Film Review from the September 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard
Judge Dredd (15)
In the America of the twenty-second century most of the land has been laid to waste by radioactivity and the population is caged up in huge Mega-cities. The market economy is decomposing under the impetus of social disintegration and lawlessness, and Mega-city One, along America's eastern seaboard, is in a state of near chaos. Keeping a semblance of control are the Judges who patrol the streets—police, judges and executioners rolled into one. Most feared among these is Judge Dredd. "I am the law" is one of Dredd's phrases, and few of the assorted punks and criminals roaming the streets would argue.
The character of Dredd, along with much of the plot and the scenario of Mega-city One, has been adapted for this Hollywood blockbuster from the comic strip of the same name in 2000AD, probably Britain's most successful sci-fi comic. But it does not transfer to the big screen as well as it might. The influence of Hollywood is stamped all over it, sometimes for good but mostly for bad. The special effects are tremendous, but if you're looking for a credible plot or some of the futuristic social commentary for which 2000AD has been famous, look elsewhere. Violence, mayhem and glorification of the assembled Hollywood "stars" present is what this film is really about, sadly like so many others these days. Sure, 2000AD has always been a violent comic, but there was a bit more to it than just that, and Dredd's strip was no exception.
Unfortunately, little is shown of the social background to Dredd's capers—so vital to the original comic strip. The graffiti wars, the banning of stimulants like sugar and chocolate, the mass unemployment, the shoddy consumerism and meaningless of life don't get a look in. Perhaps they're a bit too near the bone for the folks back in the US to stomach. Instead we are with Sylvester Stallone parading around as a super-hero once more. But even this is rendered laughable by his obvious inability (once again) to speak his lines properly. At some points his facial contortions are such when he is barking out orders as to suggest he is about to break wind in spectacular fashion. But, of course, we know that super-heroes don't do that, do they?