It’s not often that a remake is actually more faithful than the original translation of comic-into-film. So much can go wrong – multiple writers who are unfamiliar with the source material can warp story and character, canon plot and relationship arcs can be removed or reshaped, and fan favorites can be horribly mis-cast.
Basically, we’re talking Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, here.
Of the many horrors that can befall a beloved (?) cult classic being subjected to Reboot Fever, by far the worst must be a hearty dose of feminism.
The original comic to movie adaptation of the Judge Dredd character and story included a female Judge named Hershey, whose sole purpose in the movie is to subvert the Judges Can’t Have Relationships facet of the Dredd universe by stubbornly insisting that Judge Dredd should lighten up, get a life, and open himself to love.
Not so in the 2012 reboot, Dredd.
Aside from adhering to other key tenets of the Judge universe (like the fact that Judge Dredd never reveals his face) this modern remake also resists the urge to scratch the Love Interest itch.
Yes, Judge Dredd is male, and yes, he has a female Judge companion, Anderson, the rookie he’s testing/training – but there are no romantic overtures or undertones. They are simply two people doing their jobs.
Their jobs are violent, too, by the way, and our plucky young cadet doesn’t shy away from use of force – or even torture, using her telepathy to invade one unlucky bad guy’s mind and make him wet himself from fear.
Judge Anderson, despite her probationary status, is a vital part of the film and its plot – in fact, the whole film revolves around whether Judge Dredd will deem her to be worthy of the title and duties of “Judge.” Anderson was born and raised in the crime ridden slums of the future dystopia where Dredd plays out, Mega City One. Despite her shaky start in life, her determination led her to the Judge academy, where her mental powers got the attention of those in charge. As a final measure of her readiness to be a Judge, Dredd takes Anderson out on a mission which turns sour when the local crime lord, MaMa, decides they are too much trouble.
Throughout their time together, despite Anderson’s inexperience in the field, she is never a burden on Judge Dredd or a damsel in distress. Instead, she is an asset to their investigation, helping retrieve information from suspects, discover safe hiding places, and manipulating reluctant citizens into helping them. When she is captured by the enemy, she remains calm, relies on herself to endure, and actually ends up saving Dredd’s life after she makes good her escape.
While Anderson isn’t a perfect representation of her comic book counterpart, it’s a much needed step in the right direction to include one of the more important, powerful, and memorable characters from the comic book universe, “Judge Cassandra Anderson.” That this character happens to be female equates to mad feminist props for both the comic and the movie that resisted relegating her to the trope of Love Interest.
So frequently, modern remakes and reboots and re-need-to-make-more-monies forget the source material, sweep aside important conventions, or mangle characters to fit the third script writer’s undying fascination with that original character they created and now finally have an outlet for.
Dredd manages to avoid all these pitfalls and more.
Now if only it passed the Bechdel test…