Lionsgate’s marketing has just started to get underway for Dredd, a reboot of the Judge Dredd movie franchise that kicked off with the (in)famous Sylvester Stallone vehicle in 1995. This new interpretation of the comic book property is leaner and meaner in every manner conceivable – including, a tighter budget, more down n’ dirty look, and a version of the eponymous anti-hero (Karl Urban) who’s less bulky and emotionally-vulnerable (re: we never see his face, just like in the comics).
Today, we have the first official trailer for Dredd. That preview likewise illustrates the film’s grittier aesthetic – with a growlier protagonist and nastier villain, played by Game of Thrones‘ Lena Headey – plus, a straightforward storyline that does appear to unfold in a manner akin to this year’s cult-hit Indonesian thriller, The Raid: Redemption (a.k.a. The Raid).
Dredd takes place in a futuristic, dystopian America, where the “vast, violent metropolis” Mega City One is patrolled by cops known as “Judges,” serving as a judge, jury, and executioner all in one. The most effective (and feared) of these Judges is Dredd (Urban); hence, he’s tasked to train and evaluate rookie Judge Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby). Things get real dangerous real quick when Dredd and Anderson investigate a crime that leads them to the “dangerous” side of town – and, eventually, the 200-story compound occupied by drug lord Madeline ‘Ma-Ma’ Madrigal (Headey) and her forces. This culminates in all-out warfare between Ma-Ma’s clan and the Judges, who must stay alive within the criminal-infested confines of that massive infrastructure (see: the Raid comparison).
Such a bare-bones approach does appear to benefit the Judge Dredd comic book universe on the big screen, based off this first footage from Dredd. The austere, yet recognizably advanced and futuristic design of Mega City One recalls that of the city’s portrayal in the earliest Dredd comics. Meanwhile, Urban as the film’s namesake likewise feels closer to the classic, borderline-robotic iteration of the character (who was the inspiration for the original RoboCop).
Admittedly, the action and central set piece in Dredd really don’t appear to hold a candle to those from The Raid (as we expected), but director Pete Travis (Vantage Point) still seems to have done a competent job. Similarly, the script work from Alex Garland (28 Days Later…) comes off here as lighter on the cheese elements, and more focused on telling a basic, but thrilling story – rather than attempting to establish a convoluted mythology, like Stallone’s movie did.
One note of concern, though – does it seem as though the slow-motion effects of the “Slo-Mo” drug, which powers Ma-Ma’s empire, might grow tedious – and clash with the film’s less-stylized look? Hopefully not, but still…
Dredd opens in U.S. theaters (2D and 3D) around the U.S. on September 21st, 2012.