Every Wednesday, I revisit a film that I have strong memories of watching, to see how well my memories of it hold up to scrutiny, and whether the film is as good (or as bad) as I remember.
What I remember…
Judge Dredd was the first comic book adaptation I got excited about. As a teen I was clueless about comics and comic shops. I didn’t find the Sandman comics until I was in my twenties. Alan Moore was just a name in a Pop Will Eat Itself song, disconnected from meaning. But 2000 AD was available in newsagents, so I found it, and read it. The stories in it were a gift to any half-decent filmmaker. A film of Judge Dredd? It was going to be epic! There were rumours that Stallone was so taken with the character of Dredd that he was going to keep his helmet on for the whole film. Amazing! Then there were rumours that he would take the helmet off but it was only because of the differences between how films and comics were made. Less amazing! Then the film came along and was a bit of a disappointment, but fun enough, if you were willing to view it as what it wanted to be instead of what you wanted it to be.
What I expected…
I hadn’t watched Judge Dredd in a very long time. I knew it wasn’t a lost classic or anything like that. I was expecting a film that was a bit rubbish, a bit silly, but, you know, in an entertaining sort of way.
What I found…
I don’t blame anyone in particular. Imagine trying to explain to a studio executive that Judge Dredd isn’t the hero of the Judge Dredd comics. That often he isn’t even the protagonist. That the protagonist is Mega-City One, the stories are almost always satires of capitalism, and the hero of the stories is usually just some poor idiot chewed up by the system. It’s the sort of conversation you walk away from thinking, “Did I just agree to turn a critique of authoritarianism into copaganda? Damn. Well, at least they let me have Rob Schneider in my movie… Wait. Rob Schneider was their idea. I didn’t want Rob Schneider. Damn. This movie is going to suck.”
And suck it does.
I can forgive a Judge Dredd adaptation for not going full that-time-they-elected-an-orangutan-called-Dave-mayor. Dredd was pretty much just a remake of The Raid; and while Karl Urban is no Iko Uwais, the film isn’t without its charms. But casting Diane Lane and then giving her a role that bland? I can’t forgive that. Why get Stallone if you aren’t going to take advantage of either his talent as an actor* or his willingness to make fun of himself? I even felt sorry for Rob Schneider. I have never liked Rob Schneider in anything he has ever done**, but I shouted, “Oh, come on, you’re wasting Rob Schneider here!” three times while watching Judge Dredd.
So, how good was my memory?
My memory was far too kind.
And how good is the film?
The film is bad, dude. The film is bad. Worse than that, the film is boring.
*If you don’t think Stallone is a good actor, watch how Rocky reacts to his cancer diagnosis in Creed.
**Fine, he’s good in Home Alone 2, and I have a soft spot for the mess that was Sandy Wexler. I was exaggerating for comedic effect. Get over it.