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Movie Review: Judge Dredd (2012)

By Scott Tibbs, February 12, 2013

I watched Judge Dredd (the 2012 remake) on DVD, and I was not impressed. Here is one problem right off the bat: I have never read a Judge Dredd comic book. They do very little to explain the universe, so I am not familiar with the universe, the history of the fictional world or the characters. With a comic book movie for Batman or Spider-Man, people are familiar enough with the character that they can jump right in. That's not the case with a lesser-known character like Dredd. Two or three minutes of exposition would have done wonders.

Basically, the premise is we have a post-apocalyptic world where the "Judges" (basically the police) are empowered to judge and punish on the spot, including using capital punishment.

While the setting, technology and action were all fine, the problem is that the characters behave in a way rational people would not behave in this world. For example, one of the bad guys has the drop on Dredd after shooting him through the back, and the bullet comes out of his stomach. He stands there gloating for a full 45 seconds before Dredd's backup (Judge Anderson) comes in and shoots him in the back. Dredd has killed two of his teammates, and is extremely dangerous. Why would you not finish him off?

Never mind that Anderson had previously been captured by the Ma-Ma gang, and the gang members were given orders to execute her on two different occasions, by Ma-Ma herself and the evil Judges. Did they do it? Of course they did not, because they are stupid. Anderson is not only a Judge, she is a mutant with psychic powers. The intelligent thing to do is to shoot her in the face before she figures out how to overpower or trick you.

Of course, she does, when her gun recognizes that the person firing it is not a Judge and explodes, taking his hand in the process. The "exploding gun" gimmick makes Anderson being taken hostage in the first place completely nonsensical, because she would not be concerned that he would be able to shoot her with it. Furthermore, The criminal executing her with her own gun should have known he could not use the gun - surely criminals have stolen Judge weapons before and discovered they would self-destruct in the event of use by unauthorized persons.

Why did Dredd or Anderson not simply kill Kay much earlier in the movie, when it was obvious he was a liability - that he could give away their position or try to kill them? They want to take him to their headquarters for interrogation. Good idea, except for the fact that Anderson is a psychic who can simply take the information from his mind. Why did they not do that the minute they captured him, instead of dragging him around the building? Did they forget she has this power, only to suddenly remember it when it's convenient for the plot?

Once he is rescued, Judge Dredd staples the entry an exit wounds shut. That is fine as basic first aid, but the bullet passed clean through his back and abdomen. Unless Dredd has instant regeneration superpowers like the X-Men's Wolverine, he has massive internal injuries. Dredd is no-selling the gut shot as if he was never hurt, and the injury is completely forgotten within five minutes. You can't do that!

The scene where the Ma-Ma gang is attacking Dredd and Anderson with incredibly destructive mini-guns is effective in getting across how evil Ma-Ma is as she mows down innocent men, women and children. But there is just no way Dredd and Anderson should survive that unscathed, especially with bullets flying past them on all sides. They were not even grazed! It is one thing to have Heroic Luck, which is common in action movies. It's another thing entirely to have the hero be playing a video game with God Mode turned on.

Four Judges turn evil and take a bribe from Ma-Ma to hunt down Dredd, and Anderson after she escapes. (The Judges reminded the gang of Ma-Ma's orders to kill the captured Anderson.) There were two times where the evil Judges could have killed Dredd or Anderson before our heroes realized they were evil - the female Judge had several seconds to shoot Anderson before Anderson read her mind. Why did she wait, when she explicitly told Ma-Ma that she would shoot Anderson when Anderson hesitated? What was the point of that?

Furthermore, the use of the technology was suspect. Why did the two evil Judges not use incendiary rounds when fighting Dredd in the drug lab? Did they forget they had the same special ammunition Dredd has? What was the point of having the plot thread about Dredd being low on ammo - and then completely running out of ammo - when he could have reloaded from the extra ammo he has in his belt at any time? Did we forget about his extra ammo until it was convenient for the plot?

Judge Dredd was a summer action blockbuster, so I was not expecting an artistic masterpiece. I did expect better than for the movie to make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Final Grade: D