Friday, November 30, 2012

The Dystopian Future Of Dredd

The future is here. On Cyber Monday I finished most of my holiday shopping. No navigating Black Friday lines, no boxing gifts and mailing them to family. In fact, I paid extra for presents to be gift wrapped and shipped directly to various mailing addresses. There’s no going back to the old ways. I am happy with such convenience. Pleased with myself, I decided to do some shopping for myself.

So why, oh why did I search for Dredd, a depressing and violent original story that IS NOT a simple remake of Sylvester Stallone’s 1996 version of the comic book Judge Dredd. Something about this flick got under my skin. I didn’t even intend to see it. And now I feel actual disappointment that it will not be released until January 2013.

So here I sit, wondering why I want to see this movie again after its September 2012 theatrical release. Usually movies based in gratuitous violence without a shred of substance keep me from the theater. I like to be uplifted by good Fantasy and Sci Fi, i.e. Return of the King and Star Wars: A New Hope. Yet Dredd kept me fixed in my seat. Its substance is derived from its vision.

This vision shows a post-apocalyptic future in which Mega-City One protects 800 million residents from the radiation outside with massive walls . Great swaths of the U.S. are uninhabitable - a metaphor for environmental armageddon. Mega-buildings, housing masses of unemployed people, are the worst kind of hell. With a lack of space and dearth of law enforcement, Judges act as the police, the jury, the judges, and the executioners all in one. They are the court system, they decide rulings on the spot, and they call dispatch to clean up the scene of the crime.

Dredd tapped into my real worries about overpopulation and limited resources, worries about humanity being compressed into increasingly dense areas. The twisting, looping, unending streets filled with the road rage of ubiquitous traffic, the massive scale of the mega buildings, and the overwhelmed public services where 17,000 crimes are reported a day and only a fraction will elicit a Judge’s response--this vision shows a terminal triage of justice with no time for reflection. The brute action only reinforces the horror of this dystopia.

The population is subject to the scourge of “Slo-Mo,” a drug that slows the perception of time. Thus, when drug lord “Ma Ma” has three men skinned and thrown from the 200th floor of the Peach Cities mega building, the men experience an excruciatingly slow death. Judge Dredd and his trainee, who ditches her helmet in order to use her physic abilities, are swept up in an orgy of savagery when they arrest one of Ma Ma’s lieutenants.

I regret not seeing this movie in 3D. The Slo-Mo scenes are rendered in a psychedelic kaleidoscope of color that demands more than two dimensions. When I went for a second screening, the movie had already left. It turned out to be an underserving box office dud. Perhaps it was avoided because of its relation to the Stallone movie. Whatever the case, I want to see it again. If only I could unwrap it on Christmas morning. It has the power of making me feel incredibly grateful for the real world I inhabit. And, moreover, that humanity still has time to avoid a dystopian future of dread.

By Mark Schelske