‘Dredd 3D’ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated November 18th, 2014 at 4:17 am,

Karl Urban Dredd 3D Dredd 3D Review

Dredd 3D offers an extremely enjoyable action ride and, for some, might even stand as one of Hollywood’s most entertaining comic book adaptations.

The 1995 Judge Dredd movie starring Sylvester Stallone remains a guilty pleasure adventure for plenty of action fans, not to mention a never ending Internet meme generator, but fell short of expectations for many comic book diehards. While Stallone may have been taking the role seriously, the campy one-liners and melodramatic character interaction undercut some of the most enjoyable qualities in the Judge Dredd character – namely a ruthless (and faceless) judge, jury, and instant executioner.

Rising above the standard skepticism surrounding franchise reboots, fans as well as action lovers remained cautiously optimistic about director Pete Travis and star Karl Urban’s Dredd 3D. Despite the optimism, early plot synopses and feature trailers drew strong comparisons to the premise of Gareth Evans’ Indonesian hit, The Raid: Redemption – about a team of cops that must fight their way through an apartment complex, one level at a time, to arrest a merciless drug lord – causing some moviegoers to worry that Dredd was little more than an uninspired franchise reboot fashioned onto the premise of a lesser known (but more original) film production.

Dredd was actually scripted long before The Raid became a breakout hit but, considering comparability, the film is now faced with an even steeper challenge. So, does Dredd manage to deliver its own action-packed (and memorable) thrill ride – one that successfully rebrands Judge Dredd as the gritty character longtime fans remember?

Fortunately, the answer is: yes. Dredd delivers – in a big way. There’s no doubt the film shares plot similarities with The Raid, but for every jaw-dropping knife fight in Evans’ film, Travis offers a comparably fun gun battle (and plenty of iconic Dredd scowl). Ultimately, Dredd is a grounded action experience – relying heavily on the titular character’s physicality and gruff personality to keep things entertaining. There are some fast-paced set pieces (such as the opening motorcycle chase) and loads of slick visuals (thanks to the “Slo-Mo” drug at the center of the plot) but instead of over the top action, moviegoers are treated to a smart combination of entertaining character moments, an intriguing near future backdrop, and thin but enjoyable plot points that make room for Dredd to take center stage – dispatching one thug after another in a variety of brutal conflicts.

Karl Urban Olivia Thirlby Dredd 3D Dredd 3D Review

Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) in ‘Dredd’

Instead of spending time introducing audience members to a backstory of how Dredd became the most feared Judge in Mega-City One, the film presents the character (much like in the comics) as a faceless force of nature that will stop at nothing to enact justice and protect innocent lives. When Dredd and a would-be Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) respond to a series of homicides in the “Peach Trees” slum block, the pair begin an investigation that threatens infamous drug kingpin Madeline Madrigal – aka Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), whose “Slo-Mo” is quickly becoming the narcotic of choice in the city. In an effort to retain her control over Peach Trees, Ma-Ma locks down the 200 story slum – and offers a sizable bounty to any resident who can kill the Judges. With nowhere to escape, and no backup, Dredd and Anderson are forced to fight their way through Peach Trees – clearing the complex one floor at a time in an against all odds attempt to free Mega-City One from Ma-Ma’s grasp.

Anyone looking for a deep Batman Begins character piece will likely be underwhelmed by the storyline in Dredd – as the movie is significantly more interested in the crisis at hand rather than trials the Judge may have faced in the past. Travis is unapologetic in this approach – as even Anderson appears to know better than to dig around behind Dredd’s helmet. However, Dredd has never been a character that needed a lot of exploration – and the narrow focus of the film allows for an unapologetic (and fun) opportunity to watch the Judge, armed with limited resources and ammunition, react to a variety of challenging circumstances. Urban, who never takes off his helmet during the entire film, embodies the dry humor and cold wit of Dredd at every turn – with a gravelly voice, imposing physicality, and an unrelenting/iconic frown.

Thirlby as Anderson is also a smart juxtaposition for the callous and veteran Dredd. The actress offers a “rookie” perspective, while appearing at home with the violence around her, assisting in teaching the audience about this version of Mega-City One and the Judges – without in-your-face exposition that might otherwise inundate the action. Despite her inexperience and smaller frame, Anderson has the added benefit of psychic abilities that lead to a number of the film’s most entertaining moments. Headey’s Ma-Ma, on the other hand, is mostly presented as a MacGuffin – a problem that must be addressed – more than a multilayered person. Travis provides a backstory for the character and she serves her function in the larger Dredd plot (to regularly instigate the Judges) but is, without a doubt, underserved by the final film. Ma-Ma’s characterization won’t bother most viewers, but next to captivating versions of Dredd and Anderson, the villain falls a bit flat – especially with a talented actress like Headey (Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones) in the role.

Lena Headey Dredd 3D Dredd 3D Review

Ma Ma (Lena Headey) in ‘Dredd’

As mentioned, the action in Dredd is grounded and there are no giant robot fights this round. Travis relies almost entirely on practical effects – letting the characters and explosions sell the film experience. Moviegoers who are easily wooed by style-over-substance CGI action fare (like Resident Evil: Retribution) might be underwhelmed by the, at times, limited scope of Dredd‘s action sequences. Instead, the movie focuses directly on its titular character, following the Judge through one explosive hurdle after another. The conflicts are fun, and considering the heroes are significantly outnumbered and low on ammunition, each quarrel presents a different side of Dredd and Anderson’s respective skill sets – allowing the movie to showcase Dredd’s ingenuity instead of dropping him into one brainless gunfight after another.

Dredd is showing in 2D and 3D theaters, and while many moviegoers might be skeptical about the premium upcharge, the 3D is worth the added price. The Slo-Mo drug sequences are especially enjoyable in 3D and, for the most part, the film makes smart (and even artistic) use of the format. Admittedly, a good chunk of the movie takes place in tight hallways where the effect is dialed down but a number of key sequences are successfully enhanced by the 3D – meaning some 2D Dredd viewers could feel as though they missed out on the full experience.

Action fans who expect deep character exploration or over the top CGI visuals might be somewhat underwhelmed by Dredd. However, Travis and Urban were intentional in their approach to the fan favorite hero, delivering a faithful Judge Dredd interpretation and smart Peach Trees “sandbox” – where the characters engage in a variety of tense conflicts. One of 2012’s biggest surprises, Dredd 3D offers an extremely enjoyable action ride and, for some, might even stand as one of Hollywood’s most entertaining comic book adaptations.

If you’re still on the fence about Dredd 3D, check out the trailer below:

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For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant team check out the Dredd 3D episode of the SR Underground podcast.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below. If you’ve seen the movie and want to discuss details about the film without worrying about spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it, please head over to our Dredd 3D Spoilers Discussion.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Dredd 3D is Rated R for strong bloody violence, language, drug use and some sexual content. Now playing in 3D and 2D theaters.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5

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  1. 4 stars!? I’ll be seeing it tomorrow then! :)

  2. The most important thing is that Dredd was being made at the same time as the Raid and only was released later due to effects work that was needed. So it definitely was not trying to copy Raid.

    • Dredd was written and shot before the Raid – it spent a year in post-produtcion,

  3. I will defiantly check out Dredd you made good points for the 3D whether I go see it in 3D is the question(I hate all 3D something to do with me wearing glasses) you may have, wish your rating system was from 1 to 10 because as you’ve said previously your a tough judge/grader on the ratings scale & if you had more half points spread out you would better characterize exactly what your saying in your review…

  4. What a relief. I was hoping you drew the card on this one Ben.
    A Ben Kendrick four stars is a must see regardless but I have
    been rooting for this film staving off being disappointed.

    My biggest fear was Thirlby who looked a bit fragile
    in the trailers and if her character didn’t measure
    up this film would be difficult to hold together.

    The lean and mean action suits me just fine
    and I’ll be strapping in for the ride tonight.

    • Olivia Thirlby fragile?

      Rest assured, Anderson + machine gun + perp = perp with 10 bullets in his face.

      • I said that is how all 5’4″ of her looked in the trailer.
        It is clear from the review my concerns were allayed.
        Your assurances too, motoko, have been duly noted.

  5. Saw it last week here in Chicago with Karl Urban present. This movie was a complete surprise, in the best way. I urge everyone to see it. Urban is perfect as Dredd and the movie is exciting both visually and in terms of plot. A fantastic adaption and one of the best comic book movies in years. And my God is it violent.

    Go see this movie.

  6. I really liked it too

  7. @benkendrick
    Great review.
    I’ll be checking this out over the weekend.

  8. I’d give this 3.5. A little too short, lacking in any story whatsoever, too closely resembling the raid and Ma Ma was a terrible ‘villain’. 3D was fantastic and the film looked good but overall a bit of a meh experience, I could have missed it and I’d still be the same.

    • Lacking in story? It’s based off a comic book… can’t resemble the Raid if this was written before the movie, Ma-Ma a terrible villian? You been smoking the slo-mo, cuase it’s effecting your “judgement”..(zing)

      What is it with people thinking a movie like this needs a story? I don’t get it the trailers doesn’t scream Oscar ya know.

  9. These Raid comparisons are really tired. Every single review.

    • Couldn’t agree more! Don’t remember such comparisons when Armegeddon and Deep Impact came out, or Dantes Peak and Volcano, The Illusionist and The Prestige to name a few, get get get get over it!

      • The problem is that ‘Raid:Redemption’ has already been out on BD and DVD a week, while there was only a 3 month separation between ‘Deep Impact’ and ‘Armageddon.’ Sure with a 6 month separation between them way more people have already seen Raid and can jump on the observation band wagon. ‘D.I.’ and ‘Armageddon’ were so close you had people making a choice whether to see stars Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni, and Elijah Wood or Bruce Willis, Liv Tyler, and Ben Affleck take on the end of the world. Throw in the fact that Michael Bay (‘The Rock’and’Bad Boys’) was directing and stars like Billy Bob Thornton, Steve Buscemi, and Michael Clark Duncan were thrown into the mix and plenty, including me at the time, waited a couple of months and saw ‘Armageddon’ instead.

        I never did get around to seeing ‘Deep Impact’ even though overall ‘Armageddon’ is only rated just a tad higher, probably only because of the star power in and behind the film. Anyway the 3 extra months, yeah you’re going to get way more comparison comments from people…

        • “DREDD” was delayed and had it’s release date pushed back about 3 months. During that time “The Raid” came out. Very bad luck. They also missed out on the large Empire magazine spread that was published before the release date was pushed back.

    • You DID notice the reason for the mention was to head off the “rip off” argument and made clear this was written prior to that film?


  10. Urban really did a fantastic spot-on portrayal. I felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. This is the most violent comic book adaptation in years. I’ve been a long-time fan of Dredd. I quit reading Marvel and Dc in the late 80’s simply because British comics were (at the time) better bang for your buck. What will be exciting is if this does well, we’ll see Dredd venture into the Cursed Earth. I’m hoping he encounters the black cloned Tyrannosaurus Rex-Satanus!(Btw, there are many theories that Crichton’s “Jurassic Park” was singularly ripped off of the “Satanus” Pat Mills classic storyline in 2000 ad Dredd . Don’t believe me, go read the Cursed Earth reprint!) There is also talk of an appearance by the Dark Judges-“Death” “”Fear” “Fire” and “Mortis!” Do you know how epic these will be!!!!? Anderson will probably be back as she is handy against the Dark Judges… Loved the movie. This one deserves everyone’s support. GO SEE IT! We need more Brit adaptations anyways. Maybe we’ll get a “Slaine” or “ABC Warriors” adaptation next!

  11. As a longtime Judge Dredd fan I was very keen that this should represent the best of Dredd. I mean, even in the comics it was sometimes overblown and silly… so it was important to me that the grim and grumpy Dredd that I loved came through.

    I am so happy to be able to say that Dredd 3d was a massively encouraging success in this regard and I, once again, cannot wait for the next issue… I mean, episode.

    If you loved the more mature Dredd content then definitely go see this. Not as deep perhaps as the very best work from the comics (America or Midnight Surfer for example) but wholly in the same world…and with the same Dredd.

  12. Went to see this and really quite enjoyed it, wasn’t expecting much to be honest, the low production value is evident throughtout and you can tell it was made in South Africa, the 3D really does work but I felt it appeared out of focus at times which hurt my eyes, the violence wasn’t as bad as I was expecting for an R rated movie, exploding cheek aside I was expecting to see everything from the final slo mo death but alas they cut away, that said Karl Urban is badass in everything he is in and nails Dredd, I liked the simplicity of the plot after a summer of nonsense and over bloated movies and will definitely be purchasing this on blue ray! I’d give 3.5 stars, just miss the body armour and epic feel of the future that the 95 Dredd had

    • If the 3D is out of focus it’s the cinemas fault.

      • Yeah maybe you’re right, or I just forgot to wear my glasses ha

    • They didn’t cut away, but they did change camera angle. I was squirming before they changed view, so in a way I’m glad they did.

        • Yuk! (^-^)

  13. I was thinking it was gonna be more of a 2.5 out of 5, glad to see I was wrong… Ill be seeing this on Monday or Tuesday when I get some time to…

  14. I see the critics have come out in force to ruin that 90% rating it’s had on Rotten Tomatoes for three weeks. meh, they’re just trying to be different and go against the flow of awesome!

    90% for three weeks. Opens in the US and is now 77%. go figure.

  15. It was very enjoyable. Very gritty

  16. Can’t wait to see this and hear v what you guys say in next weeks underground episode and what ant has to say about transmorphers 2

  17. Definitely agree with your 4 stars Ben but that’s only because in all my years of watching movies, I haven’t seen one that comes close to being absolutely perfect.

    If it’s still showing in the UK, I might go see it again.

  18. Came out here start of the month in the UK and saw it twice in 3D and enjoyed it immensely. Upon a second viewing you appreciate the urban gritty environs more and the film evokes a docu-real vibe which adds to the dystopic setting therefore creating an atmosphere that doesn’t pander in any way or dumbdown to an audience expecting a typical action movie. Bring on the sequel.

  19. Just came back from a screening. Yes it was good, I don’t believe it for a 4 star, maybe 3 to 3 1/2. They played it straight and I really appreciated that. Good action, just enough humor, and oh so VIOLENT. I found myself turning my head a couple of times. Although the movie is about Dredd, I think the rookie stole the show.

    One thing, I know it’s merely a coincidence, but I can’t help but feel a tad bit of deja vu between this and The Raid Redemption. There were some very similar shots, and the “Grit” of the film was damn near the same. Not saying anyone stole from anyone, but it’s oddly close. It’s almost like they saw The Raid and said, “That grit is really cool, let’s apply it to our film too.”

    The 3d was done very well too.

    • but you see this is the thing Dredd was shot BEFORE the Raid.

      • “Shot” being the key word. I know the scenes were not copied but the “grit” could have been applied after the fact.

        • ‘Grit’ is a rather abstact term to use. Define.

  20. 4 STARS???? Heavens to Mergatroid! Don’t get me wrong as I am excitedly happy to see this review and the 4 stars, I’m just shocked because of a fairly dissapointing year so far over all.

    Thanks BEN!

  21. There is a lot wrong with the new Dredd movie. The comics were set in and aroud 2099. This new movie doesnt look anything like the comics. Costumes, bikes and tech are all very different to the comics. The helmet is this movie is great though. Karl Urban is awesome as an actor but Stallone was the better choice for Dredd. Aleast Stallones version looked like the comics and appeared to be set in the correct time period. Plus Armand Asante is an awesome villain.

    • It’s an adaptation; there have been many artists who have drawn Dredd and his world differently over 35 years, they aren’t ‘wrong’.

    • Stallone looked like a power ranger. And he rode a glittery jet ski on wheels.

  22. Enjoyed what I saw and would see it again. W.S Anderson should take notes on what good Slo-Mo shots are.

  23. Well, I thought I left enough time yet the show was sold out.
    Perhaps that means box office does indeed exceed expectations.

  24. Fantastic movie. Did not see it in 3d though. Thirlby added a lot too the movie.

  25. Saw it this morning and I really enjoyed it. I just saw the regular version, since I don’t like much 3D. But wow, I';m really amazed at this film. Great cast, great actions. No shaky cams.. The slow mo is freaking awesome. Anyways, ya’ll should see it! 5 Stars

  26. Wow, I didn’t expect it to be nearly as good as the review lets on.
    Guess I’ll have to go check it out after all…

  27. Me and the wife went last night. If they let us cuss on here I’d be cussing up a storm! Man was that a ##$%$% great flick! The way the thugs died.. the various ways…. wooo! My wife kept repeating: “oh man is this good!” I could just nod and drool each time somebody took a dirt nap.
    The theater was pretty empty. I think there were probably 20 people in there and I was the only one laughing my culo off.
    I loved how the female rookie wasn’t used as a plot device to humanize Dredd, or make him get in touch with his feminine side. She spanked butt right along with him.
    Nothing silly with the gun play like Sly’s last flick. They played it straight up and functional.
    I loved that Urban kept the helmet on the entire flick. Man did that really sell the character.
    Judge Dredd is most def “rewatchable”. Gonna check it out again with the fellas.

  28. Just gotta add “there’s a ton of stuff you just won’t expect” ewwwwww, yikes and Holy crap! are good expressions

    • i think you may be confusing stallones Judge Dredd with demolition man

      • LOL. Yup, he sho is.