Dreading Dredd: A Look at the New Trailer and Expecting More from Comic Book Movies

The word on the internets is that the new trailer for Dredd has been loosed on the world. Karl Urban appears to have a handle on the role, although it's tough to say the deep, gravelly voice is really necessary.

The film also boasts Lena Headey, who's all over the map these days, making a name for herself in the hearts of fanboys and girls everywhere with her roles. She plays the role of Madeline "Ma-Ma" Madrigal, a drug kingpin of sorts who rules Mega-City One.

Early response seems slightly tepid at best. Sure, there are all the requisite shootouts, dystopian settings and expected lines of dialogue, but that seems to be it. The movie appears to be hollow and devoid of emotion. Granted, this is based on the trailer, but you would think the trailer would showcase the movie's best parts.

This begs the question: are we asking too much from our comic book movies?

It's easy to say that comic book movies are gaining credibility with both industry and mainstream audiences. It feels as if every subsequent superhero film that's been released has at least maintained the level of quality set by the film preceding it.

Sure there have been exceptions. Green Lantern was both a box-office and movie bomb. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was a great film on its own, but performed poorly at the box-office. The Avengers is raking in the cash, despite a relatively thin story.

In The Avengers, it was great to see all the big-name actors playing their big-name superhero roles on screen. And the closing battle sequence was nothing short of epic. The rest of the movie though was spent on the Helicarrier, with all the players hemming and hawing over their roles and relationships.

Don't get me wrong--I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. The issue is that I would have liked a slightly stronger plot to go along with all the action. Some fries with the shake if you will.

Both The Dark Knight and Spider-man 2 are, to me, the pinnacles of comic book based films. They were perfect exhibits of character development, plot and action, essentially making it feel like you were reading a comic book on screen.

That sense isn't there with Dredd. The trailer makes the film look like your standard, "drug kingpin runs dystopian future where one hero must stop them" movie with a licensed character being the hero. It doesn't really feel like a comic book movie and maybe that's a distinction we as viewers need to get over.

Does director Pete Travis and screenwriter Alex Garland owe viewers a story that stays with the comic religiously? Of course not. Zack Snyder proved with Watchmen that when you literally transfer a comic to the big-screen it's not really met with the most enthusiastic response.

Although, Watchmen has a whole other host of issue associated with it that likely led to its demise at the box-office, but I digress.

Garland is credited on IMDB though as the writer of the upcoming Halo movie and one episode of Batman: Black and White. He's got some geek pedigree, which you would hope oozes into the film.

It's still early and maybe it's just the way the trailer is cut that leaves viewers wanting more. Personally, I'm still intrigued by the film and hope that it does manage to have more depth to it than what the trailer shows.

With comics bursting onto the mainstream scene, a tipping point emerges. Not every character adapted into a film will be done in a manner that's reverential to the source material. There are going to be some properties just leveraged for their name appeal, as opposed to trying to catch new viewers up on a property steeped in years of nuanced history in two hours.

Even if a film based on a comic book property doesn't pay all the homage to its source material, at the very least it has to be passable as a movie. If you remove the IP from the film and replace them with a standard character, is the movie still watchable?

That's the test and it's something I really hope Dredd can pass. Right now though, I'm just not really feeling it. And for a movie that supposedly costs $45 million, that's got to be a little worrisome.


  1. You know, I'm totally with you on this. What can we say though? I don't think we ARE content with comic book movies just being...action movies, anymore. In fact, I might even go so far to say 'action movies are dead'...at least in the sense that audiences want more than JUST action alone. They want Christopher Nolan-esque emotion, they want characters you feel like you can relate to like in any other big screen movie...the standards for 'packaging' an action movie are much steeper than they use to be. Basically, we want action movies that somehow resonates with viewers and draws them in with the same kind of power that a Harry Potter or indie film would. It's actually a high standard and party of why projects like this and Ghost Rider fall so short these days. They probobly aren't BAD movies...they just can't compete anymore.


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