1995’s Judge Dredd: 22 years later and still a campy classic

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I’ve long suffered a terrible spinal condition that renders me useless a few times a month and I’m forced to take a day to lay completely flat, icing my lower back and hoping that the pain will go away. Today is one of those days, and as I lie here in my bed with an icepack numbing my spine, I’m watching a classic from yesteryear, when I was but a wee lad no older than 10.

Judge Dredd. Thank God for Netflix.

It’s been years since I’ve seen it, so I’m watching it now and, I can’t help it, I’m comparing it to 2012’s gritty remake, Dredd, staring Karl Urban and a scowl that could kill millions.

1995’s story of Judge Joseph Dredd and the Megacity One Judges begins with a sort of comedic, ultra-campy cop action movie vibe to it. Almost like Police Academy meets Superman. Hell, Dredd’s first on-screen appearance, he literally looks like this:

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A bit on the nose, don’t you think?

The worst part? He spends almost the entire first act seemingly locked in that pose, like his gloves were sewn to his belt.

 

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Soon after, we’re introduced to big baddie Rico, being held in some sort of containment chamber all by his lonesomes that there’s just absolutely no way he’s going to get out of, right? Of course not. Before long, he’s out, causing all sorts of drama, executing judges and working with his benefactor to unlock a secret Judge cloning mission to take over Megacity One.

It all fits into the formula, and it’s peppered a little heavily with Rob Schneider’s painful comic relief character. Good cops doin’ good cop things, bad guys doing bad guy things, the hero is always the hero, and by the end of the movie, he’s no different than when he started. He is still the law. So… why is it so fun to watch?

I suppose it can be attributed to its similarity to the golden age of comic books, which Judge Dredd arguably wasn’t introduced until the very end of. The heroes are obviously heroes and do heroic things, the villains are obviously villains and do villain things with nefarious plans, and in the end the hero gets the girl and is safe to fight another day.

1995’s Judge Dredd is amazingly similar to that, and it’s done with a very distinctive 90’s action movie flair seen in other Sly flicks like Demolition ManDaylight, and Assassins. Something about movies back then were so fun, even if they were a touch on the brainless side. We look fondly back on films like these even though we know they are rife with cheeseballness, cliches and… yeah, Superman poses. This isn’t a sci-fi masterpiece like Blade Runner or The Fifth Element (that’s a whole article itself), but it’s still enjoyable 22 years later, if only on days where I’m in too much pain to go to work.

Maybe the new Dredd was a little gritty and dark. Maybe most movies nowadays are. It’s precisely the criticism Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel faced when fans were left wondering if these were the same superheroes that graced the glossy pages of their vintage comic books. I’ll let it be known now, I enjoyed those movies, and I enjoyed the new Dredd far more than I enjoyed the ’95 film. But that’s where films are going. Films now may be looked at in 22 more years as a “dark romp through society’s emo years” while current films are mocked for their overpowering and laughable cartoon-like qualities as future filmmakers look to overcompensate for the broodfests of yesteryear.

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Don’t look at his scowl too long or your nose will bleed. True story.

In short, it’s nice right now to watch a classic from my childhood and see how the character has changed through cinematic history and know that maybe at some point in the next two decades, I’ll be right here, spine in agony, writing about the good ole days when Karl Urban was rocking the scowl in 2012’s hyper-violent Dredd.

And the medication has kicked in. Time for something else to watch!

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