I want to commend for your reading Ace’s review of Dredd (a.k.a., Judge Dredd, 2012), wherein he calls out every action movie trope and cliché of the last 30 years, and praises Dredd for mostly eschewing them.
Except . . . I can’t help thinking that at least some of those tropes are necessary to make a movie interesting, and their nigh complete absence left me cold. The bad guys in the movie weren’t flamboyantly evil given the setting, and their chief even had a backstory that probably made feminists sympathetic to her. The good guys weren’t especially virtuous, and with the slight exception of Olivia Thirlby (the snarky best friend in Juno), they have neither backstory nor character arc. The bystanders are just that, inspiring neither pity nor contempt. So . . . why am I supposed to cheer for one side or the other?
I agree that all this is “realistic”. In fact, most people are a mixture of good and bad, and I choose sides among them mostly on the basis of personal (or familial or national) investment in the outcome of their contest. But without that investment, then Dredd vs. Ma-Ma might as well be the Hutus vs. Tutsis*; I’m sorry their having their problems, but what are they to me?
Parenthetically (and because this is a policy blog), I wonder to what extent our society is devolving to the Dredd model of law enforcement: a thin line of heavily armed and armored cops prone to excessive violence. Certainly our police, with their automatic weapons, body armor and penchant for shooting household pets and old ladies, more closely resemble the Judges than the policemen of yore. But are their numbers as a percent of the population climbing or falling? Consider the ‘68-‘75 cop show Adam-12: a pair of patrolmen who rode around together. I haven’t seen patrolmen work in pairs since . . . actually, I can’t remember ever noticing it.
* Hotel Rwanda was a compelling movie precisely because it was a one-sided account of the conflict.