I read Alex Garland's script Peach Trees earlier this year after reading a some buzz surrounding the screenplay, but was unaware at the time that it was the new Judge Dredd film. It was a very welcome surprise and the script was as tight as a banjo string. Dredd kept his helmet on, Mega-City One was the foreboding metropolis of the comics, and there was no shortage of bone-crunching action sequences. Oh, and Garland brought perhaps the greatest drug for cinematic pleasure: Slo-Mo. Six months later and I'm at the pictures watching Garland's vision unfold in all its three-dimensional glory.
Peter Travis has done exactly what he said he would, and brought us a proper Judge Dredd creation that Danny Cannon failed to deliver in 1995. What more, he does very well to deliver Garland's visionary script: Mega-City One is teeming with crime, and in one of the huge Megablocks - a mini-city in a skyscraper - Peach Trees, crime boss Ma-Ma and her band of miscreants are making Slo-Mo, a highly addictive drug allows the user to experience everything in super slow motion. When she kills a group of men and puts them on display as an example, Judge Dredd and rookie Judge Anderson visit Peach Trees for some judgement and punishment. Before long they get locked in, and so starts an 80 minute attempt to escape the huge edifice with thousands of hired goons and chancing residents on their trail. Luckily for Dredd, his new recruit (being tested on her performance) is a psychic, and a damn strong one at that, giving Travis even more chance to show-off with clever time shifts.
The plot is simple enough, and it certainly allows for an enjoyable watch, but it had the misfortune of being done much better a few months earlier by a small Indonesian film, The Raid. This left a slightly sour taste afterwards, as it seemed like a lesser Hollywood rip on an already perfect action film, and without the superb Silat sequences from the Asian version. The Raid has a group of elite cops get killed off in a tower-block raid, leaving only a couple of the best to fight off the gangs, destroy the drugs lab, and escape in time for tea. However, for what Dredd lacked in realism and martial arts, it made up for in aesthetic - its pure cinematic eye candy (although maybe aimed slightly more at the male teen market).
Dredd's 3D is more than just a fad, (only a few films can argue that - Avatar, Tron: Legacy, Prometheus) and is more of a necessity for the visual aesthetic of the film - the slow-mo sequences on the drug are done with aplomb and for a film which behaves like a shot of red bull to the eye, the 3D platform is perfect for the delivery. It's not quite as good as that in the three films aforementioned, but they act as the bar in terms of what is achievable in the format.
The cast are great, with particular mention for Rider of Rohan Karl Urban's stiff-lipped incarnation of Judge Dredd, lean like a boxer and with a chin so square you could measure right-angles. Lena Heady (Game of Thrones, 300) is a nice touch as ruthless villain Ma-Ma, and the promo people even sent out a short comic of her backstory prior to the film's release to show us what Dredd is up against. Check it out here before you see the movie, and if you do, try and see it at the cinema as it will make for a much more enjoyable viewing.