Dredd by Ammar Al Subahi
About a week ago I saw a new comic book adaption on the big screen. By this time you might have seen it yourself, or at the very least heard of it. I am speaking, of course, about Dredd 3D.
Dredd 3D is a stand alone adaption of a comic book character called Judge Dredd who first appeared in the British anthology comic, 2000AD. Created originally back in the 1970's by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra, Judge Dredd is a gun-toting hard-ass cop dispensing justice in the futuristic fictional metropolis of Mega-City One; one of several huge "Mega Cities" in the 22th century where corruption and crime run afoul and the only thing standing against the forces of evil are so called "Judges." The Judges are elite police officers who act as judge, jury, and executioner, all at the same time. And Dredd is pretty much the best of the best, and perhaps the meanest, too. Seriously, if you think Punisher is hard, then you need to check out Dredd.
The reason I say Dredd 3D is a "stand alone adaption" is because it is in no shape or form related to the horrible Stallone adaption made in 1995 which fans love to hate. This is a new take, a new chance to bring the character into the big screen, sanctioned by Wagner himself.
So how was it?
If you ask me: AWESOME. No pretences, no funny (read: stupid) stuff, no wish-washy romantic Hollywood crap. Just a straight up a good action movie which delivers. Don't be put off by the "3D" either: while commonly looked down upon as a cheap device in order to justify a larger price-tag on the tickets, the 3D in Dredd is kept minimal, does not draw attention to itself and works to enhance the more spectacular moments like the "slow-mo" scenes.
I'm not the only one who loved the movie. Dredd had high ratings on sites like Rotten Tomatoes and was pretty well received by critics and audiences alike. Things were looking good.
Until it came to America.
Online ratings started to drop, critics were sceptical of the fact that we never saw the main lead Karl Urban's face because he never took his helmet (UGH!). And finally, in an act of biblical cruelty, the gods of box office punished Dredd 3D by making it flunk financially. Perhaps they were punishing the creators for their hubris? Or perhaps - much like the God of the Old Testament - they were punishing the heretics (that would be us) for putting our faith in a false non-Hollywood idol; a reminder to the true believers of the mainstream audience and film producers alike that "they" (Hollywood) are the one and only way.
How could this happen? Why did Dredd 3D fail? Reading up on fan reactions on the internet, I've noticed theories and trends regarding the reasoning around Dredd 3D's failure at the box office.
Many have suggested that part of what killed Dredd is that audiences have just recently seen pretty much the same movie in The Raid – an Asian action movie where cops fight their way up a building, floor by floor, to reach the big bad meanie. Sure, Dredd feels similar that way because the plot is essentially the same: "cops" kicking ass in a building. Still, this is a pretty unfair comparison. Dredd is as similar to The Raid as The Raid is similar to Die Hard; the original "cop kicks ass in a building" movie. Meaning yeah, the situation is the same, but they are still essentially different: The Raid is all about that funky kung fu, while Dredd is more balls-to-the-walls "superhero" action. Still, there probably is some truth to this theory. While the time gap between The Raid and Die Hard is a good 30 years or so, the time gap between Dredd and The Raid is only nine months or so.
Bad timing, I guess. But the funny thing is that supposedly, the script for Dredd was finished and approved long before The Raid went into production.
Some have also suggested that the movie was too dark and sardonic for the American audience who are currently going through a heavy economic depression (uhhh... The Dark Knight Rises, anyone?). Others have, and rightly so, commented on the fact that Judge Dredd isn't a big household name like Superman or Spiderman. Many have also stated that the marketing of this movie was bad, whatever that's supposed to mean.
This is basically scratching the surface. And there are plenty more arguments for why Dredd didn't resonate with American audiences. Ultimately, for whatever reason, Dredd 3D failed commercially. What's more interesting to discuss, however, is how Dredd's failure in turn can potentially affect future comic book adaptions.
Box office statistics rule the film industry. Comic book adaptions are not an exception. There will be a time when comic book adaptions all together start losing their commercial appeal, but until then, producers are looking at the specifics. And what can we tell from Dredd's failure?
For one, we might potentially see a continued decrease in, or rather reluctance, in producing minor, or more "alternative" comic book adaptions. Characters such as Invincible or The Shadow might face a tough time getting on to the big screen simply because their names are not Superman or Batman and nor are they in any way affiliated with the Avengers. And when they do get up there, there's a big risk they bomb. We've seen it happen before with poor movies like Ghost Rider and The Spirit, and to great movies such as Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Dredd is just more fodder for that statistic.
Second, Dredd was rated R. Hollywood producers are already champions of the PG-13 rating as these movies are traditionally the ones who bring in the dough. Very few recent comic book adaptations have been allowed to run with an R-rating and in turn succeeded commercially. Right now I can only think of 300 and Watchmen. Other R-rated comic book adaptations such as the Punisher movies, have bombed. Can you imagine a PG-13 Punisher or Dredd that is good? Neither can I.
Perhaps Dredd will recover eventually through DVD-sales, much like Blade Runner did, for instance. Even so, it's sad to see yet another great comic book movie fail, and the motivation to give minor characters a try at an R-rated movie slowly fading.
Still, box office can go to hell. Dredd 3D is a great action movie, period.
Go see it.