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Face-Off: Judge Dredd (1995) vs. Dredd (2012)

07.17.2014by: Dave Davis
Last week's Face-Off column was a showdown between two successful tales of survival in a world after a virus outbreak, and more of you agreed that 28 DAYS LATER provided the more satisfying post-apocalyptic thrills over I AM LEGEND.

This weekend brings the sequel THE PURGE: ANARCHY, which offers a glimpse into a future defined by its unique set of laws. And speaking of both the future and THE LAW... it has now been personified on screen twice, in 1995's JUDGE DREDD and 2012's DREDD. Both are R-rated sci-fi/action movies, but which is actually the better representation of the classic 2000AD comic character?

(Please note: Face Off is an opinion column. We're not using any actual science to prove or disprove anything. It's just for fun.)
ACTOR
Action legend Sylvester Stallone
Current go-to genre guy Karl Urban
COLLEAGUES
Judge Hershey (Diane Lane), Chief Justice Fargo (Max Von Sydow), and annoying criminal sidekick Fergee (Rob Schneider). The inherent awesomeness of Von Sydow is sadly stifled by the endlessly obnoxious "comic relief" of Schneider
Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a rookie Judge who has psychic powers due to genetic mutation resulting from radiation exposure. She handily assists Dredd by shooting the hell out of numerous bad guys, and survives to graduate her "test"
VILLAINS
Rico (Armand Assante), Dredd's homicidal genetic brother, corrupt Judge Griffin (Jurgen Prochnow), scientist Ilsa Hayden (Joan Chen), and a cool hulking ABC War Robot. Plus the comic-accurate mutant Angel Family (Pa, Junior, Link and Mean Machine) encountered in the Cursed Earth
Ruthless crime boss and drug dealer Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), and her heavily armed gang of amusingly ineffective henchmen. How the hell did they manage to take over a building? (Besides, the more colorful variations of gangs would have made for a more interesting visual.)
COSTUME
The helmet and oversized shoulder pads are close to the comic version... but Stallone ditches them for good after 15 minutes of screentime
DREDD dialed down the cartoonish outfit for more practical body armor... and like the comic character, Urban never removes his helmet
NOTORIETY
Everyone (even out in the Cursed Earth) is familiar with the reputation of Dredd -- his name incites quivering fear or anxious bravado
Aside from the crooked Judges who show up to eliminate Dredd, for some reason nobody seems to know Mega City One's top cop (unlike the comic, where Dredd's name and presence are immediate cause for alarm among the perp population)
MEGA CITY ONE
An overcrowded, multi-tiered high-tech metropolis filled with hovering vehicles and ubiquitous advertising
Concrete, grime and green lighting. Basically it looks like Johannesburg, South Africa with a few extra-large skyscrapers (it resembles ROBOCOP's Delta City more than the surreal futuristic Mega City One depicted in the comics)
DIRECTOR
Danny Cannon, who went on to direct I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, and executive produced three "CSI" series and CW's "Nikita"
Pete Travis, whose only other feature was the thriller VANTAGE POINT (although there were reports that DREDD screenwriter Alex Garland was heavily involved in the production and that he and Travis had an "unorthodox collaboration")
BOX OFFICE
$113 million worldwide (on a $90 million budget)
$45 million worldwide (on a $41 million budget)
DREDD DEPICTION
The script provides some unfortunate one-liners for Stallone to slur, and clumsily attempts to "humanize" a character that is essentially the embodiment of fascist satire on the page
Urban (or his chin, anyway) gives his best deadpan Eastwood rasp and keeps the character's perpetual scowl, and while the script almost entirely strips the comics' satirical elements, his Dredd remains the relentless, excessively violent personification of Mega City One's law
DREDD
The two DREDD movies turned out to be on equal footing in a few ways -- neither deserves any awards for their directing or storytelling, and both made back just a little more than their budgets during their theatrical runs. But as far as their success adapting the comic, they're almost two halves of one good Judge Dredd movie.

Thanks to an extensive budget and designs that realize the heightened-reality aesthetic of Mega City One, the Stallone JUDGE DREDD got just about everything right... except the lead character. Stallone was an action god in his prime, but the wrong guy for this role. The movie's attempts at satire and comedy ultimately swung too broad, and Dredd himself is almost unrecognizable from his comic counterpart, which leaves a glossy but hollow futuristic shoot-em-up.

As for DREDD, it's a half-decent sci-fi riff on DIE HARD, and the "gritty realism" might make it a rewarding action flick... just not a particularly good Judge Dredd movie, as its Mega City One bears little resemblance to the comic universe. The budgetary limitations clearly prevented any scope and confined Dredd to a single nondescript skyscraper for most of the running time, which seems like a wasted opportunity when the comic character is mostly defined by his interactions with the ludicrous citizenry and situations of the sprawling metropolis.

Urban, however, is the definitive Dredd. He just needs a bigger and better sandbox.

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?
POST YOUR CHOICE BELOW!

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11:04PM on 07/17/2014

JUDGE DREDD - 4/10; DREDD - 3/10

JUDGE DREDD is very flawed, but at least it tackles on deep issues. DREDD is just an excuse for brainless action. That can be good sometimes (like "300"), but not using a source material made of social commentary.
JUDGE DREDD is very flawed, but at least it tackles on deep issues. DREDD is just an excuse for brainless action. That can be good sometimes (like "300"), but not using a source material made of social commentary.
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10:21PM on 07/17/2014
Is it bad to like them both?

You forgot one category though; babes.

Diane Lane looks smokin in the Stallone version.
Is it bad to like them both?

You forgot one category though; babes.

Diane Lane looks smokin in the Stallone version.
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1:32PM on 07/17/2014

Yeah, Why Didn't Anyone Know Who Dredd Was?

My only problem with DREDD was why didn't anyone know who he was? Dredd is supposed to be DREDD, criminals DREDD him, he is not the average Judge. He is the most Badass Judge there is.
My only problem with DREDD was why didn't anyone know who he was? Dredd is supposed to be DREDD, criminals DREDD him, he is not the average Judge. He is the most Badass Judge there is.
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10:23PM on 07/17/2014
Maybe it was starting at the beginning for him, just before he develops that reputation.
Maybe it was starting at the beginning for him, just before he develops that reputation.
10:46AM on 07/17/2014

ive called Judge Dredd my favorite comic character for 25yrs now...

honestly, the above article couldve been written by me. Judge Dredd was more comic accurate, as ridiculous as the comic was at times (you dont go thru several nuclear wars and still have the crazy tech they had in the books) Dredd, was a better action movie.
back in '95, it was the best Judge Dredd film to date (besides RoboCop, of course) and we were damn happy to see him on the big screen. 2012 saw Dredd...a welcomed reboot we never thought could happen...and we were damn happy to see him
honestly, the above article couldve been written by me. Judge Dredd was more comic accurate, as ridiculous as the comic was at times (you dont go thru several nuclear wars and still have the crazy tech they had in the books) Dredd, was a better action movie.
back in '95, it was the best Judge Dredd film to date (besides RoboCop, of course) and we were damn happy to see him on the big screen. 2012 saw Dredd...a welcomed reboot we never thought could happen...and we were damn happy to see him on the big screen.
i own both, and i watch both rather frequently.
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9:36AM on 07/17/2014

Dredd

Probably one of the easiest face offs this site has ever had.
Probably one of the easiest face offs this site has ever had.
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8:29AM on 07/17/2014

Dredd

This is a fair assessment even if it was obvious that Dredd would win. Stallone's Judge Dredd is not without merit as the Face-Off points out - their depiction of Mega City One was cool and the ABC Robot was fantastic, and in fairness they tried a lot of stuff that just didn't make it on screen in the end - as I recall they built a working Lawmaster bike with super-fat tyres but it had an insanely huge turning circle. Karl Urban's Dredd is a great film though - even had awesome 3D in the cinema
This is a fair assessment even if it was obvious that Dredd would win. Stallone's Judge Dredd is not without merit as the Face-Off points out - their depiction of Mega City One was cool and the ABC Robot was fantastic, and in fairness they tried a lot of stuff that just didn't make it on screen in the end - as I recall they built a working Lawmaster bike with super-fat tyres but it had an insanely huge turning circle. Karl Urban's Dredd is a great film though - even had awesome 3D in the cinema - and is a much more satisfying take on the character - a deserved winner
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6:14AM on 07/17/2014
Instant disqualification for Judge Dredd for taking the helmet off.Shame as the visual design is fantastic and Stallone has the voice for the role.The first 15 minutes is kick ass.With judge (helmet on) using all the features on his gun.
Instant disqualification for Judge Dredd for taking the helmet off.Shame as the visual design is fantastic and Stallone has the voice for the role.The first 15 minutes is kick ass.With judge (helmet on) using all the features on his gun.
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5:51AM on 07/17/2014
LOL I wont lie, I have a super soft spot for Judge Dredd and I LOVE watching it every now and then. I feel like we are blessed to have TWO Awesome Dredd movies that are Awesome for compeltely different reasons.
LOL I wont lie, I have a super soft spot for Judge Dredd and I LOVE watching it every now and then. I feel like we are blessed to have TWO Awesome Dredd movies that are Awesome for compeltely different reasons.
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6:55AM on 07/17/2014
Double post, sorry
Double post, sorry
6:55AM on 07/17/2014
I actually kind of feel sorry for Danny Cannon. He is a genuine fan (exhibit A: this contest-winning piece of fan art he did as a 19 year old [link] I think Stallone pulled his weight and it ended up being far from what Cannon intended and imagined.
I actually kind of feel sorry for Danny Cannon. He is a genuine fan (exhibit A: this contest-winning piece of fan art he did as a 19 year old [link] I think Stallone pulled his weight and it ended up being far from what Cannon intended and imagined.
6:25AM on 07/17/2014
I gave you thumbs up.I think we are the only two people who very slightly enjoyed Judge Dredd.
I gave you thumbs up.I think we are the only two people who very slightly enjoyed Judge Dredd.
4:57AM on 07/17/2014
Well duh.
Well duh.
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4:25AM on 07/17/2014
They both sucked
They both sucked
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4:20AM on 07/17/2014
definitely agree that Dredd is better than Judge Dredd but surely Sylvester Stallone should have got a tick in the actor category, you even call him an action legend in it
definitely agree that Dredd is better than Judge Dredd but surely Sylvester Stallone should have got a tick in the actor category, you even call him an action legend in it
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3:43AM on 07/17/2014
Shocker.
Shocker.
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3:28AM on 07/17/2014

Heh.

Nice that you threw a few pity points in the former's direction, but this was only ever going to go one way.
Nice that you threw a few pity points in the former's direction, but this was only ever going to go one way.
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2:45AM on 07/17/2014
Dredd for me. Karl Urban is the perfect Dredd.
Dredd for me. Karl Urban is the perfect Dredd.
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+1
1:14AM on 07/17/2014
Good face off, but pretty predicable outcome. On a sidenote, few realize that Scott Wilson (Hershel from walking dead) plays Pa in the '95 version!
Good face off, but pretty predicable outcome. On a sidenote, few realize that Scott Wilson (Hershel from walking dead) plays Pa in the '95 version!
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