Judge Dead

According to HitFix, Dredd placed sixth this past weekend at $6.3 million, behind End of Watch, Trouble With the Curve, and House at the End of the Street. Those were all new to theaters. But Dredd also managed to lose out to Finding Nemo 3D — rereleased eight years after its initial run — and last week’s Resident Evil installment. Looking at its earnings, you’d think Dredd came out in August. You might also think ‘What the hell is Dredd?’

Neither of those thoughts are good.

In a genre overstuffed with repetitive, formulaic cash grabs, Dredd stands out as a simple and entertaining example of a comic adaptation that really works. Oh, and its 3D is worth the ticket price, which is also a sentence I never thought I’d type. Most critics dug it (17/28 positive Metacritic reviews, 77% Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), and audience reactions have been even more positive. So what’s the problem?

  • Judge Who? – Now I was pretty excited to watch Eomer, son of Eomund deliver some ruthless justice to Mega City-One’s miscreants, but as my Star Wars novel collection likes to remind me: I’m a beautiful and unique flower. The vast majority of people don’t know who Dredd is, and on the off chance they do, they’re likely still forgetting Sly Stallone’s cringeworthy middle finger to the source material.
  • We Won’t Say A Thing – People don’t necessarily need to have some past familiarity with a character to enjoy it, but Dredd was facing decent competition already. Shouldn’t Lionsgate have done a little more to introduce him?

  • There’s a vague mention of what a “Judge” actually does, and we get a few shots of ‘that mean lady from Game of Thrones’ but other than that? I still wouldn’t know what this is, and I’m not just being unfair to 60 second TV spots.
  • I dug Dredd’s theatrical trailer, but again, that’s because I already knew who he was. To most people, he looks like another one-note antihero with a bucket on his head. At least draw a connection to Avengers or Batman. DO SOMETHING. Spoiling action set pieces or making bad judgment puns is no way to go about selling this. Though in hindsight this is all very ‘duh.’
  • Is it the 3D? Maybe it’s the 3D – Yes, those studios love to tag on the extra $2.50, but it’s actually worth it. Director Pete Travis does some cool things with three dimensions here, and the effect never feels cheap. I know, I can’t believe it either.

Studios, in general, do not like ‘new.’ Of course, when running a top entertainment enterprise with millions of dollars to keep track of, dependability is understandable; executives want profit, ROI, recognition, as they should. But dependability too often leads to predictability on the consumer’s end. There are those who enjoy going to a movie on a Saturday night and getting exactly what they expected, and that’s perfectly fine. But less variety is usually a bad thing.

Since Dredd likely won’t get a sequel, a reboot, a rehash, or a remake, the ever present ‘comic book’ movie genre has lost a little something. It wasn’t a huge hit to the superhero boom, and Marvel Studios and Warner Brothers will keep right on chugging along. But we definitely lost something.

So if you’re looking to avoid all the Paul Thomas Anderson pretension this week, maybe consider thinking about possibly seeing this movie?

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