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Karl Urban is grumpy and violent in debut Dredd trailer

This morning Lionsgate fired off a PR barrage to notify the world’s film journalists that the studio had released the first trailer for the upcoming Dredd. It’s rather kind of them to notify us like this, but rather disappointingly the trailer is exclusive to the Machinima YouTube channel. While we’d love to embed the thing here and save you all the hassle of clicking through yet another link, Lionsgate has made that impossible. The firm is promising that Machinima’s stranglehold on the clip will be lifted tomorrow, but who has time for that? You wanna watch Karl Urban shoot some dudes right this minute, and to do so you’re going to have to click through these words to YouTube. Sorry.

Condolences aside, we’re of two minds on the clip. It certainly looks far more gritty and tonally true to the Judge Dredd comic books than 1995’s Sylvester Stallone/Rob Schneider vehicle Judge Dredd, but that’s more or less a given insomuch as Karl Urban never once removes his iconic helmet. We also appreciate the inclusion of that drug people seem to be huffing out of asthma inhalers in the clip. Granted, it makes the movie’s plot alarmingly similar to Gareth Evans’ The Raid, but it also provides a canonical explanation and perfect impetus for the film to include tons of awesome slow-motion firefights. We didn’t realize how much we’d appreciate that until an action flick offered some kind of explanation as to why its stars could drop in and out of bullet time at will, but it is quite thoughtful. Polite, even. Propers to screenwriter Alex Garland for that one.

That said, as fans of the original Judge Dredd comic series, we’re somewhat concerned that the producers of this film have either utterly missed the point or willfully ignored the character’s original intent. In the comics Dredd is a lawman in a dystopian future who tracks down criminals and immediately hands down appropriate punishment. In most cases this means that the perp ends up dying in brutal fashion. The idea behind this, at least originally, is that Judge Dredd is a satire of both increasingly violent societal norms and fascist governmental organizations. British writer John Wagner created Dredd specifically as an American lawman as an indictment of the stereotypically American glorification of violence in the name of justice. To much of the world, the US is seen as a land of cowboys toting six-shooters and waiting for someone to step out of line so they can be summarily filled with lead, and Dredd is the ultimate example of that.

By contrast, Dredd seems to be a simple action flick which actively glorifies the exact sort of violent law enforcement that the comic was raging against. That’s fine (and probably a far more lucrative option than strictly adhering to the source material), but it’s not an accurate representation of the character. If the producers are hoping to sell this movie to the general public on the basis that it’s a mindless action flick, more power to them, but why attach the Judge Dredd brand to the thing when it would have made just as much sense to create a wholly original film?

Then again, maybe we’re overthinking this. Dredd hits theaters on September 21, and let’s face it: As Americans, we get borderline sexually aroused by any film that can slake our thirst for blood, even momentarily. We’ll go see this thing, and odds are pretty solid that you will too. Try not to shoot up the place during the previews.

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