‘Dredd’s Tough Cops and Lena Heady’s Slum Queen

I’ve been reading a lot of Judge Dredd comics thanks to the nice people at 2000 A.D.—the new collection of the Complete Casefiles is gorgeous and well-curated—so I was particularly excited to see the trailer for Dredd, the second attempt to make a movie about the lawgivers who attempt to bring order to the post-apocalyptic dictatorship of Mega-City One:

From what I can tell, the moments we see in the trailer are extremely faithful to the script for the movie that’s been circulating for a couple of years, which to my mind is a good thing. The story looks to be simple: Jude Dredd, the best street patrolman in the Justice Department (which, for the unfamiliar, took over the remnants of the United States in a coup, and gave its Judges the power to act as judge, jury, and executioner to combat crime), is meant to spend a routine day assessing Judge Anderson, whose scores would mean she’d fail out of the program, but given her other abilities, the Chief Judge wants her to have a second chance to pass. But their day on the streets takes an unusual turn when Dredd and Anderson investigate a series of murders in a giant housing block called Peach Trees, the provenance of a ruthless drug lord named Ma-Ma (Lena Heady in a role that should make terrifying use of her experience as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones).

My only real reservation with the story is that I think Judge Dredd is most interesting when he’s questioning the system that’s empowered him, or pushing for a more expansive or humane vision of Mega-City One citizenship. Ma-Ma is an unambiguous villain, not someone to make Dredd question the hyper-violent exercise of his authority, though the script makes pretty clear how dehumanizing life in the blocks is, and how the violent war on crime takes its toll on civilians. The only real discretion he exercises is in his evaluation of Anderson. I’m hoping this will be a success and that we could see a franchise grow out of this, both because I think the character is excellent, and because I think with success would come confidence to tell some of the more ambiguous, and more cosmic, Judge Dredd stories. If The Avengers universe can get Thanos, surely the American public is ready for a Judge Death movie.