Richard Stephens is impressed by a new film’s nightmare vision of the future
The new Judge Dredd film brings to life one of Britain’s most infamous anti-heroes—while remaining true to the character’s roots in the science fiction comic 2000AD.
It is set in Mega-City One, a huge metropolis that covers the north east of what used to be the US. The city is patrolled by Judges, law enforcement agents that act as judge, jury and executioner.
Dredd is the meanest Judge in Mega-City One. With a rookie colleague he sets out to investigate Slo-Mo, a narcotic that slows down the perception of time.
Mega-City One is a parody of a dystopian future. Alienation and unemployment are rife, and Dredd’s job is to preserve the status quo with overwhelming firepower and ever increasing repression.
John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, the comic’s creators, were involved in the film’s production. They based Dredd on Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry, complete with sarcasm and one-liners.
Karl Urban stars as Dredd but his face remains hidden behind his helmet—representing the law as faceless. But in contrast to the faceless V in V for Vendetta, Dredd offers no liberty.
This is a far better film than Sylvester Stallone’s disappointing 1995 version. It presents an even grittier vision of the future than Robocop, Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 blockbuster which was partly inspired by Judge Dredd.
Dredd is foremost an anti-hero with no redeeming features. The film depicts a nightmare world shaped by Thatcherism, with CCTV and drone surveilance to spot offenders, where the only answer from the state is to obey or be punished. It is a chilling reminder of the power of the state.
Dredd, directed by Pete Travis, is on general release