Indy Datta reviews Alex Garland’s directing debut, and steers clear of spoilers.
by Indy Datta
In 1995, the first movie outing for taciturn dystopian-future law enforcer Judge Joseph Dredd – a Sylvester Stallone vehicle directed by Danny Cannon – was released to scathing reviews. Although comic book adaptations were, even then, big box office (Joel Schumacher’s grating, garish Batman Forever, released in the same year, was as big a hit as the two Tim Burton movies that preceded it), the sales pitch for Cannon’s film was all about Sylvester Stallone, still at that time one of the most bankable international movie stars. To the chagrin of the hardcore fans, the 1995 version of putting the money on screen meant putting all of Stallone’s face on the screen, even though Dredd’s face had in the pages of 2000 AD, jutting chin apart, been kept from view beneath his helmet since his first appearance in 1977. In the name of commerciality, the film traduced the source material in numerous other ways, big and small – from giving Dredd a love interest to, unforgivably, retaining the services of Rob Schneider as a comedy sidekick. Despite all the cynical pandering, Judge Dredd bombed. Fast forward to 2012, a world where comic book movies are the mainstream, with the latest incarnation of Batman not only hoovering up ridiculous amounts of cash, but demanding to be taken seriously. The makers of Dredd looked like they were doing everything right – the helmet would stay on, hiding star Karl Urban’s face throughout; Dredd’s creator John Wagner would be part of a creative dream team including Danny Boyle’s go-to screenwriter Alex Garland; the violence wouldn’t be watered down to garner a kid-friendly rating; Rob Schneider (or his 2012 equivalent, Rob Schneider) would remain uncontacted. Despite all this, Dredd bombed.