Release Date(s)2012 (June 6, 2017)
Studio(s)DNA Films/IM Global (Lionsgate)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: B-
Based on the British comic book series Judge Dredd, which first appeared in the pages of 2000 AD in 1977, Pete Travis’ Dredd brings the property to the big screen for a second go-round, but this time fully rebooted and actually quite good (no insult to Sylvester Stallone intended). Karl Urban (he of Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings fame) dons the iconic helmet and armor here and – flat-out, hands down – it’s a perfect fit. He wears it like a skin, filling it out with laconic delivery and granite-cool determination.
As written by Alex Garland (who would later direct Ex Machina), Dredd’s story is blissfully simple. In the late 21st Century, the United States has become a post-apocalyptic wasteland known as Cursed Earth. Most of the surviving population has been jammed into Mega-City One, a sprawling metropolis of 800 million citizens spanning much of the East Coast. It’s a cesspool, ridden by gangs, crime, and violence. The peace, such as it is, is kept by the men and women of the Hall of Justice, more commonly known as Judges. When a triple homicide is reported in the high-rise slum Mega-Block of Peach Trees, Judge Dredd (Urban) and his trainee partner Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) investigate and learn that the murders were committed by the Ma-Ma Gang, who have taken over the building and are pushing a new narcotic called Slo-Mo. The Judges’ course of action is clear: Wipe out the gang and the Slo-Mo all at once. But Ma-Ma (Lena Headey, Game of Thrones) isn’t going down without a fight, so the Judges soon find themselves facing 200 stories of heavily-armed Perps… and they’re gonna have to clear ‘em out one by one.
Dredd was shot digitally in 2D and 3D in CineForm RAW (2K) and Redcode RAW (4.5K) formats using a variety of digital camera rigs (including high-speed photography) and was mastered to a 2K digital intermediate. That 2K DI was upsampled to 4K, given a new HDR color timing pass, and the result is presented here in 2D at the 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Though upsampled, the image is pretty phenomenal. Mind you it’s not perfect, but it’s perfect for this film, delivering a gritty and stylized presentation that’s highly cinematic and immersive. Blacks are inky and deep, colors are rich and sparkling (especially during the Slo-Mo sequences), and there’s very good detail and texturing. Yes, a true native 4K presentation would offer additional fine detail. There is still a slight detail improvement beyond the regular Blu-ray (the difference between upsampled 1080p vs 1556p), but the gains in contrast and color rendered by the HDR are massive. Few films are as perfectly suited to it as Dredd. The result is exactly what it should be: Gorgeous.
The 4K disc’s audio improvement is significant too. The previous Blu-ray offered an already phenomenal English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that was nothing short of thrilling. For 4K, Lionsgate has upgraded that to object-based English Dolby Atmos and it’s one of the most active and dynamic mixes I’ve heard in a very long time. First of all, the staging is incredibly wide, both in front and behind the viewer. During action sequences, waves of sound wash over you from seemingly every direction. Clarity is exceptional, panning effects are precise and fluid, and the height channels are used to wonderful effect. LFE reinforcement is satisfying too. This is reference quality audio and it’s everything you want your sonic experience of Dredd to be. Note that additional audio options on 4K include an English 2.0 Dolby Digital track optimized for late night viewing, as well as both French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Optional subtitles include English SDH and Spanish. The aforementioned 7.1 DTS-HD track is still available on the Blu-ray.
Both the 4K disc and the included Blu-ray offer the following bonus features, all in HD:
- Mega-City Masters: 35 Years of Judge Dredd (14:27)
- Day of Chaos: The Visual Effects of Dredd (15:21)
- Dredd Featurette (1:53)
- Dredd’s Gear (2:31)
- The 3rd Dimension (2:00)
- Welcome to Peach Trees (2:33)
- Dredd Motion Comic Prequel (2:57)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:30)
Only the first two of those are really worth your time, but they’re quite good. I just wish they were longer and that there was an audio commentary track on this film. Still, this disc does have one especially nice bonus going for it. The included Blu-ray Disc is the same one that was previously released, which means that it offers the film in HD in both 2D and 3D. That’s a nice surprise, as 3D isn’t listed on the packaging. If you’ve read our review of the Blu-ray 3D version (find that here), you’ll know that presentation is quite good too. Obviously, you also get a Digital HD code on a paper insert.
Dredd is just a damn great no-nonsense, post-apocalyptic action film. Yes, it’s a shoot-em-up of the “everything in sight” variety, but both the character and the setting justify it. What I particularly love is that, while the film has a strong visual sense, the filmmakers never let it get in the way of the action. In fact, it actually softens the film’s violence a hair by comic stylizing it – there’s an unreality to it that works for the source material. Better still, Karl Urban chews up the frame like his bullets chew up the scenery. The film just works. There’s even a good twist you don’t see coming. Fans have long hoped for a sequel, though terrible marketing resulted in disappointing box office. Still, the film has developed a nice following on Blu-ray and cable and now there’s news that the producers are considering taking the character to TV. They’re even talking to Karl Urban about reprising the role. Damn, I hope so. In the meantime, there’s no better way to celebrate that news than with Dredd on 4K with glorious HDR… and for just $20 too. What the hell are you waiting for, Citizen? Highly recommended!
- Bill Hunt