Judge Dredd (1995)

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s talk about the 1995 movie Judge Dredd.

Now, before I say anything, I have to make it absolutely clear that I am not looking at this movie as a comic book reader. I’ve never read the comics, so I cannot make any judgement on it as an adaptation. Instead, I will look at it as an action movie, unrelated to the comic series.

Shall we begin?

The movie begins with a text crawl, narrated by James Earl Jones. I would write it all out, but instead, here’s the abridged version: we bitch-slapped mother nature one time too many, the environment went to shit, and humanity now lives in giant crime-ridden cities, ruled over by the Judges, an elite force of police/jury/executioners.

Among them is our hero, Judge Dredd. Considered the best of the Judges, he is cold, unemotional and devoted to upholding the law. We later find out that the reason he’s such a good judge is because he was part of a genetic experiment known as Project Janus, meant to create the perfect Judge.

In fact, there were two children produced by the experiment. One was Dredd. The other was Rico, his lifelong friend. But since you can’t have future science without something going wrong, Rico turned into a murderous psychopath nine years before the movie takes place, and goes on a killing spree. The reason the movie gives is that he “Genetically Mutated into the perfect criminal”.

He was then Judged by Dredd, who was unaware of the truth. But instead of being executed, he was sentenced to a life of solitary confinement in a penal colony.

Dredd, meanwhile, leads an idyllic life of being badass, blowing up cars with advanced weaponry and sentencing Rob Schneider to prison. However, this ends when he is framed for the murder of a journalist opposing the Judges and their methods.

We find out that Rico escaped his prison, with the help of Member of the Council Judge Griffin, who presumably was the one who spared Rico’s life and later charges him with the assassination of the Journalist.

Dredd is put before a tribunal for the murder and during the hearing, video evidence is presented to the tribunal, showing Rico, wearing Dredds armor, gunning down the Journalist. His partner, Judge Hershey, objects, stating that the video does not allow identification of the killers face, only armour and a badge bearing Dredd’s name, both of which can be stolen or duplicated. She asks that the video should therefore not be allowed as evidence.

Now, I don’t think that’s how it works….

You can question the evidence and argue that it’s not enough on its own to condemn the accused, but I don’t think you can actually demand that it be disregarded completely. It is, after all, video footage of the murder.

Of course, Chief Justice Fargo rules her Objection sustained, and deems the video invalid as evidence, so I guess it’s a moot point.

However…

The prosecution then presents technical information about the weapon Judges carry, the Lawgiver II. The information we’re given is that it’s coded to the DNA of the judge carrying it, by the skin’s contact with the grip

(We’ll just ignore, for a moment, that all judges wear gloves…)

Not only that, but whenever the gun is reloaded, the projectile is tagged with the DNA of the user.

OK, small problem…. Why the fuck would you need that?! What POSSIBLE gain would there be to program that into the gun? It’s not like people would want to keep some count of how many they killed, since this is top secret information! The gun is already connected to the main computer! If you absolutely had to do this, why not just keep a log of when the gun was fired, and by whom!?

Then there’s the problem of exactly HOW it tags something. From what I could gather, the gun attaches a small ring onto the round upon reloading. I don’t know if it’s a small DNA sample or just a bar-code that translates to “Dredd wuz here lol”, but either way, I don’t think it’d survive the process of being FIRED FROM A GUN AND LEFT IN SOMEONES BODY!

Oh, and this is a small point, and I admit, I don’t know how weaponry and ammunition in this world works, but I’m pretty sure that when the 3D presentation demonstrates the ring being attached to the round, it’s placed on the CASING of the bullet!

But here’s the biggest problem.

As soon as the technical schematics of the Lawgiver II is presented, we’re told that neither Hershey or Dredd were aware of this, a fact Hershey lets the tribunal know moments later. She requests a chance to look over the evidence. At least I assume that’s what she’s requesting, since Chief Justice Fargo interrupts her mid-sentence, and says that “The prosecution must be allowed to finish”.

OB-FUCKING-JECTION!

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the understanding that both the defence and the prosecution must be allowed to inspect any evidence presented ahead of time, so that they may build a case around it! The prosecution introducing a new piece of evidence halfway through the trial out of nowhere is not acceptable, and could get the entire case labeled a mistrial! This is the headquarters of the entire judicial system! The judge himself is Chief Justice, and I would assume that he was familiar with the concept of DISCLOSURE!

Now, the solution to this is very simple! First, have Hershey object to the video alone being enough to condemn Dredd. When the prosecution then offers the technical information about the gun, and Hershey objects, you have Griffin butt in and overrule her objection! He is, after all, also in the tribunal.

Oh, and I almost forgot… He’s also the guy who FRAMED DREDD AND IS WORKING WITH RICO!

This entire hearing is part of his plan to make Fargo resign, giving him the power to restart Project Janus!

If Dredd is found guilty, the truth about him might be revealed, and the people might lose faith in the Judges, ushering in chaos and anarchy! Fargo doesn’t want this, so he would have all the reason in the world to forbid the evidence, whereas Griffin had everything to gain by it being allowed!

With those teeny-tiny tweaks, the problem would have been solved!

Now, what other logical fallacies are there to find with this movie?

The answer: None that I’m aware of. Pretty much everything else in this movie adds up and is explained.  As such, believe me when I say that I absolutely love this movie!

I don’t mean I love it like I love Van Helsing, in a “So bad it’s good” kind of way. I think this is a genuinely good action movie.

It’s silly, but not to the point where it’s distracting. The story’s simple, but it’s well told and the characters are memorable, interesting and there is a degree of growth to the main character. You see how he evolves and gains a better understanding of the law and how to apply it. The villain is surprisingly complex, with his ultimate goal not being to rule the world or tear it down, not to mention Armand Assante is clearly having a lot of fun with the character. I can’t even say I disliked Rob Schneider as the comic relief sidekick.

Really, the biggest problem with the movie is that it’s supposed to be an adaptation of a comic series, and from what I’ve been told, it doesn’t do that job very well at all. It’s safe to say that if you’re looking for a faithful adaptation of the comic series, this movie is not for you.

However, if you’re looking for a fun, exciting and surprisingly good action movie with memorable characters, quotable lines and a well told story, I suggest you give it a watch.

Chances are, you’ll enjoy it. Provided, of course, you know nothing about the Judge Dredd comic series, or you’re able to completely ignore that it’s an adaptation.

Make of that what you will.

Court is adjourned.

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