They are the Judge, Jury and the Executioner. Capable of preventing a small percentage of the crimes, they must choose and decide the very fates of the people they swore to protect. They are the Law! Those who stand in their way are just as guilty as those who rise against them. Armed with wit, strength, and a versatile weapon of destruction; these Judges must uphold the law among the lawless.
Movies based on comic books have been all the rage over the last decade or so. Some are mega blockbusters that rake in tens of millions of dollars. Marvel is the juggernaut thus far in the comic book-to-big screen franchise, but others have come out as well. DC has been making a name for themselves lately, but the reviews are quite mixed. For now, Marvel holds the reins in this over-the-top genre. Having production budgets that well exceed 100-million dollars helps a lot too. But what about the other production companies that can’t spare that much cash on a comic film? How can they ever hope to compete? In short, it takes a stellar cast, a well-written script, and a very talented production crew. They also need a comic book character that’ll stand above the rest. That’s a tall order for sure, but there’s one name that comes to mind. DREDD!
Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is well known by both friend and foe. Assigned to a potential Judge who failed her tests but has unique psychic ability; Dredd must take Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) out in the field for a final evaluation. He lets the rookie choose a crime to pursue, which leads them to a triple homicide at the Peach Trees Mega Block. This is a place where Judges rarely visit. It’s also the perfect place for the Ma-Ma gang to flourish. Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) is a ruthless drug kingpin at Peach Tree. She made a name for herself after she was cut up by a pimp. This ignited an endless rage that’s propelled her to the top of the slums when she dwells. Ma-Ma maintains her power by keeping strict control of her fellow subjects. She accomplishes this with fear, murder and a wicked drug known as slo-mo.
Upon learning the Judges captured one of her main gang members; Ma-Ma gains full access to the control center of the tower and locks it down with them inside. She announces the barriers will stay down until the two Judges are dead. With multiple gangs and the lowest of the low occupying the building; the Judges have a serious problem on their hands. Dredd and the Rookie must do whatever it takes to survive this cat and mouse game against the drug-lord Ma-Ma and her ruthless gang.
This is a unique film, filled with stunning visual effects and countless slow-motion shots. The cast consists of some well-known faces, so viewers can expect to see a pretty decent performance. With this locked down situation, viewers will wonder if the two Judges have the wit and ability to survive this blood bath. Think Dredd and the Rookie can out-smart the terrible Ma-Ma and her loyal subjects? You’ll have to tune in to find out!
Enough about that…let’s see what all this 4K Blu-ray has to offer.
The disc begins with various trailers of films that are about to come out in theaters and some that are already on Blu-ray. The menu design is rather simple. It consists of a static image of Judge Dredd standing on a ledge with the Peach Trees Mega Block and another building in flames behind him. The menu options are listed along the bottom of the screen, and include: Play Movie, Set Up, Scenes, and Extras. The ‘Set Up’ option allows viewers to choose the audio and subtitles tracks for the film. The audio tracks include: English Dolby Atmos, English 2.0 Dolby Digital – Optimized for Late Night Listening, French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. The subtitle languages include: English, English SDH, and Spanish. The ‘Scenes’ option displays a submenu that shows up to three chapters at a time. Each one is numbered and has a snapshot of the scene. The selected chapter appears bigger than the others. This is a nice feature, as many scene selection menus have small snapshots.
Now let’s see what Extras are included with this release!
– Mega-City Masters: 35 Years of Judge Dredd (14:27 HD) – This clip takes a look at the original creators of the British comic that featured Judge Dredd as a character. They say it was just the right time and place for a character like him to be made, and knew it would take off. The comic also depicted an outsider’s perspective of the American society unlike any other comic of the time.
– Day of Chaos: The Visual Effects of Dredd (15:21 HD) – Visual Effects Art Director – Neil Miller and others talk about the locations shot for Mega-City One. Filmed in South Africa, they simply added the mega structures like Peach Trees Mega Block right on top of the actual cityscape. This created a very realistic look and feel for the story that’s based in the future. They also talk about what it was like shooting a low-budget film in “Stereo,” or what we would call 3D. This was their first attempt at the medium, so they followed some of the rules of shooting 3D, then bent and sometimes broke other rules entirely. They wanted it to be natural and realistic. Viewers will learn about the use of the Phantom 3 camera for the extreme slow-motion shots, and the goal to make them more beautiful than horrific.
– Dredd Featurette (1:53 HD) – This is a brief feature that takes a quick look at the basis of the film and Karl Urban who plays Judge Dredd in the film.
– Dredd’s Gear (2:31 HD) – The gear wore by Judge Dredd is not just gear…it’s also part of the character. Viewers will get a closer look at his uniform, sidearm, motor bike, and the iconic helmet.
– The 3rd Dimension (2:00 HD) – This is a clip similar to the information talked about in the “Day of Chaos” extra. They discuss the purpose and desire of incorporating 3D in the film.
– Welcome to PeachTrees (2:33 HD) – This is also similar to the info seen in the “Day of Chaos” clip. They take a closer look at the design of the building, and its cold/bland aspects and design.
– Dredd Motion Comic Prequel (2:57 HD) – This is a really cool motion comic that explains how Ma-Ma became the drug-lord of Peach Trees. It has an Aeon Flux sort of look to it, which is awesome!
– Theatrical Trailer (2:30 HD)
– Also from Lionsgate (10:29 HD) – These are all the trailers seen at the beginning of this disc.
– DTS-HD Master Audio Sound Check – This is a great feature that allows viewers to make sure they will get the most out of this epic Blu-ray 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track.
Now let’s take a look at the technical side of this 4K Blu-ray.
The future is a dark and grim-looking place according to the creators of the iconic Judge Dredd universe. The film reflects this dull and monochromatic concept. However, having a basis like this makes the colorful aspects of the film really shine as well. The use of greens, yellows and especially reds; literally glow from time to time. The color of blood is a bit more intense than what you would consider accurate, but this was done on purpose. The special effects crew of the film wasn’t trying to be disgusting and disturbing with these effects. Their goal was to make these scenes look beautiful. The slow-motion scenes were designed to take something horrific and make them more like a work of art. The filmmakers utilized a variety of 3D cameras (RED, Phantom 3, etc.) to create these wondrous scenes.
The 2160p 4K Ultra HD image with High Dynamic Range (HDR) was a must for a film like this. The HDR provides more accurate and lifelike color, while allowing the vivid primary colors to shine as well. This is an upscale from a 2K master, so there are some digital artifacts that are more obvious in the dimly-lit scenes. Nevertheless, this is a really solid-looking transfer to 4K. Viewers will enjoy seeing the additional details gained by the increase in resolution. The close-up and slo-mo shots are some of the best I’ve seen. You can even count the hairs and imperfections on the actor’s faces during the close-up shots. For a high-res and artistically-shot film like this…it was made to be seen in 4K. Too bad there isn’t a 3D/4K standard yet. That said, it’s absolutely worth noting that this 4K Ultra HD release includes the HD (1080p)/3D Blu-ray versions of the film. For some reason, there’s no mention of the 3D/1080p version of the film on the case. Having all three versions of the film in this set makes it the best release to date. Even if you don’t have a 4K HDTV yet, this collection allows you to be (4K) future proof while including all of the best of the previous 3D Blu-ray release.
The 1080p HD 3D video has an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, which is unique for a 3D film. Most 3D films transferred to Blu-Ray have a 1.78:1 aspect ratio so the image fills the entire HDTV screen. Such is not the case for this film, but it works just as well. Viewers will discover how the film is more about depth with its 3D, instead of jumping out at you. There are some shots which do this, but not many. As a first time user of 3D technology, these guys did a fantastic job. They knew the basic rules of shooting in 3D, but they took it to a new level. This created a beautiful environment that really shines. The slow-motion sequences are absolutely stunning, and almost surreal. The use of 3D layers, CGI, and real-time effects create a look not seen in other productions. There were countless times I felt as if I was watching a comic book come to life with these perfectly framed shots.
The audio track is practically flawless in this transfer. Although Dolby Atmos surround sound isn’t in most homes just yet, your set up will benefit from the abundance of sound sent to each one of your available speakers. From the booming of your sub, to the sounds from rear channels; viewers will get a kick out of the attention to detail of this transfer. One of my personal favorite effects was the sound of Judge Dredd’s motor bike. The hundreds of bullets sprayed with the Gatling guns are pretty epic as well. This is one great sounding track folks.
Overall, Dredd is a fun film that pays homage to the classic comic book character. The audio/video quality of this transfer is top notch as well. The use of 3D in this film makes it a must have for those with the technology to support it, and the 4K upscale to UHD with High Dynamic Range gives this stunning film a visual makeover that viewers and fans alike are sure to notice. As mentioned above, the inclusion of the 4K Ultra HD, 2D (1080p) and 3D (1080p) versions of the film, make this the best release of the film to date. Fans of the comic book character will certainly want to add this one to their collection.
In short, Judge Dredd is a simple, straight-forward badass who will become your greatest hero while being the biggest terror to his foes at the same time. He’s a man fighting humans, yet maintains the look and feel of any other major comic super hero. He’s a legend that can be told again and again with fluctuations in his missions. This film feels more like a serial than a one-hit-wonder. I can foresee more Dredd films in the future. When can we get a sequel?