I can’t claim to be the authority on all things Judge Dredd related by any stretch of the imagination, nor do I claim to be a comic authority in any capacity but I calls em’ like I see em’ and I was surprisingly impressed after finally sitting down to watch the new Dredd adaption. I don’t usually use this space for movie reviews (although I’m thinking of cooking up a new blog perhaps where I do just that) but I decided I wanted to write about Dredd because the entire time I was watching I couldn’t help but constantly think what an awesome video game it would have made, and here are the reasons why:
1. The Non-Specific Protagonist: The character of Judge Dredd himself has been around for years, and has evolved constantly and been tackling by many different artists with completely different styles. All of this has worked because Dredd is a vehicle more so than a character. The story forms around him, which allows the author of each tale featuring him to take it any any direction they may please, and that is a perfect feature for a videogame lead. We all want to embody our character in one way or another, and putting gender aside for a minute, some of the most universally beloved games of all time (at from where I’m standing) feature silent protagonists. Although Dredd isn’t exactly silent, his character’s divisive personality could slip easily into the formula for a triple A game. Many of today’s most popular big box games feature leads with wishy-washy hero character traits, at least with Dredd, we get that neutral quality that allows the masses to become the character, but with over thirty years of experience in ass kicking to back it up.
2. A Masterful Ebb and Flow of Carnage: One of my favorite parts of Dredd was it’s liberal, but tasteful use of action and violence. Now, I have my Master’s degree in film snobbery, which makes many people think that I don’t allow myself to enjoy action-heavy popcorn movies, but that’s not true. The problem I have with a lot of mainstream action movies is that they are often little more than the explosions and visual effects that cost them millions to make. Dredd has the action we crave, but it’s split up with enough tension building exposition that when we finally get to those big action scenes, they taste all the sweeter. Now, videogames (whether it’s fun or boring) often follow this formula too. You walk around for a bit, find out some stuff, shoot a couple guys and then…BOSS BATTLE. Victory always tastes sweeter when you are forced against all odds to creep towards it. (Not to mention, giant chain guns are ALWAYS awesome and Dredd has got that covered too.)
3. The Right Kind of Environment: Dredd takes place in one apartment building. Making a movie (or a videogame I would imagine) in one location allows for extra care to be taken in designing a cohesive mood for the environment you want to create. Dredd’s art design is impeccable. If you watch closely you can see the amount of care that was put into each area of the apartment complex. Especially in a sci-fi world, setting up a strong visual environment is crucial, and this film does a great job of that. Being able to put your all of the focus on one main environment is not only (I would imagine) cost effective from a design standpoint, but it allows for the kind of attention to detail that can make a game really special. In a film you might be able to take brief notice of your surroundings, but with a game you can easily choose to take the time to explore the full wealth of your surroundings. Even if you choose not to, it’s plain to see the difference between a fully realized environment and a game with 8,000 of the same picture on the wall.
4. Cool Guns and Gadgets: Ok so let’s be real, in a videogame guns and gadgets are pretty important. Well good news, Dredd has that covered too. I can’t claim to be the expert on his standard issued super badass gun, but I do know it can shoot grenades, smoke bombs, super missiles, armor piercing bullets, all activated by the sound of his voice (perhaps an actual cool use of the Kinect!) This guy has got some cool gear. Simple enough to manage, but diverse enough to make for interesting enough strategic gameplay shooter wise.
(side note: you can totally get this dredd gun replica on etsy which is super neat: http://www.etsy.com/listing/119715906/dredd-3d-lawgiver-mkii-prop-gun-kit)
5. Nifty Effects Possibilities: Slowing down time is pretty cool in games. If the new Max Payne teaches us anything, it’s that slo-mo fighting is still as cool as can be, and Dredd offers a perfect device for implementing this kind of game play. If you haven’t seen the film, a drug called “Slo-Mo” is the villainous substance in question. The film does a great job of peppering in beautifully rendered visual effects sequences in slow motion when the drug is administered. What I would dare to call, a symphony of violence, these scenes are stunning to behold, and surprisingly not overused at all, taking place at only key moments in the film. Granted, the game could easily exploit this and make it a regular feature of the gameplay, most likely with no complaints from me. Just think…a cool effect/special ability that actually has a reason for being in the game, who woulda thunk it!?
Last but not least, my favorite reason why I wish Dredd would be made into a videogame….
6. THE AWESOME FEMALE CHARACTERS: People act as if creating good female characters in games is the riddle of the Sphinx, but awesome female characters have been kicking ass in action movies for years and no one has had an aneurysm about it on the internet. (Hello, where is the female lead in the new Aliens game?) By looking to badass movies for ideas, and not upping the bra size too drastically you have the simple recipe for some great female game characters. You can still have your formulaic male protagonist to put on the box, but by adding a few killer female characters you could create a great game that still sells that doesn’t totally isolate any possible female audience, and maybe won’t even cause you to be tarred and feathered by the internet troll population. Dredd is a fantastic example of this.
First let’s talk about Lena Headley as “Ma-Ma.” One of the things I loved about this film is how even keeled both the protagonist (Dredd) and the villain are. Neither is ever rattled by the crazy events that are going on all around them. By methodically keeping a level head, both of these characters show that they are not playing around. Even without an in-depth background story, by creating an air of mystery and hardness around these characters, you never need to question who they are, because you already know. Ma-Ma is horrifying and strong. The fact that she is a woman is never brought up as any kind of negative, although the image of her biting off an old enemy’s manhood is revisited several times, her power is unshakable. In my mind, female villains are a great idea for games, but you don’t really see them very often (outside of final fantasy.) If done correctly, it’s a great way for us girls to get our female empowerment on, and it also lets haters defeat a woman at the end of the game so EVERYBODY WINS.
Let’s not forget about Dredd’s cute little blonde sidekick, Olivia Thirlby as Anderson. Although indeed cute and blonde, did I forget to mention that she is also a BADASS? At the beginning of the film I wasn’t sure if she would turn out to be the type of character I’d be gushing about, and found her a little too adorable to be cast in this kind of film, but she proved me totally wrong. The polar opposite of Dredd and Ma-Ma, Anderson clearly has a personality and a conscious. It’s the addition of her more human story to the mix that makes this a truly well rounded film. A bit gun shy and timid at the beginning, she learns quickly to do what needs to be done to do her job, but never forgets her reasons for wanting to be a Judge, and doesn’t lose her humanity in the end. Oh and she also has a superpower (she can read people’s minds…another super incredible and unique gameplay feature I would love to see happen.) Can you imagine the possibilities of the co-op mode for this game? Talk about your perfect formula for a game of all sexes! And guys on the internet liked her character too!
So get out your checkbooks millionaires interested in new game development ventures because sadly, it looks like this movie may be the end of the road. (http://io9.com/5945745/therell-probably-never-be-another-judge-dredd-movie) The main point I want to make here is that there are compromises that can be made as far as putting more/better female characters into games. Just plopping in a random female soldier is a step sure, but what we really need is characters with some depth that both men and women can enjoy playing as or encountering in games. There have been incredible female action stars who women have admired and that men drool over for decades, why can’t games draw from that formula to help take a step in the right direction towards lessening the gender bias in today’s games?