Cinema has drawn inspiration from other media (both directly and indirectly) into the filmmaking process. Intellectual Properties are pushed through the Hollywood machine, in the forms of adaptations, sequels or direct homages to past films. Examples in 2020 alone being “Mulan,” “Dune,” “The Witches” and “No Time to Die.” In the milieu of this culture of cinema “Dredd” stands above the rest as a perfect adaptation of the 2000 AD Comic.
The character Judge Dredd was inspired by Margaret Thatcher’s conservative policies. Particularly her involvement in The Falkland War, which Judge Dredd parodies through a strong obedience to the law at the expense of the general populace. While adapting imagery of American excess, like superhighways and metropolises, Judge Dredd became a flagship character for 2000 AD comics. From this, Dredd has become an episodic series that follows the helmet-wearing Judge as he upholds the law in the lawless city of Mega City One.
The film “Dredd” is not the first time Judge Dredd has come to the screen, rather it’s a remake of the 1995 B-movie “Judge Dredd.” Following Sylvester Stallone in a laughable role that adheres close to the comics without nailing the tone, the film became an instant bomb and left a name for Judge Dredd up to the 2012 remake. Leaving the Stallone-led film in the annals of history as an example of a poor adaptation.
So, when bringing the film back to screen three things were necessary for a successful adaptation: violence, satire and Dredd’s helmet. Each is a core element of what defines the character of Judge Dredd.
Violence is a core of the character since Judge Dredd’s main role is to be judge, jury and executioner of perpetrators of street crime—due in part to the massive populations and lack of resources to police it. Violence becomes a key aspect of the film since the most violent moments are filmed in slow-motion. Reinforcing the idea that violence is ever-present in the world. This violence is in turn inspired by the law. Laws become an unwavering tool for prosecution and execution in the futuristic society of Mega City One.
This ties into the satire of Dredd. Dredd is the idealized “Super Cop” living by the tenets of the law. However, the problems show when his ignorance or cold emotional responses are fueled by his adherence to the law. For Dredd, there is nothing beyond or before the law. Instead, he is fixated on the sole concept of what is justice through law.
This is characterized by his determination in the film Dredd as he seeks the Drug-pin Ma-ma. Rather than negotiating with the Crime lord, Dredd chooses to confront them in a final violent moment that not only shows how justice is served, but how violence has touched the community Dredd has invaded. His presence and unwavering political compass have brought Justice to the massive tenement building, at the cost of many innocent lives.
This comes back to the final element of Dredd’s character: his helmet. The helmet marks his unwavering belief in the law. While Anderson, his partner, doesn’t wear a helmet, showing her open questioning of the law itself. So, by the closing of the film the division that has formed between each character is in part to the way they’ve seen and read the world and its laws.
All of this combined, “Dredd” is a perfect addition to the “Judge Dredd” license. By adapting the visual nature of the comic and its core themes, “Dredd” is a perfect example of an adaptation done right.
Benjamin Ervin is a senior studying English literature and writing at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Benjamin know by emailing him firstname.lastname@example.org.