I didn’t know much about Judge Dredd when I went into Pete Travis’s reboot Dredd a few weeks back. For what it was worth, I knew that the property was a comic book at first, and I knew that there was a 1995 film with Sly Stallone starring as the masked brooder that had virtually bombed. With the latter in the back of my head, I wasn’t expecting much from this film, based on a B-List comic book.
I was wrong.
I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. The blood. The violence. The effects. The super frowns. The story was simple, and the man behind the mask was so complex. To me, it was a comic book movie done well. So, I thought to myself, “Self, seeing that you were wrong about Dredd, what if you were wrong about Judge Dredd, too?”
It was with hope in my eyes that I sought out a copy of Judge Dredd to view and be impressed by. Within the first five minutes, however, I realized that there was no hope left in the world, and that Judge Dredd was going to be just as bad as everyone said it was. But, why? Why did it blow so hard?
Let’s look at some of the positives that we thought the movie had going for it:
- The screenplay was written by William Wisher, Jr. (Terminator 2) and Steven E. de Souza (Die Hard and The Running Man).
- It starred Sylvester Stallone, who was expected to deliver another ass-kicking performance, because he was still considered an action movie badass at the time.
- The effects were pretty good for a movie made in ’95. It put Kurt Russell’s Escape from L.A. to shame for sure.
- The costumes were designed by Gianni Versace, so you know they had style.
But, none of those mattered when you got into the thick of the film. In short, it was just a mess. Too much subject matter and not enough substance. Too many predictable scenarios and not enough surprise and suspense. Overall, it was doomed to become a movie you’d watch on TBS or TNT when there was absolutely nothing else on the tube.
So, in an attempt to put my mind at ease, I tried to find a few ways that Judge Dredd could have been a better movie. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I believe that we can come to a consensus that any change to that film couldn’t make it any worse, could it? Well, I guess we could accidentally make it into Crank 2, which is by far worse than Judge Dredd.
Less Rob Schneider and More Anyone Else
I can’t stand Rob Schneider. He’s part of the reason that I don’t like most Adam Sandler movies (well, him and Adam Sandler). Simply casting him for any role will ensure that your film will be a box office bomb, morally speaking of course. Schneider’s character, Fergee, served as Judge Dredd’s Jar Jar Binks, but with less of a purpose, if you can imagine it. At least Jar Jar can get you through the center of a planet. What did Fergee do? Get shot by a robot? Get you in trouble with other Judges? Get you in trouble with cannibals? Shit, anyone can do that!
And he didn’t die, mind you. What a wasted opportunity! Come on, Danny Canyon, what were you thinking?
One actor I wish I could have seen more of was Scott Wilson. Thanks to The Walking Dead, I’ve come to love Wilson as an actor, and I like his work. Especially when he’s playing a cannibalistic desert redneck with an android son. Unfortunately his screen time lasted a whole ten minutes or so, but I wish he had killed and eaten Schneider’s character so he could take the mantle of Dredd’s hilarious cannibal sidekick. You never know when you may need a guy on your side to chew off an enemy’s ear in an effort to send a clear and stern message.
Don’t mess with Dredd, or you’ll get bit!
Too Much In Too Little Time
From what I’ve read about the universe of Judge Dredd, it’s a pretty expansive place. There are mega-cities world wide. And where there aren’t cities, there is the Cursed Earth, an expansive desert wasteland filled with cannibals and other vagrants. The world of Dredd is pretty expansive, which is where you can run into problems.
In the 2012 remake, the story didn’t stray far from Mega-City One. But, in this film, we see Mega-City One, the Cursed Earth and the Aspen Penal Colony. It’s a typical case of too much in too little time. Just the fact that Mega-City One reaches from Boston to Washington D.C. leads one to see how many movies could be made about Mega-City One alone.
In the filmmaker’s effort to please the fans, he cut them short instead of building them up. The 1995 film looked cluttered and sometimes hard to follow, especially to those of us who are unfamiliar with the world of Dredd. Taking the story telling one small step at a time could be the best for a story like Judge Dredd.
Leave The Helmet On
Like I said before, I’m no Dredd expert. But, one thing I’ve learned from research was that fans love it when he keeps the helmet on (sounds sexy, huh). I know from past experiences, with films like V for Vendetta, it is better to keep a masked hero masked than to unmask him and disappoint the crowd. It leaves a lot up to the imagination, and it lets the crowd choose what kind of man lives below the mask. For good or bad or ugly.
But, nope, the creative team on Judge Dredd didn’t think so. They decided that not only would they show you Judge Dredd’s face within the first 20 minutes of the film, but that his face should be none other than the face of Sylvester Stallone with fake blue eyes. Not only that, but Dredd will get really mushy and gushy, touchy and feely when the helmet is removed. That shit doesn’t fly, especially when you’re the man carrying a gun (the Lawgiver) with six different ammo settings.
I’m sure he has a round that can penetrate emotions, too.
We get it, Judge Dredd is a complex character, especially when you dig into the meat of him. But, why go so balls deep into his emotions in one movie? I imagine that Dredd is pretty tough to crack, and I don’t see some hotshot female Judge breaking him so easily. His first and only love is the law. That’s what gets him off, and that’s all that he cares about.
From too much Rob Schneider to not enough helmet and to too much landscape in such a small film, Judge Dredd had quite a few things wrong with it. Oh, there was more, trust me. So much so that it took away from the film as a whole, and it made for a bad piece of cinema. But, even though this film was bad, one thing is still clear:
Judge Dredd is a badass.
He is a character that is just an ass kicking machine. No matter if the helmet is on or off, or if he catches a bad case of the feels, Dredd will mess your world up if he needs to. From what I can tell, there is no amount of Rob Schneider’s or Sylvester Stallone’s rambling that can take that away from him.
Despite the 1995 flop, I am starting to become a fan of Judge Dredd. And, I think you should give a look into him, too. Especially the new film, Dredd. Of that film, my judgment is fair, and my recommendation is that you get yourself some Dredd comics as soon as humanly possible. Did I make myself clear?