In what is a first for me I’m going to write a review about two films at the same time. As it turned out I watched these films one evening after another on TV and couldn’t help thinking they have a lot of things in common, predominantly why I felt they didn’t work as movies.
For the record Dredd was the attempt to try and rid the world of the memory of the Sylvester Stallone vehicle that came out in in 1995. Fans of the comic book took issue with Judge Dredd removing his helmet and any scene that featured Rob Schneider. In the reboot Karl Urban of Star Trek fame donned the uniform and set off into the streets of Mega City One on his trusty metal steed. This time around he has a mysterious rookie Judge with him played by Olivia Thirlby who find themselves in direct confrontation with Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) responsible for production of the latest drug craze SLO-MO.
In the case of Resident Evil: Afterlife it looks like a continuation of the story with Alice (Milla Jovovich) on the hunt for a mysterious save haven called Arcadia. Her journey sees her crash land her plane into the compound of a now ex-prison. Together with her new friends she (eventually) sets off for the container ship that they have identified as the Arcadia. The prison compound is surrounded by the undead who conveniently find a way in and there’s a bit of a to-do with the Umbrella Corporation along the way.
While this isn’t the two films biggest failing they were both released in 3D and were clearly filmed in such a way to create set pieces to show off their 3Dness. Cue gratuitous slow-motion shots of bullets ripping through flesh and knives being thrown in the direction of the camera. There was no attempt at character development, which you could understand in the case of Resident Evil because it’s already a sequel, but in Dredd there’s no reason for it. He is the same person at the beginning as at the end. He stumbles into a criminal lair and then s**t hits the fan to the tune of tens of thousands of rounds of bullets.
In both cases my takeaway was that the film makers were solely interested in pleasing the existing fan base. They had no interest in trying to draw anybody else in and I put this down to the business of numbers. Resident Evil: Afterlife was made with a reported production budget of $60m. According to Boxofficemojo.com the film had a worldwide box office of $296m. Sure the cinemas keep a chunk of the change and there’s marketing but I bet the Producers doubled their money. If you look at Resident Evil: Retribution that followed in 2012 that film cost $65m (in the same ballpark) and made $240m. Not as much money but enough and I think there is a other film in the works. I think Dredd was trying to follow a similar model – it had a budget of $50m but (understandably) bombed taking just $36m worldwide.
I don’t think that’s going to deter another studio from trying to resurrect Dredd as its a recognisable brand. The problem is that it has to overcome two somewhat maligned productions. Still wait until circa 2020 and I think there’ll be another reboot. The financial model has been proven. Make it cheap enough, slap an R rating on it and decorate with gore and sprinkle with 3D. It’s also why we see so many cheap and nasty horror films. You can churn them out for a few million dollars and it doesn’t take much to recover the investment and you never know it might be a hit.
In summary it was two disappointing nights in front of the TV. My double rating 2/5.