In one episode of ‘Siskel and Ebert’, Roger Ebert gave up a thumbs up to children’s dog film “Benji: The Hunted” and a thumbs down to Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket”. While Siskel was appalled, Ebert argued that you can’t compare the two, they should be reviewed within their own context – that of a children’s film and that of a Kubrick film – and one succeeded where the other fell short.
This approach to film reviewing was something I loved about Ebert – the notion that a film should be judged on whether it achieved what it set out to achieve. Did it make you laugh? Did it make you scared? Did it create any visceral reaction? They’re not all going to be “Citizen Kane” but that doesn’t mean “Airplane!” isn’t as much of a classic in its own genre (seriously, there’s scientific research that places it as the funniest film ever made at three laughs a minute).
Having said that, “Dredd” is a fantastic film no matter the context. Take that “Benji”.
Not what you were expecting me to say? Believe me, neither was I. All I knew about Judge Dredd walking into the cinema was Sylvester Stallone mumbling something about the law, and the only thing that actually got me to the cinema was that fact that I will watch anything. Really – I have this weird pop culture pride where I feel I can’t comment on anything until I’ve actually seen or read it. This is also why I read all four “Twilight” novels – so I can say with authority ‘they’re terrible. Don’t read them’.
“Dredd” starring Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby and Lena Heady is a tight, action packed, funny and gritty sci-fi that pulses from scene to scene with interesting characters; high on the suspense, low on the cheese. Urban managed to inject Judge Dredd with tough likeability even with a helmet on the entire time, Thirlby was a charmingly vulnerable yet believable ‘rookie’ with psychic abilities, and Heady was unsurprisingly effective as the scary villainess of the piece, Ma-Ma. The dialogue was also unexpectedly good.
Judge Dredd: I was wondering when you’d remember you forgot your helmet.
Anderson: Sir, a helmet can interfere with my psychic abilities.
Judge Dredd: Think a bullet in the head might interfere with them more.
Falling into the dreaded ‘middle ground’ movie – not a tentpole blockbuster, nor a small budget indie – distributors never know how much money to spend on marketing for these films. Will they invest big and still not break through to audiences losing even more money in the process, or without more support will people not even know it’s out there? Yeah. Basically middle ground movies are dying as it is proving so hard to get that cost/profit balance right. “Dredd” was poorly received at the box office, not even making its production budget back. But it broke through to some people, and so the #DayofDredd, was born.
Frank and Brian, founders of the “Make a Dredd sequel campaign” are encouraging fans to embrace all things Dredd on 1 October – buy the DVD/Blu-ray, just watch the film, or chat about it online. They did this last year to great success, pushing the sales of the film to the top of many charts, and now they want to do it again.
“This is a fan-created, fan-run, fan-made campaign and that’s who makes it so special – the fans. Let’s show Hollywood that we’ve not gone away and we’re not going to take no for an answer. We want more of our favourite movie!”
It’s not without precedent where an entertainment property that didn’t make enough money to get greenlit managed to make it to the big screen, but in that situation the fans had to go a step further than campaign, they funded it (hello “Veronica Mars”). In that situation both the creator and stars were the initiators, and while Karl Urban is on board, let’s see how much people power really can help with the higher ups. Or will the next step be crowdfunding as well?
If so, I’m on board, and we already have our campaign video with “Dredd: The Musical”