd be amazed by ipods and the youtubes - but walking down the street I don't think that their eyeballs would hemorrhage at the sheer futureness of it all: it all (basically) just looks the same you know?

Apart from that: what else does the film get right? Well - Karl Urban is spot-on as Joe Dredd. I mean - even if in the end it ammounts to nothing more than a Clint Eastwood impression: it's a really good Clint Eastwood impression and he stands there and growls in all the right ways (but I'm a bit of a Karl Urban fan after his spot-on DeForest Kelley impression in that Star Trek film: "Don't pander to me, kid. One tiny crack in the hull and our blood boils in thirteen seconds. Solar flare might crop up, cook us in our seats. And wait'll you're sitting pretty with a case of Andorian shingles, see if you're still so relaxed when your eyeballs are bleeding. Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence." (man - I could watch that scene all day)). Olivia Thirlby does lots of good doe-eyed stuff as Anderson (and in another case of going better than the comics: there's a big show-stopping physic-power scene that goes strange and deep in a way that none of the Anderson stuff I've ever read ever seems to come close to (normally it's just her touching her head in a James McAvoy Charles Xavier-type way [22]). But in terms of the pretending people: Lena Headey wins for her Heath-Ledger-as-the-Joker levels of insanity and violence crackling around inside her eyes (too bad they didn't give her more to do: so could have won like awards and stuff)

Also good is how it's just so supercrazyultraviolent. I mean - this is the Dredd that my teenager self would wanted to see back in 1995: there's blood spilling out of the screen: over the edge of the black bars of the bottom even and lots of smashing and crushing and perps getting judged (and oh my god - is that - is that white phosphorus? Wow. That's hardcore). Plus (and this is just me I know) there's just something that's innately pleasurable about slow helicopter shots of giant buildings - especially when they're doing big mechanical things and slowly rolling things into place (someone make a relaxation tape of space shuttle doors closing and those big space shuttle carrier things rolling around please): and - more things I like - there's just so many great images of dirty motorways stretching out into the distance and giant starscapers: grids and lines my inner-Kubrick kept letting out little sighs of joy. And balancing all that against the small-scaliness of it all being set in the same location gave it that pleasingly claustrophobic feeling that you normally get from John Carpenter films (hell: maybe The Graveshift wasn't the ideal model after all? I dunno): so best of both worlds!

And the soundtrack - oh boy - I absolutely adore the soundtrack. I mean - I'm sure I'll get sick of it sooner or later - but I've been listening to it none stop since I saw the film. Paul Leonard-Morgan is my new soundtrack crush dude. It's like John Carpenter's moody synths decided to learn how to play guitars and brought in a evil gorilla to play the drums while they all listened to Cliff Martinez's Contagion and Drive Soundtracks I mean yeah: it's perfect [23].

Hell: I even loved the bikes [24]: they looked like refugees from an 80s action film: like Robocop or Escape from New York (in fact that's a good way to describe the whole film: a mutant 80s action film - grim as hell and as mean as Dredd himself).

In terms of source-material faithfulness and getting the comics right and all that baloney: well technically Anderson's badge should have been only half-finished and the respirators should have dropped from the helmet (although there's an obvious reason why that didn't happen) and since when did people in Mega City One say "Motherfucker?" (would a "Drokk" or a "Grud" been too much to ask? We are living in a post Battlestar Galactica world after all you fraks) and was it libel-laws of something that meant that you couldn't give the City Blocks their more familar-sounding names (Peach Trees? [25]): but that sorta stuff was more than made-up for the geeky graffiti shout-outs to Chopper and Kenny Who? (yeah - I think when I saw that second one I may have let out an involuntary "squee!").

Lots of the reviews I read made mention of another film that came out this year called The Raid [26]: and while Dredd's later release means that it's kinda being touted as being the Raid's little sister (summing up the media narrative it's basically: "The Raid is the best thing ever! Dredd isn't as good - but it's still alright") but allow me to blow a big fat raspberry in that direction. Mainly just to say: The Raid ain't all that. I mean - I'm obviously not in the target audience seeing how I've never really been into fighting films (sorry - "martial arts")  but godamnit - just in how it's structured: keeping the audience on it's toes from start to end and never taking it's foot of the tension pedal (that's a thing right?) - I'd take Dredd over The Raid any day of the week (The Raid starts off well - but then just sorta gets really predictable really quickly and by the end you can tell who's going to win which fight - and the climax made it seem - well: like an episode of The Bill (The Bill? Yawn) or something).

It wasn't a 100% perfect film - and there's a few points where it does fall into predictability and outrageous coincidences (with one moment in particular relying on an architectural feature that seems outlandish even by Mega City standards): but I struggle to remember the last time I had such a great time at the cinema: I cheered at the end. I didn't mean to - but it happened. 

I mean I know that I could have just summed all of that up by saying: that new Dredd film? Yeah - I liked it. But hell: I'm kinda falling out of the habit of doing things the easy way. So yeah - when (please when) the sequel comes out: I'll be first in line. (Please can we have a sequel soon please please please? And you know what? You can even get Alex Garland to write it: it seems like he's finally found his niche).

(Pause for breath)

Now. Of course if this was just a blog of random thoughts or whatever I could just leave things there. Happy with the fact that I'd managed to write more than just a single solitary paragraph (didn't anyone ever tell you? Writing about comics and stuff is hard): but this is the Islington Comic Forum blog and so we have to maintain at least an air of respectability and talk about the stuff we're supposed to talk about - that is: comics. And so - rather than just leaving this now as a Dredd review and all my hang-ups about Alex Garland let's try and link this up with an actual Judge Dredd book (how's that sound? That ok?)

So: after seeing the Dredd film I was well up for some Judge Dredd comic action. Because that how it works right? You see the film and then after you get that strange urge to read the book: even tho (no duh) the book is nothing like the film but the only reason you're bothering to read the book is to capture some of the same feeling and excitement you got from the film: it's like you really enjoyed (stupid metaphor alert) an apple sweet (like a fruit pastille or something) and so you decide to eat an apple in order to get the same sort of sensation: it's pretty pointless and is only going to leave you feeling unfulfilled but then - hey - that's like the story of all of our lives - right? (Right?).

The book I came up with was this: Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 03 which - at the time of writing is the earliest example of Dredd currently available in Islington (maybe someone could order Complete Case Files 01 and 02 so that I can finally get to read the first part of The Cursed Earth please?) and - well - yeah: after the hard-bitten dirty futurism of the Dredd movie: it was a bit of a trip encountering such an embryonic-version of the future law man. Towards the start there's the first instance of a concept that I used to love when I was a kid - Future Shock! (or "futsie" as they call it) - but (oh the irony) reading this - I got Past Future Shock (I need a better name - but you get the point right?): reading a version of the future that now (mostly) seems out of date.

You think I'm exaggerating?

Well the first story reveals the hitherto unknown fact (to this reader at least) that Judge Dredd has a niece. For this reader - who was expecting some more of the violent carnage that he got from the Dredd film (hell - who knows I reasoned: maybe the early stories were extra gritty and they had to tone it down as things went on?). But no - instead I got Dredd pushing Vienna (Vienna?) on the swings while she screams: "Swing me again Uncle Joe!" and dialogue that seemed more like it comes from a Mad Magazine parody: "You don't kiss me and hug me very much but I know that's just your way. I love you Uncle Joe! You're my daddy now!" I mean - I thought this was great - but it wasn't really what I was expecting. (I ordered strawberry - and hey this is chocolate! kinda thing) [27].

And there's a lot more of that sort of slightly mawkish slightly childish slightly lame (yeah - I said it) happening again and again: there's Monty the Guinea pig and a talking cat and later - Henry Ford - the smart mouthed talking horse, there's the suggestion that drinking Tyrannosaur blood can turn you into a weredinosaur (what the?) - and (oh yes) Walter - Dredd's lisping roboservant ("As Walter Wemember, there was a wobbey at the cwedit bank that day.") who's - well - a bit mincy (not that there's anything wrong with that obviously). But it's pretty obvious in point that this is the kinda stuff that was written for children back in the 1970s rather than - well - late twenty-sometimes in the 21st Century (that would be me of course): and I was really feeling the disconnect between what was on the page and the Paul Leonard-Morgan Dredd soundtrack playing in my ears.

But then: just as I was getting ready to maybe think about setting it aside and trying out something else I started to get more of what I wanted: Bleak predictions of the future: "By the early 22nd Century only 13% of the population of Mega City One had work... Humans, too long used to working, could  not adjust to the huge increase in leisure time." (And reading that as someone who is just about to start working with self-service machines (it's the future!) - well: it touched a delicate spot). Horrific plagues of mutant spiders. Killer Hippies (Father Earth - who's like the yin to Dredd's punk yang). And that delicious evil sense of humour that the British tend to do so well in the form of Sob Story's [28] greatest hit: Otto Sump "Yeah, I know all about ugly... I've had eight face changes and still I look like this! The Doc says I'm deep-down ugly, the kind they can't get out." Plus lots of hard-bitten action: "First try the special cocktail I've mixed for you Molotov!" (Woop!) not to mention the first appearance of Judge Death and - wouldn't you know it - Judge Cassandra Anderson (who is way more more ditzy than her later incarnations) and a peek inside the Hall of Justice that makes it look like they've been stealing furniture from the set of Dr Strangelove... (and - wow: it turns out that Brian Bolland has always been an amazing artist: damn him).

But yeah: I guess that's it (at least that's all I can bring myself to write). But what? Is there some kind of moral here? Something I can say to wrap this all up in a tidy little bow? 


Not that I can think of anyhow [29].

So - instead I've leave you with these wise words from Judge Minty: "When you get old you start getting strange notions... like maybe people aren't so bad, maybe if we treat 'em with kindness, the good in them will come out! I guess that's when it's time to quit."

[1] I don't remember that much about it - but my abiding thought was that it was much, much better than the book (which hey - couldn't have been that hard - right?).

[2] "And then I chundered everywhere" etc.

[3] Shallow Grave = Yes. Trainspotting = Yes.A Life Less Ordinary = I don't think I ever saw (think the 2000AD adaptation put me off - because boy was that stinky). The Beach = Yeah. Ok. 28 Days Later = Well... Millions = Not bad. But it's like something that would on ITV on a Saturday evening (maybe that's just because James Nesbitt is in it - but whatever). Sunshine = Well... Slumdog Millionaire = I mean - yeah. It' ok. But it's not a film that I've ever gonna really wanna watch again - you know what I mean? 127 Hours = Haven't seen. But I don't know if I could stomach a whole film that was wall-to-wall James Franco (sorry dude: you're just way too annoying).

[4] I could pick on any film at this point to illustrate the fact that maybe the zombie film market is a little bit more - well - saturated this days: but - hell - let's go with Cockneys vs. Zombies: "A bunch of east-enders fight their way out of a zombie-infested London, led by an unlikely gang of amateur bank robbers and foul-mouthed plucky pensioners." No. I'm not making that up: and also (hell) who knows? Maybe it'll actually prove to be pretty good? I mean: who knows?

[5] Which you can enjoy here. Repeat after me: "Hello!?" "HELLO!?" (I mean - it's like someone took my main childhood daydream and just plastered it across a screen).

[6] 28 Weeks Later? Well - that's a whole different story (a story that goes: I frigging love that film).

[7] See: here. ("Space exploration mediation"? Don't try saying that with your mouth full).

[8] Which you can watch here. (That music at the start is Six By Seven's Another Love Song - which is a band that I used to think represented the absolute pinnacle of epic brutalist guitar rock (hell - whatever - still do) and that music at the end? Lux Aeterna obviously).

[9] See also: bunch of scientists go and talk to super-intelligent ants (Phase IV), scientists uses drugs and sensory deprivation tanks in order to themselves regress genetically (Altered States) and a team of scientists fight against a super-bug from outer space (The Andromeda Strain). Obviously I have somesorta deep seated obsession with science-fiction films about scientists - but hey - I guess that's my problem right?

[10] YUM: I want to be buried to this music please. Or - hell - not buried. Fired into the sun. Yes.

[11] And - hell - the know what? Maybe that's not even Alex Garland's fault. Maybe it's Danny Boyle calling all the shots and making all the decisions (he is the director after all). But - still. The problems seem like they stem from the script and (plus he's got previous with The Beach) and so I'm a-gonna blame Garland. Sorry dude.

[12] And I do mean "forgettable" seeing as how I've watched it and all I remember is something about an ambulance flipping over (?) and lots of weak sauce Rashomon-style window dressing that never really seemed to add up to anything more than just a gimmick.

[13] Which leaves out the gossip that Pete Travis was actually replaced by Alex Garland in the post-production process so that when the film came out it was going to credit Garland as the director. (Which just seems sorta crazy to me - but then I guess I don't work in the film business (I work in a library)).

[14] "The future America is an irradiated waste land. On its East Coast, running from Boston to Washington DC, lies Mega City One- a vast, violent metropolis where criminals rule the chaotic streets. The only force of order lies with the urban cops called “Judges” who possess the combined powers of judge, jury and instant executioner. Known and feared throughout the city, Dredd (Karl Urban) is the ultimate Judge, challenged with ridding the city of its latest scourge – a dangerous drug epidemic that has users of “Slo-Mo” experiencing reality at a fraction of its normal speed. During a routine day on the job, Dredd is assigned to train and evaluate Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a rookie with powerful psychic abilities thanks to a genetic mutation. A heinous crime calls them to a neighborhood where fellow Judges rarely dare to venture – a 200 story vertical slum controlled by prostitute-turned-drug lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her ruthless clan. When they capture one of the clan’s inner circle, Ma-Ma overtakes the compound’s control center and wages a dirty, vicious war against the Judges that proves she will stop at nothing to protect her empire. With the body count climbing and no way out, Dredd and Anderson must confront the odds and engage in the relentless battle for their survival. The endlessly inventive mind of writer Alex Garland and director Pete Travis bring DREDD to life as a futuristic neo-noir action film. Filmed in 3D with stunning slow motion photography sequences, the film returns the celebrated character to the dark, visceral incarnation from John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra’s revered comic strip." Problems: That name "Ma-Ma." (I mean - why?) And having Dredd just go up against one villain and the idea of Slo-Mo. It just made it sound like a big slice of cheese-cake when want I wanted was a raw slice of beef - you know? And then (although I guess this came later) the fact that they decided to name it: Dredd 3-D. Seriously? I mean - unlike some - I don't have a problem with 3-D. But when you decide to stick it into the title - it just makes it seem disposable and cheap. And what are they going to call the sequel: Dredd 3-D 2? (Yuck).

[15] The Horrors of Cake! (Noel Edmonds: "What is Cake? Well, it has an active ingredient which is a dangerous psychoactive compound known as dimesmeric andersonphosphate. It stimulates the part of the brain called Shatner's Bassoon. And that's the bit of the brain that deals with time perception. So, a second feels like a month. Well, it almost sounds like fun...unless you're the Prague schoolboy who walked out into the street straight in front of a tram. He thought he'd got a month to cross the street.") And I mean - yeah - obviously the reason for Slo-Mo is to do lots of bullet-time style action (all of which in the film is absolutely-completely-gorgeous) - but it just seemed kinda obvious and easy or something and a - well - a whole lot of yawn (I dunno).

[16] You can read the full review: here: (sample: "Ultimately, your reaction to "Dredd 3D" will depend on your tolerance for an almost breathtaking level of graphic violence.")

[17] Although: hot damn - this film certainly had some nice 3-D action going on. Totally keeping with it's ever so-slightly exploitation film feeling.

[18] I tried to find a clip of it online and found that someone has actually uploaded the full movie. Watched the first five minutes and - holy cow - is that James Earl Jones doing the opening narration? And did how blatantly Marvel steal that opening let's show all the pages of the comics flicking past really quickly thing? And: wow - now I can see why the film was such a massive let-down: in those first 5 minutes they get everything just right: the use of the proper old school Judge Dredd font, those marching drums give it the right atmosphere, nice slow introduction to the city - that pan up that keeps going up and up and up: and Mega City One looks just like it's supposed to (nice use of the Lady Liberty there - (no Statue of Judgement tho - sad face)): and oh boy - so many actors with so many great names: Armand Assante! Jürgen Prochnow! Balthazar Getty! (That doesn't actually add to the quality of the film - I know: but I just wanted to point it out). I mean - if you just saw that - you could easily imagine that this was going to be the most faithful film adaptation of all time... (hysterical fanboy voice: "and then Stallone had to ruin it all by taking his helmet off!" And - oops - oh yeah: and the rest of the film sucked to). Credit where it's due tho: it does have a totally awesome trailer. (That music? It's Jerry Goldsmith: sadly not used in the film: something about him having scheduling conflicts or something and not having enough time to score the film: oh well).

[19] This is turning into a proper trailer fest huh? (But - hey - I love trailers - and in some respects they're the only pure art-form left and let's face it: one of the most exciting (if you've never said that you wish you could watch a whole film that felt like a trailer then I don't believe you)). But - yeah - if you haven't seen the Dredd trailer yet - here you go. And - well - ok: since you asked. I think it's one of the worst trailers I've seen since forever: it's one the few (if only?) examples of the film being better than the trailer - normally (and depressingly) it's almost always the other way round... It just makes it look really cheap (that POV shot from the Justice Camera or whatever looks like someone looking through a cheap binocular toy that they got from a happy meal) and all of the images and supposedly "cool" lines just feel really flat (which is mainly due to the fact that - in the film - context is key: and taken out from that - it just seems half-inflated: like someone who's really bad at telling stories trying to sum up the film they saw last night: "And then he said "You look ready" and it was so awesome."). Plus - with that Ma-Ma line: "We could take the whole city" etc. It makes it seem like maybe the film is going to be way more epic that it actually is: Dredd versus someone who's some kind of crazy super-villain - while actually: it's all much more pleasingly low-key, reined in and enclosed than that. Plus (like my literary flatmate pointed out) there's way too much "judging" dialogue: "I am the law" / "Judgement time!" / "the Sentence is Death" etc (I mean - what's next? "Order in the court?" "Has the jury reached a verdict?" "Please rise!" - hell - actually those are pretty good!). But yeah - so - basically - yeah: fails all round. (Oh - and seeing how we've also been doing all the music for stuff - that La Roux song is a Skream remix remix: and that second song? No. That's not Daft Punk's Tron Soundtrack - it's some guy called Danny Cocke doing a very good impression of Daft Punk's Tron Soundtrack)

[20] This is a good picture of it.

[21] I'm not that this is actually relevant but here you go: “Fervent believers in the redemptive powers of shock, the architects of the American-British invasion imagined that their use of force would be so stunning, so overwhelming, that Iraqis would go into a kind of suspended animation…In that window of opportunity, Iraq’s invaders would slip in another set of shocks—these one economic—which would create a model free-market democracy on the blank slate that was post invasion Iraq. But there was no blank slate, only rubble and shattered angry people—who, when they resisted, were blasted with more shocks…Like Cameron, Iraq’s shock doctors can destroy, but they can’t seem to rebuild.” (But - hey - it's a good book: if you get a chance - you should read it: available in your local Islington library!).

[22] Oh my god: have you seen X-Men: First Class? He's like touching his head in that all the damn time. (Next time I watch it - I'm turning it into a drinking game). 

[23] Few notes on the soundtrack: someone's been listening to Justin Bieber 800% Slower (not that that's a bad thing - just saying). And Lockdown and Tick of the Clock (from the Drive Soundtrack) = separated at birth? And - of course - there's the Drokk: Music Inspired by Mega-City One album by Portishead's Geoff Barrow and some guy called Ben Salisbury which was supposed to be the soundtrack before I don't know what happened and it was left "on the cutting room floor" - if you like your science-fiction soundtracks a little bit more sedate and calmed down (and really yeah: they're both good in different ways).

[24] YEAH BABY. (For some reason I can't quite put my finger on - they reminded me of those creepy Star Trek Wheelchairs. Maybe it's the black slopingness of it or something? I dunno).

[25] Apparently it was named after a restaurant when Alex Garland and John Wagner met up. (To me something like "Charlton Heston Block" would have sounded much better - but heigh ho).

[26] Most notably this Empire Review  which went so far as to declare that there were two shadows that fell over the Dredd film: the Dredd film and The Raid: "This wouldn’t be to Dredd’s detriment if The Raid hadn’t a) got there first and b) been the best action film in years. And so, as Dredd and Anderson tiptoe down dark corridors, where danger lurks around every corner, or bullet-bludgeon their way through Ma-Ma’s seemingly endless waves of expendable henchmen, it’s hard not to compare and contrast with Evans’ movie, where similar situations led to action that was vital, insanely violent and full of variety. Dredd retains the extraordinary violence (flesh pierces rippling bare flesh in loving slo-mo, a machine gun reduces a head to a pulp, and bodies spiral through 200 storeys before splatting), but the action is rather more circumspect and workmanlike – there are no dizzying camera moves, no sense of building momentum or mounting danger."

[27] Wow. Twenty-seven footnotes? (Wow). That seems a bit much: but oh well: here's another: what's with the "Dokk?" at the start - I mean - they correct it to "Drokk" two stories later: but it kinda added to the feeling that what I was reading wasn't actually real Dredd...

[28] Sob Story is a television programme which is supposed to be satire (people who go and tv: tell everyone how awful their lives are and then beg for money) - but oh: wouldn't you know it - is now yesterday's news (see: Charlie Brooker's Wanking For Coins article: here. "I liked the phrase "wanking for coins" so much I went on to use it again and again. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to sum up an entire world of low-level employment. Stuck in a dead-end job? Wanking for coins. Obliged to smile at customers? Wanking for coins. Working extra shifts to pay the rent? Wanking for coins.")

[29] Actually - now that I think about it a little bit more - and having read a few more Dredd reviews - a lot of which have said that the film - as good as it is - doesn't quite capture the flavor of the comics: I guess the moral would be: having read such a big fat slice of the comics- there's no possible way that any film could ever hope to contain all the different multitudes of what makes Judge Dredd - Judge Dredd.

Links: Dredd Reckoning ReviewBookgasm ReviewGrovel Review.

Further reading: Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth SagaJudge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 05, Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 06Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 07, Judge Anderson: Satan, Sláine: The Horned God, Nikolai Dante: The Romanov Dynasty, Skizz.

All comments welcome. 

No comments: