This German disc, encoded via AVC, sports a terrific image that brings the Law to hi-def, fan-pleasing glory. The print is in very fine condition, with no damage or wear and tear to be seen. Grain is all present and correct and consistent throughout and, most importantly, authentic with no trace of DNR having been nastily applied. I had no problems with noise occurring, even in the darker portions of the picture, and there is no aliasing, edge enhancement or blocking taking place in a 2.35:1 frame that is vibrant, detailed and satisfyingly deep. The disc handles the integration of the CG elements, matte shots and model-work with ease, and the whole image appears smartly blended and represents a definite and substantial upgrade over any previous version.
Colours are rich and bold with no smearing or over-saturation. The palette is warm to scorching, with lots of neon shades for Mega-City One, lurid explosions and fireballs, sharp delineation of the vivid red trimmings on the Judge helmets and the glowing eyes of the ABC Warrior, and lovely cool midnight blues for the various subdued encounters such as Rico's escape, the sequence with the Angel Gang and the Blade Runner-esque hues that suffuse some of the interiors. The bright red blood running down Dredd's face after Mean butts him looks especially vibrant. Skin-tones are fine and realistic – even for the mutant Mean and the grim looking unformed clones with their pasty green and white mucus texture. Check out that gorgeous golden gleam from the eagle shoulder pad! Contrast is always spot on and black levels are reassuringly deep and consistent. This is a strong and incredibly vibrant picture that totally captures the comic-book aesthetic that you would hope for.
You can now see details that were completely hidden from view before. Far-away vehicles and glowing video signs, replete with in-jokes if look closely, in the teeming metropolis. Better outlines on distant buildings and figures. But it is in the close-ups that this transfer truly shines. Facial texture is incredibly well pronounced. Crags, pockmarks (step forward Jurgen Prochnow), stubble and pores are all clearly on show with an almost immaculate realism. Eyelashes, beads of perspiration, spittle on teeth and lips – it is all here and tremendously clear. The armour on the Judges, the very texture of the spandex, the litter on the streets during the block-war, the splashy wounds received from gunfire (check out the slimy mess on the wall behind the rookie Judge who gets blown away at the beginning), and the rusted, war-torn surface of the ABC Warrior. Also better looking than I've seen it presented before is the heat-mirage thrown out by the engines of the flying shuttles. It no longer looks as fake.
Depth is something that I had expected would come across a little bit better than it does. But, barring some of the more grandiose wide-shots of the city walls and the surrounding Cursed Earth and of the vast metropolis, from a variety of angles and velocities (the Lawmaster chase), the film can still seem a little bit flat. This isn't really a complaint though, I merely anticipated more three-dimensionality all round. This said, there are a couple of standout shots that bring the image to life – such as the cut from Rico gunning down the prison guards to the zoom-in on Dredd showing off his shooting skills at the academy.
About the only thing that lets the image transfer down is some occasional shimmering from patterned surfaces during panning shots – building structures and steel poles in some of the fly-overs, for example. Other than that, this is a fantastic transfer that gets a strong 9 out of 10 from me.
The disc defaults to German, but a terrific English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is only a button-click away. As with the video transfer, the audio is of a rich and dynamic quality that brings the Stallone movie thunderously into the new age with its head held high. Judge Dredd is, by nature, a bombastic movie, and this means that we crave, and thankfully receive plenty of broadly presented deep bass reverberations, lots of crashing impacts, finely directional zigzagging gunfire and gut-punching explosions, all accompanied by a propulsive and excitingly rendered Alan Silvestri score.
Fly-overs reach across the ceiling and are well taken up by the rear speakers for a natural-sounding transition. The big crash of the prison shuttle, the movement of the Mega-Cab that Fergie takes a ride in at the start, and the Lawmaster sky pursuit are great examples of roaring sonic dexterity equipped with fine directionality and force. The ball of fire scooting down the waste tunnels as Dredd and his goofy sidekick attempt to break back into the city has enough searing weight and propulsion for you to feel the heat coming towards you. We get as much of a shock as that cocky rich-kid as we all witness Dredd blowing his glamour-car to smithereens – the explosion just one of many that provide wonderful delights for the speakers to savour. Bass levels are rewardingly deep and rumbling. The sub certainly gets some action out of this track.
Subtle effects are perfectly well realised – from the punching of keyboards, to the footsteps on metal grillwork, to the little steam hisses from machinery and the clicking of electronics. I never had a problem with the dialogue presentation, but I will say, however, that it seems to be dialled slightly lower than perhaps it should, in my opinion. There are moments when the film is battered by meaty explosions, shuddering impacts, searing barrages of deep gunfire and grindingly percussive music, but all speech within remains clearly discernible. The only real issues you may have are, of course, naturally endemic to Stallone’s distinctive voice. The opening introduction to Dredd, via the orders and declarations that he issues to the combatants during the Block-War, are irritatingly slurred, but this is no fault of the transfer. The little voice of the Lawgiver as it responds to each new ballistic request is perfectly audible. The big metallic death-roar of the ABC Warrior is deeply unsettling. But the best voice comes from Mean Angel, a gloriously throaty Texan drawl that comes accompanied by a brittle hydraulic hiss and whir - “You got three strikes, lawman!” Awesome.
Overall, this track delivers top notch audio excitement that is sure to impress.
This disc is encoded for A,B and C regions, but I found that the extra features would not play on a US PS3.
Considering that the DVD editions of Dredd have been kitted-out with absolutely nothing, it is nice to find that this German import actually carries a little making of, a promo featurette as well as the film's trailers. The 20-minute making of comes in both English and German language versions, but I found that the English track remained utterly silent throughout what looked like quite a reasonable behind the scenes glimpse at the production. The German track plays over the top of the original English, but this still results in a garbled appreciation of what is being said so, unless you can speak German, or if your copy actually plays the English track, you're going to lose out, I'm afraid.
The 5-minute promo featurette also suffers from a silent English track, as do the film's teaser, trailer and US TV spots. I'm not sure if I have a dodgy copy, or if this is down to an error with the mastering of the disc. Personally, I suspect the latter … and this is obviously a shame. Whilst I cannot comment on the information presented in these features ... they do, ahem, look like they could offer good value! I am awarding the disc 4 out of 10 for its special features on the presumption that someone, somewhere (well, Germany, obviously) can understand them, or get them to play properly.
As we await Pete Travis’ interpretation of the cult figure as written by Alex Garland, Danny Cannon’s original Judge Dredd adventure still ticks a lot of boxes and offers a fast-paced and energetic SF romp wrapped around the brutal heroics of prime-time Stallone. Visually, the film is very impressive, and even if the helmet comes off and we see that Joseph Dredd looks an awful lot like Rocky Balboa, the story is surprisingly accurate in tone and has evidently been a labour of love. Too many cooks in the kitchen muddy up the ingredients, but the resulting dish is certainly tasty and entertaining enough for all but the most devout of Dreddites.
This German import Blu-ray delivers a simply terrific image and all the crash, bang and wallop that you want from a lossless gung-ho action track. You will definitely not be disappointed with its AV treatment, that's for sure. It is great to see that something extra has been added to the package too, even if there appears to be a problem with the audio encoding of the supplemental material – this does, at least, mean that a full-bore US or UK edition can set its sights a little bit higher, maybe.
Stallone’s Dredd is not 2000 AD's Dredd, that's for sure. But this does not impair the enjoyment of this spectacular and thoroughly entertaining SF adventure. Chaotic and violent, fast and frequently funny, this is great comic-book stuff that doesn't deserve half the flak that it has gotten over the years. It works surprisingly well in a double-bill with Robocop, or with Escape From New York – all three seem to share the same thematic DNA. As there is still no word on a more conventional release, this is certainly a disc that all Dredd fans should consider.
Just don't judge Stallone’s removal of the helmet too harshly, eh?
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