Gathering evidence: blogger Alasdair Stuart analyses the iconic uniform as worn by Karl Urban
The first still from the new Judge Dredd movie has been released and it is, of course, Dredd himself. After all, anyone else would simply make the man angry. It's an interesting shot too, slightly out of focus and slightly low tech. But most interesting of all is how that low tech aesthetic has been applied to Dredd himself.
Starting with the iconic helmet, it's not only tough and functional but has real weight to it. The shield at the top looks solid and there's a hint of an extra storage ridge on the top which suggests the badge may serve as a respirator as it does in the comics. Most interesting of all though is the fact that the helmet has clearly been in the wars. There are scuffs in the paint work on both sides and whilst it looks muscular and real, it's also not perfect. This is not the precise, stylised look of the Stallone movie and that change in aesthetic really comes into its own below Urban's neck.
The iconic eagle shoulder pad is either gone altogether or hidden on the other side of the shot and the other shoulder pad is built into something which looks for all the world like a heavily modified flak vest. You can see the fastenings between each shoulder sleeve and chest plate and the shoulder pad and Judge badge are both built into this outer suit. It's a simple but devastatingly clever idea, splitting the uniform into a basic set of what looks a lot like biker leathers and an armoured over suit which is unique to the Judges. It's a simple, effective set up which is nicely rounded out by the big chunky gloves with what look like integral knuckle dusters. This isn't the Versace-ised world of the previous movie but is in fact much closer to Mad Max in tone and feel.
That tone really shines through with Dredd's lawgiver which is as far from the sleek precise weapon of the Stallone version as Urban's biker leathers are from Stallone's bodysuit. That is an ugly, functional gun crammed full of extra storage space for the mission-adaptable rounds and with a huge shell ejection port on the side by the look of things. In other words, form follows function. And here that function is to be as efficient a killing machine as possible.
That choice also, potentially, tells us something about the setting of the movie. This is, to quote Max Headroom, 20 minutes into the future and everything Dredd's wearing is functional, practical, looks real. This is a future with belt buckles and flak vests, with guns that are functional rather than elegant. This looks, as several people have already pointed out, a lot like early Dredd and, by extension, it makes sense to assume that's the period the film will draw from. It's already been stated that the film will be darker and grittier than its predecessor and judging by this still, they're holding to that.
A lawman in a very dark future, a uniform that's functional rather than showy and an ugly gun. It's a small, but very promising start to a film that, for now, is under the radar. If it keeps doing things this well? It won't be under the radar long. After all, he is the law.
This is a personal article by blogger Alasdair Stuart. What are you looking forward to most about the Judge Dredd movie? What do you fear most about it? Thoughts, suggestions, freak-outs and geek-outs welcome as always in the comment thread below...