The first image from Judge Dredd thrilled us, and Karl Urban's the perfect man to play MegaCity One's most uncompromising lawman. But a script draft that leaked out is causing some Block Wars among fans, with some fans hating it.
The script leaked out back in July, but more recently, various people on the 2000 A.D. Forums have been confirming that they have reason to believe it's genuine. And the fan backlash has been building against a script that doesn't really convey the craziness and bigness of Judge Dredd's world. (Although some fans like the simplicity of this script.) The usual caveats apply, of course — this is just a script draft, and a lot can and does change before (and after) filming. And you can't really judge a film based on reading a draft script, although sometimes you can get some decent hints. (For example, I read the leaked script of Star Trek: Generations before it came out, and it prepared me for the crushing disappointment that was the film.) With that out of the way, here goes.
What's the script about? In a nutshell, to quote The Middleman, it's "Die Hard in a building." Judge Dredd and a novice judge with elite psi-skills but low judge aptitude scores, Cassandra Anderson, get trapped in a Mega-City block run by an evil crime lord named Ma-Ma. She's the source of a hot new drug called Slo-Mo that — you guessed it — makes everything look like it's happening in slow-motion. (Perfect excuse for some "bullet time" sequences from the POV of someone on the drug.) Judges Dredd and Anderson have to fight their way out of the building, with one of Ma-Ma's henchmen whom they've arrested. By all accounts, it's a very generic action movie. The Playlist posted a script review back in July.
Whether fans are enthusiastic about this script depends largely on how they feel about a Die Hard-style, action movie-esque Dredd.
Here's one incensed fan, from the 2000 A.D. forums:
Sadly, i was very disillusioned on reading the script in its 'current' form. Im not sure how much i should say, without inviting basically, a flame war, but i passed it on without comment to two friends whose critcal faculties i trust. One mirrored my thoughts and the other refused to believe it was real, thinking it "a crappy fan script, written by one of your mates". He then added "or you", with a laugh. When assured that no, it's for real, he replied "oh well, that'll crash and burn then".
I've read it several times now, and while i may not dislike it quite as much as he did, my overall feeling still stands. It has nothing to make it stand out from a slew of other mid-range, straight to dvd thrillers, has none of the feel of the strip, follows the structure of the 95 film and repeats too many of the same beats, relies on a dodgy visual gimmick that seems ten years out of date, and has, at it's centre, the psychic hallucination naked Anderson forced blow job sequence, which is the dramatic centre of her arc.
(Don't worry, it's not Anderson being forced to give a blow job — it's her using one of the bad guys' oral sex fantasies to confuse and subvert him — it's actually sort of a cute moment in context.)
Adds another fan:
It would make a competent action movie, just not a great Dredd movie. I understand why they've had to confine the action to a few locations, but it just feels too small scale. We get no real sense of what the Judges actually represent, or what MC-1 is actually like. And the lack of humour bothers me as well. To be brutally honest, it feels dumbed down for the kind of cinema audience who like to see ass-kickings and shit blowing up, but don't want to have to think too hard about it. As if Garland has deliberately avoided confronting the audience with the real implications of the world Dredd exists in.
Then there's this whole thread on DigitalSpy, from when the script first leaked out in July.
Someone named Micster posted on his own blog:
The script is basically Die Hard but set in a block. Thats exactly what it is. But whereas Die Hard was clever and had a great script, this is just shit. Theres two major bits of plot convenience that is just fucking stupid. The first being the rookie. She is actually a cyborg. Yes. A cyborg. Im not joking. She has psychic powers meaning she can read peoples minds. Not only that but she can touch them so she can get inside the persons mind and freak them out by doing what she wants. When I read it, it came across as the white room in The Matrix. When one of your characters can read peoples mind, it removes any sense of tension. The other bit is what the drug actually is. Its nothing like heroin, no no, thats not futuristic enough. The drug is called Slo-Mo. Really. This means that when you see the people taking the drugs you see it all in stylistic bullshitovision that is bullet time.
But other fans are more sanguine. For example, from another thread at the 2000 A.D. forums:
It's very much in the 'high-octane', action set-piece mold. If you've heard comments to the effect that it's like Die Hard, I would say that's pretty accurate. Dredd remains, as you would expect, emotionless, hard as fuck and badass all the way through with Anderson providing the 'in' for the audience. Yes, she's a Judge but it's her first night on the job and it's all a bit overwhelming and exciting... Just to be clear; this script is a winner. If the director is good, this film will be fantastic.
Adds another person in that same thread:
This film must reclaim ground lost by the Stallone film so I think what they are doing is in the right direction but it does mean that if more films are to be made, they must broaden the scope and up the ante, no one would want another "Iron man 2" type sequel for Dredd.
And then there's this review over at What's Playing:
So can Alex Garland's Script do the same For JUDGE DREDD as Goyer did For BATMAN? Well in no short terms YES with a great big ‘WOO HOO' thrown in! This is a fast paced Gritty gory action movie that takes place In a city what I can only describe as Blade Runner on steroids ‘MEGA CITY ONE' A huge hulking metropolis of Corruption , crime and Drugs that even The JUDGES can not handle.
So it sounds like whether you like the script depends to a large extent on how you feel about a stripped-down, action-movie-esque version of the Judge Dredd mythos — or whether you prefer to see more expansive social satire, or more of an epic storyline along the lines of the Judge Death saga or the Judge Caligula saga. But as we said before, a lot can change before a film sees the light of day.