Dredd 3D/2D Combo Blu-ray Review
“Make her dead.”
This UK region B release from EIV contains both 3D and 2D versions of Dredd on the one disc. The 2.35:1 film is intentionally grubby-looking. It has a hazy contrast that reflects both the sweltering, smoggy environment and a gritty texture of urban squalor. Yet the image is also very detailed and deeply evocative, and painted with gaudy, mud-thickened neon, reminiscent of a Tony Scott production, like Domino, say, in many ways. It was shot partly with the Red One MX, Phantom Flex and Silicon Imaging cameras, which enables fantastic clarity in close-ups and during either real-time action scenes or those captured during Slo-Mo set-piece scenarios. Grain has been clearly introduced at a later time, and exists in varying degrees throughout – smooth, slight and never obtrusive in the 3D, but often appearing as horrible mosquito noise in the 2D, and to the point of irritating distraction at times. Neither version suffers from overt sharpening, and there is only one real trace of banding, which is minimal, though possibly more noticeable in the 2D image.
Okay, so let’s have a closer look.
3D Presentation 9/10
Shot natively in 3D and shown almost predominantly that way during its theatrical run – finding a 2D screening was as rare as stepping in rocking-horse doo-dah – Dredd is supposed to be seen and savoured in three-dimensions. There is no mistaking the fact that this film was made and composed for 3D when the very title, itself, explodes the screen and sends slivers of glass and shrapnel out towards you and the credits then bulge outward. You are in a fully three-dimensional environment … and you are in for a ride. Out of all the 3D films that I saw in 2012, this was, by far, the most impressive.
The aesthetic is one of drunken, lived-in colours, sick neon and sly, sweaty shadow. That doesn’t sound all that appealing, I know, but if fits this ugly, violent world to a tee. It is almost as though someone has taken the altogether cleaner, more glistening Blade Runner and left it, by accident, in a kids’ nursery class during a painting session. The resulting look is strewn with dripping greens, tainted reds, dirty, smudged orange and yellow. It looks festering, dirty and diseased. It also looks totally authentic and exactly the way I remembered it from a few theatrical screenings. Skin-tones are spot-on. Very pale and ethereal for Anderson, who can occasionally look as though she has been intentionally filtered, swarthy for Dredd’s chin, and an entire smorgasbord for the rest of the cast, with all bar Anderson looking very natural. I would also say that the darkening effect of the 3D is actually quite diminished with this release. Apart from the fact that this is how we are supposed to see the film, I would say that the brightness has been compensated for. The image when viewed without the glasses on looks brighter than the official 2D version does, thereby somewhat negating the impression that we may be missing out on details within the darker elements of the frame. There is only a very miniscule sign of banding taking place during one of the more artistically bloody images (towards the end of the film, folks), and this is something that, as I noted earlier, is actually more keenly noticed in the 2D version.
Shadows are satisfying deep and strong. That said, there can be times when the black levels can waver a little bit, but contrast remains very good indeed, and the image is always achingly redolent and atmospheric. Dark areas tend to remain nice and dark, high-lights are stylistic and rendered mainly for the sun-glazed exteriors, Anderson’s face and the vampiric-looking Domhnall Gleeson.
The depth of the image is consistently excellent. You would expect it to be with the long corridors of Peach Trees, the views up and down the central shaft of 200 floors, and the images from high up above the teeming urban terrain of Mega-City One. But just look at the depth and space that we find inside the perp van at the start. Fine, fully rounded characters and objects occupy space with consistent solidity. Backgrounds and foregrounds are cleanly, believably and enjoyably separated. The impression of immersion is profound and smooth. Even shots of just Anderson, Dredd and Kay standing about – especially the arrest sequence – have lots of clean spatial awareness that breathe life into the image. The screen feels appropriately pushed almost all of the time. There are many wonderful images conjured-up with a special thanks to the third dimension, but certainly the shots of Anderson looking out over the landscape of Mega-City One during that brief interlude in the violence, the frame alive with wisps of ash and exploded masonry, and one character’s endless descent down to the ground floor of Peach Trees, clasp the senses and make you giddy with their visual splendour.
We see the stark clarity the implant robo-eyes of Domhnall Gleeson’s Clan Tech operative in some simply staggeringly clean close-ups as their hexagonal pupils adjust and focus within his ghastly pale visage. This guy also fashions little effigies out of circuit wires, somewhat reminiscent of Gaff’s origami in Blade Runner and these are often placed figuratively in the frame to lend sharp definition and depth to the image. A great image comes from an overhead view looking down at him sitting at his surveillance monitors, with us peering through a lattice of these wires, like a spider-web in the immediate foreground. There is that terrific shot I mentioned in the full review of Ma-Ma and Caleb as seen from outside the cracked, frosted penthouse window. As subtle as it is, I adore this shot, with all of its depth, the positioning of the characters receding deeper in the frame and its innate realism brilliantly conveyed. As at the flicks, you think you can reach out and scratch your name in the glass. Some floating glass shards, tumbling in Slo-Mo, as well as the soapy water droplets that Ma-Ma flings in an arc from her bath, have a cartoonic lack of detail, but the 3D element that gives them life is tremendously effective, just the same. A bolt being flung back in sumptuous Slo-Mo, as well as Dredd’s rounds erupting through the multicoloured smoke of recoil, and the ripple effect of the shockwave across an exposed belly as the Judge makes an explosive entrance provide yet more provocative and mind-reeling examples of such vigorous, yet artistic 3D whizz-bangery. However, one effect that we don’t get at home is of the blood that cascaded over the edge of the frame during the cheek-eruption.
I experienced no problems with crosstalk. Object delineation remained immaculate with no ghosting, and no bleeding, or clipping as things passed beyond the window of the screen. Debris, glass, muzzle-flashes, gliding Judge drones – all remain sharp and distinct. Where the image gets dirtier, it still looks and feels right. And alive.
There are some people who weren’t quite as smitten with the 3D effects as I was, but I found that the added dimensionality undeniably added a great deal to the experience. There are relatively few outright gimmicky in-yer-face shots, with the majority of 3D elements perfectly adhering to, and bolstering the impact of the narrative, and the overall use of the 3D was actually more enjoyable and more relevant to me than I found in something of higher profile like, say, Prometheus, which went the Avatar route of making an alien environment as real as possible, or The Amazing Spider-Man, which only sporadically exhilarated. The effect here is visually stimulating and more imaginatively employed all round.
I loved it ... and, personally speaking, I would opt for the 3D for Dredd every time. That's how it was built and composed. That is how it should be seen.
2D Presentation 6/10
Without having seen a 2D version of the movie before this, I have no clear reference for how Dredd should appear when viewed in this capacity. Which is a shame, as the image on this PR disc poses many problems and, ultimately, left me feeling very disappointed indeed.
Before we get into the bad things that stipple this image, let me just say that there are still plenty of good things on offer. Detail can be just as astonishing. Those close-ups of the Clan Techie’s robo-eyes are just as scarily crisp and clear in 2D, as are Judge Anderson’s and the spiky stubble on Dredd’s chin. Other things, like wounds, the readouts on the Lawgiver sidearm, spent casings, the cruel scar on Ma-Ma’s face or her ghastly teeth, the patterning and texture on the Judges’ body armour, the reflections in Dredd’s visor etc, all provide lots of information to be savoured. Visual depth of field is also very good. Corridors stretch out. The drop-down views of the city still carry a huge sense of height, although I would say that some distant views of people moving about, or the skateboarders on the balcony high up the side of Peach Trees still look sharper in 3D. We can easily make out the graffiti even on far off walls, and the name-dropping designations of other tower-blocks. Check out the mongrel that begins to harass one of dropped bodies on the concourse over on the far left of the screen.
It is tempting to say that Dredd’s 2D appearance is able to reveal a little more vibrancy to the colours perhaps, with the blood bursts looking a shade brighter, and the flames encircling the hoods that Dredd has just immolated, but there is not the same level of clarity or detail. Take for example, the scene when Dredd and Anderson take advantage of a smoke-grenade to wipe out a troop of goons. Whereas the 3D version allows you to see some of the action taking place in the deliberately grey haze, there is very little to glean of the proceedings in 2D, the image murkier.
A great many shots have softened and even blurred imagery – and not just the fast action shots that take place with people running about in darkened corridors … the mini-gun chapter, for example. Those glass shards and flung water droplets now look quite blatantly CG-augmented and have no texture whatsoever, leaving the visuals looking a little silly by contrast to their 3D counterparts.
By the same token, the CG gore effects, most notably those of the Slo-Mo bullets tearing through faces and into bellies during the initial drug-bust, look more cartoonic and altogether less effective, as a result.
But, most irksome of all, we have times when the shots change very drastically from smooth and clear to outright grubby and mired with unpleasant noise. There are many instances of this all the way through. But for example, check out the transition from the beautifully clean and highly detailed image of Anderson and Dredd having just learned about Ma-Ma’s backstory in the Medlab, to the shot of the two teens walking down the corridor to score some Slo-Mo – this is wretchedly compromised with noise. Stylistic choice? I really don’t think so. We know that they used different types of cameras, but I don't think that's the cause either. Watch how it alternates between grain and drifting, bubbling noise, shot to shot during the arrest of Kay. This does not happen in the 3D version. The lack of consistency is not only distracting, it’s actually quite annoying. There were even occasions when the grain in these usually darker moments appeared to be coloured, which was not a nice effect. I saw occasions when parts of the frame were littered with lace-like horizontal patches, some faintly tinged with red. I lost count of the times when a similar quirk seemed to affect one side of Dredd’s helmet, but not the other. He turns one way, and it’s there. He turns the other way, and it’s gone. Odd. You can also see scuzzy little artefacts that striate the edging on the red pattern on the front of the helmet.
This leads to a patchwork viewing experience that just can’t be right. Whether this is an authoring error or just the flat look of the original film, this puts 2D-only viewers in something of a bleak position. Although I adore the 3D in this movie, I am most certainly not a 3D devotee, and totally prefer so see films flat. But going by the appearance of this PR disc’s 2D transfer, I would dread to be stuck with that as being the only option. It has some great moments ... but they are seriously let down by these issues.
BTW, with either version of the film, you can clearly see Kay’s hands become miraculously untied as Dredd hurls the perp over a table … and then bound again in the very next shot. Whoops.
“I see her first. I shoot her. She sees me, she hesitates … and I shoot her.”
Oh boy, this one is going to bring the house down!
Sure to cause controversy is this absolutely mind-blowingly powerful DTS-HD 5.1 audio track. With such exciting sonic examples of thunderous all-channel devouring testosterone as The Dark Knight Rises and The Expendables 2 currently rocking home cinema set-ups and disturbing next-door neighbours all over the world, Dredd had some ground to cover in the arena of all-out bombast. But, rest assured, it rises to the occasion with raw immediacy, chest-beating gusto and gas-frakking .LFE, and potentially deafening decibel levels … and easily rivals them in the Boom-Boom-Shake-The-Room stakes. In fact, possibly bettering them in terms of steerage and pinpoint directionality. I saw the film several times at the flicks, and I knew the sound-design was a monstrous creation, and even if some people will cite otherwise, this mix is just as potent, powerful and lughole-busting.
The mix shows off a fiendish propensity for steerage and directionality. The opening chase sequence weaves from side to side alongside Dredd’s Lawmaster as he navigates through traffic after machinegun-strafing perps in a careering van. The lockdown on Peach Trees rumbles all around us as steel shutters slide and grind into place. Surveillance drones whistle and thrum across the environment, moving seamlessly. Naturally, bullets and high explosives and special incendiary rounds blast their way around the set-up, revealing excellent clarity and superlative clout, as well as terrifically finite whipps and zings that move not only front to back and back to front but also run the full gamut of diagonal directionality that the speaker arrangement can cater-for. There is subtle movement and positioning afforded the chunks of masonry torn from the walls during several punishing sequences. The clatter of spent shells hitting the deck is also awarded some convincing clarity amidst the general cacophony, especially during the mini-gun episode – which is, of course, something of a showstopper. Bodily impacts also resound - the windpipe-breaking doesn't just look nasty ... it sounds it, too. The helmet-enforced headbutt makes you wince, as does a sudden smack that Anderson delivers to her prisoner when his thoughts get a little, um, personal. There is plenty of rear-support going on, and the whole experience feels wildly immersive and energised.
The score? Well wow, basically. It is thunderously troll-disturbing, and full of sizzling, undulating reverb. Some people won’t like its style, nor the way that it can flood the environment with gauge-bursting pressure, but I loved it. Now, let’s make sure we’re thrashing on the same guitars here – this is as loud and as pulsating as some dissenters claim, but it does not dwarf, submerge or hide any other details in the mix at its own expense. This is the sort of movie that willingly and deliberately gives itself over to stretches of pounding bass, warping, fuzzy synth, stretched-out cymbal clashes and dark, heavy-pressing tones, and scintillating euphoric tracks of electro-trance bliss. These moments are all meant to be savoured and felt with club-it zest. When the Judges raid the drug-den, the pounding source music playing in the room zooms in and out of the scene according to whose reality we are currently inhabiting – the Slo-Mo-addled perps (whooshing Trance) or Dredd and Anderson (sudden welters of raw techno and full-velocity gunfire). Plus, listen out for the fabulous echoing gak-aka-aka-aka-aka-aka cue that trembles through some of Paul Leonard-Morgan’s devastating score! Oh, and the high-voltage warp-out whine during Dredd’s incendiary-round assault.
Despite some fears that dialogue and effects might be drowned-out by the overall volume and strength of the track, I did not find this to be the case at all. There was never a moment when any of the elements didn’t sound appropriately or consistently mixed. Screams, yells and impacts emanate from all around, and are never lost below the chaos. Dialogue, itself, is superbly handled. It is even allowed to move around the set-up following the speakers or the on-screen action with inspired fluidity. Listen as Ma-Ma’s ominous commands filter around the Peach Trees public announce system, or, better yet, when Dredd issues his own non-negotiable counter threats and his blood-chilling growls move from speaker to speaker, with the appropriate distancing and positioning perfectly maintained around us. Ambient effects, such as the crowd noise when Dredd and his rookie first enter Peach Trees, or our flash-cuts to the babbling radio-coms chatter of the Halls of Justice control centre, are well distributed and sound convincing.
As you will have already gathered, this track employs absolutely tectonic levels of bass. With that fabulously techno-grungy score, the pulsating beat of Dredd’s infiltration of the tower block is guaranteed to deliver almost incessant floor-rattling tremors. No hype. No exaggeration. The sub belts out livid aggression with devout conviction. Bodies hit the deck after a fall of 200 storeys with livid, splattery excess, the impact nicely reverberating with suddenly shocking solidity. The roar of the Lawmasters when Dredd and Anderson suddenly zoom off after the getting the call from Peach Trees is a deliciously guttural wallop. The crash of the perp-van bounces and thuds to a vicious, tooth-loosening stop. Ma-Ma’s mini-gun shoot-‘em-up that turns an entire floor of Peach Trees into steaming jelly is a clear standout of acoustic violence. Coupled with ball-busting techno and driving sampled guitars and drums, this may well leave you gasping if you’ve cranked up the volume. But whether you like such ferociously ear-bashing ballistic excess or not, you cannot deny the glorious exhilaration that this scene and its lossless presentation provide.
I’m awarding this 9 out of 10 simply because I think some people will be damaged by its non-negotiable audio attitude. Me personally? I think you can guess my own score for this skull-basher.
Dreddis totally meant to be played loud. The film is excessive on almost every level, so kick back and let her rip!
“And as for you, Ma-Ma … Judgement Time!”
Ahhh, sadly, this is disappointing. Very disappointing. After all the good stuff with a classic film, great 3D and incredible audio, we are let down with the lack of quality supplements. In fact, the roster here is so bad that I’m not even going to bother going through it all.
This smacks of quick soundbite snippets created during the filming, without a single post-release element to discuss the film’s impact. Or lack of. No commentary. No making of. No detailed history of Dredd’s evolution from page to screen. Huh-uh.
Just a plethora of trailers for current 3D and 2D Blu releases, and a selection of very poor 2 and 3 minute featurettes and interviews with cast and crew and creators. The interview selection runs for around 26 minutes with a Play All … but I would have to say that it is probably worth less-than 26 seconds of your time. Urban is there, and Thirlby and Headey and Harris, amongst others, but this is exceedingly naff. Even the usual pop-promo guff would have been better because they would have, at least, been slicker to look at. These are just rough ... and duff.
I can’t help feeling that this is some sort of reaction to the film’s theatrical sinking-into-oblivion. Perhaps Garland and Travis and the producers are still in shock and simply could not commit their emotions to the camera. Well, whatever the reasons, this is simply shoddy for what is a blisteringly good SF/comic-book adaptation that true-fans will adore.
Mega-rubbish that tells us little, and even repeats itself.
3 out of 10. Nothing more.
I am … the best SF/Action movie of 2012!
Not only do fans of Joe Dredd get the big-screen incarnation of their icon that they have always longed for, but they get it with genuinely cool 3D and brimming with uber-nasty violence and lashings of comic-book gore! Karl Urban finally gets the sort of role that many of us knew he deserved after witnessing him charging at the head of the Rohirrim, and determinedly pursuing Jason Bourne like some hitman from Hell. He is exactly the sort of Dredd that we deserved.
After The Avengers blew us away with crowd-pleasing, multiplex-heaving superheroics, The Amazing Spider-Man surprised us (and me, especially) by being, well, actually quite amazing, The Dark Knight Rises delivered an emotional climax to possibly the greatest costumed trilogy filmed so far, and Skyfall bestowed us a fantastic return to form for 007, it is simply great to sit back and revel in an action-adventure made essentially and unapologetically for grownups. Dredd fires on all cylinders and doesn’t disappoint in any category. Urban and Olivia Thirlby are outstanding. Headey proves that there is nobody out there who can be a bitch with anywhere near the same level of boo-hissable venom. Alex Garland’s screenplay simmers with brilliantly barbed brutality, single-minded and strongly linear yet bursting with hints of a much wider world just itching to be explored. Pete Travis directs with incredible passion and flair, depicting a fantastically vibrant yet claustrophobic environment in which the kid-gloves are most assuredly off, and reveals a tremendous sense of hyper-kinetic exhilaration. The Slo-Mo scenes are simply gorgeous and wildly inventive, and the 3D is absolutely superb. Yes, the basic premise is almost identical to Gareth Evans’ The Raid, but this is Judge Dredd and, for my money, he does it far better.
Oh god, we need more of this!
The AV quality of this PR combo-disc delivers a top-notch, faithful 3D presentation that captures all the whirling future-shock chaos, and a problem-rife 2D version which is sure to cause problems if the same transfer hits the retail shelves. The lossless audio is absolutely pulverising, but it works extraordinarily well for this film and delivers a real, Satan-bugging adrenaline rush that could make the ears bleed without once sacrificing detail or clarity for all of its tectonic bombast. Be warned, though … some people won’t like such aural ferocity. However, EIV drop the ball with a paltry selection of very poor extras that really let the release down.
But the film is the main thing, and I can’t recommend Dredd enough, folks. For me, personally, this has been my favourite film of the year … thus far. For sheer excitement, adrenaline and non-negotiable ball-busting.
The 2D take has issues, at least on my check disc, but the film and its 3D version come very highly recommended indeed as a true-grue antidote to the plague of PG13 and the 12a action cinema. Even if destined to be merely a cult-gem, cast adrift to the fickle nature of audience tastes and the gaps in the genre-net, Dredd has classic stamped all over it.
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