It’s not just a different director or writer that makes Dredd (of 2012) such a massive success where Judge Dredd (of 1995) was a gigantic turd sandwich: it’s the time we live in.
In 1995 everything was on the up. We weren’t in any major wars, the economy was happy, people were sitting pretty in the joy of the music of Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise or Shaggy’s Mr Boombastic, depending on which of the two songs you liked (it had to be one of them).
It was imperfect, but it was good. So the Judge Dredd of 1995 was a seriously Americanised take on a very satirical British concept. A man personifying the police state and what becomes of those in charge when the word inevitably fucks up becomes a quipping tough guy with a “funny” sidekick and a love interest.
Nobody had even heard the word ‘derp’, so no negative opinions on Rob Schneider could accurately be vocalised.
He took his helmet off, both ignoring the rule that had been in place since the early days of the Dredd comics and going totally against the fact that he is meant to be faceless. He is justice. He is the law. These things do not have a face to them. They are inhuman. They are concepts. They are not slightly wonky faced men who slur their words and look a bit like my dad.
1995 was stupid, uncaring and shit because everyone was happy.
Dredd 2012 is in a world where we genuinely see everything becoming like the comics. We’re fucked, people are getting killed in wars, nobody has any money apart from the elite few, discontent is spreading and it often feels just a misspoken word from a politician away from anarchy, or a misinterpreted comment on religion (by pretty much anyone) away from all-out war in some places.
The police state is slowly coming to be a reality in many so-called civilised countries and, obviously, we’re all just sitting back and taking it like the good little bitches we are. We have new Doctor Who, so it’s fine.
Dredd reflects that. It’s un-fuck-giving. It’s contained, in a relatively small locale. It’s simple and straight to the point, because nobody can be bothered paying (or has the time to pay) attention anymore. It doesn’t need to explain beyond exposition of where the world currently is in the film, because we’re already comfortable with the idea of those in positions of authority having unarguable authority we would never question. The Judges just seem like a natural evolution of how things are going, at least right now.
The thing about Dredd 2012 is, it just makes sense. In 1977 it was started as a commentary on the police state, fascism, authoritarianism and the rule of law. Now it just seems like a prescient documentary, and the movie is a fantastic representation of that.
I lost track of what I’m saying at some point here – it happens when you write without a particular plan. But my basic point is: I really like Dredd. I think it’s a very good sci-fi action flick, and the level of violence is refreshing, because it seems we haven’t had it – not in this sort of ridiculous fashion – since Verhoeven’s 80s output.