July 19, 2013
This edit is the fanedit that won me to the genre! It does an amazing job of rescuing a bland movie, and bringing it closer to the 2012 "Dredd," which -- on a tiny budget -- nailed it.
The 1994 Stallone "Judge Dredd" movie was, to say the least, a massive misfire. It ditched a lot of the core mythos that made the Dreddverse interesting. It tried to lighten the mood using Rob Schneider. And it ended up with a generic, not-very-good and not-very-bad future cop movie, barely memorable at that. This, despite a massive budget. It got nowhere, irritating fans but too bland to attract other audiences, despite the star power of Stallone.
The universe of Dredd is a mixture of grimdark and plain old strange: it is a dystopian urban future with 90% unemployment, tower blocks of up to 100,000 people each, mega-cities of up of to 800 million each, school subjects like Unemployment ("what are you going to do, when you have nothing to do?"), profound alienation, celebrity culture and TV as the main influencers, and society held together by a police state of Judges. The Judges come to power (in the former US, at least) through a coup d'etat by the Justice Department, in a world ending in nuclear war; they are empowered to execute on the spot; are inflexible and zero-tolerance, this including jailing people for unlicensed gold fish, littering and suicide ("self-homicide"), and reading anything from the 20th century, such as celeb news on the "Dallas" TV show and the Dredd/ 2000AD comics; there are no juries, no appeals, no lawyers, no apologies. Judges make up around half of the employed, may not marry or have kids, and live (in the later stories) in chapter houses or precincts, a sort of monastic knighthood imposing The Law. There is no free speech, the Mayor is a figurehead, there is an official ban on pre-Judge history, ongoing purges of mutants and aliens by the state; pro-democracy protesters are massacred or lobotimised. A lot of crime is extremely brutal and most of it is completely pointless "("I was bored") or a revolt against the misery.
Within this grimdark world, though, a lot of the stories are satirical, humorous or philosophical: is the system fascist? is the system a model we should emulate? is democracy workable? why does society love a man whose hobby is to grow the biggest nose in history and have his own TV show? In one story, where a gang smashes cleaning robots and takes over the job of mopping floors: "I'm ... I'm working! Actually working!" Dredd, the titular character, is The Law, literally: the most incorruptible cop, inflexible, without a personal life; he does not even have a face (well, its never shown, ever, he is always helmeted); he's a clone of one of the founding Judges, literally bred for The Law. He is, though, reflective: in a notable arc, he begins to doubt whether it is correct to crush the pro-democracy people, and pushes for a democratic referendum (most people, in the end, don't bother to vote, having no interest in the issues, and of the voters, most want the Judges); in another story, he sentences the mopping gang to 10 years hard labour ("Thank you, Dredd! I don;t care what people say, you do have a heart!")
And then ... we have the Stallone "Judge Dredd": Dredd is now an odd cop, a Dirty Harry outlier rather than the exemplar in a world where Dirty Harry would be seen as a bit soft on crime; his sentencing of crime in the movie is emotional and nuts e.g. blowing up a car for a parking offence, rather than jailing the perp for defying The Law; there is, bizarrely, a free press that calls out the Judges and gets Dredd fired; we have juries and lawyers, which undermines the entire premise of the Dreddverse and the rationale for the Judge system; laws are bent as personal favours and through trade-offs, as at Dredd's sentencing; Dredd is an arrogant blowhard, rather than a humorless cypher; there is romance in the ranks, as with Dredd and Hershey; we see Dredd's face every possible chance; and we have Schneider all over the place. There is no sense of the larger social context: if you were not a fan, you would probably not know that this is a society held together by terror and TV, a harsh dictatorship in a decaying city, leaving with the impression that its a recognisable future, albeit one where cops are a bit more militarised than today, and have cool flying bikes. And here, Dredd-gets-the-girl-with-a-smooch-and-visits-her-apartment replaces the reality that Dredd-and-Hershey-live-in-barracks-and-would-get-sent-to-a-gulag-on-Titan-for-smooching.
This edit helps set things right, with a proper introduction, no wisecracking (or smiling,, or even hinting at a smile) on the part of Dredd, as little Schneider as possible, the Dredd/ Hershey romance gone, and loads of tweaks and edits that change the mood, the narrative, the characterisation, and remove the most jarring inconsistencies with the lore ... and a film you can watch and enjoy, not just as a fan of Dredd.
As the pitch for the fanedit says: "No romance, no learning, no friendship, and less Rob Schneider."