Making the world of Dredd real in 3D
With a cast each ready to take their intense characters into the most blood-curdling situations, the next step was to bring Judge Dredd’s world fully to life. It was important to all the filmmakers to have Mega City One feel not like a sci-fi abstraction but like a living city – a seething city lit by menace, fear and the constant threat of violence.
To add a new twist to the stylish grit, they made the choice to shoot DREDD in 3D. Andrew Macdonald brought in the legendary and maverick cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle whom he’d worked with before on THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND and 28 DAYS LATER to tackle the format for the first time in his career.
Dod Mantle won an Oscar and virtually every other professional accolade for his work on Danny Boyle’s SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE where he captured life in the dense, fast moving Mumbai slums with an on-the-fly urgency. Macdonald wondered what would happen if the cinematographer merged that kind of immediate, dynamic style with 3D.
“We wanted to do something interesting with the 3D,” says Macdonald, “and I knew if I convinced Anthony to work on this movie he would do something unusual and brave. He’s a man who likes to push ideas and technology and he gets some of his most exciting results that way. He came on board and right away, he wanted to use the 3D to do something ultra-realistic. He was particularly keen on doing close ups in 3D which isn’t often done.”
Dod Mantle says shooting in 3D pushed him to think in new visual ways. “I now think more about 3D space and for this film I had to think a lot about the depth versus the horizontal across the frame. It was very challenging, because we’re geared to think in 2D,” he explains.
While the leading edge of 3D was an inspiration, so too were the stylish atmospherics of vintage crime and gangster tales. “We wanted DREDD to feel very, very visceral so we watched a lot of classic crime movies. Even though our world was going to be futuristic, we wanted it to have the kind of realism you can feel right down to the concrete on the walls in Mega City One. Then, we harnessed the 3D into that,” explains Reich.
Reality, however, gets scrambled for those taking Slo-Mo — which decelerates the normal pace of life to 1% of its usual speed. Creating these time and space altering sequences with their own graphic lyricism was exciting for Dod Mantle. “The slow motion and multilayer sections are very complex images,” he says. “The idea was that it would be disorienting for the audience and yet strangely, compellingly beautiful.”
As for Mega City One, the production created the volatile city and its disorderly high-rises in the brand new Cape Town Film Studios in South Africa – which proved well equipped for the film’s balletically choreographed battles. “We were able to shoot huge sequences like when Ma-Ma and her gang set up her machine and massacres hundreds of people in her aim to kill Dredd,” says Macdonald. “That required ten days of filming, loads of doubles and eight different sets, some outside and some inside, all mixed together with visual effects.”
Within Mega City One, the filmmakers echo the hyper-cities popping up around the world today in places like Sao Paolo, Mexico City and Jakarta – but take that to the next level of heart-stopping human chaos. It is estimated that some 95% of humanity may one day live packed into urban centers, so Mega City One becomes harrowing vision of what might come.
“Mega City One is big, chaotic and one of the key things about had to be is its sense of scale,” explains Garland. “The habitation blocks where people live are colossal. They are like cities themselves, because they have so much contained within them — not just shopping areas but medical centers, schools and more. You can be born and live and die and never set foot outside one of the blocks. Establishing that was key to the film. The city is a character and the Peach Trees block is a character too.”
That feeling of a real city – a city so on the edge it has given birth to Dredd — transferred to the actors as well. Concludes Karl Urban: “I think the film does a great job of showcasing the life of Mega City One. The conditions are appalling and there are haves and have-nots, so you really get a feel for a society in decay. The film doesn’t just show Dredd in action – it shows what it is like to live in Dredd’s world.”
Related Link: Dredd 3D Movie Full Production Notes