I'm a self confessed fan of the comics and I have to say that despite some unfortunate similarities with 'The Raid' (two very similar films just happened to come out the same time) the producers got it absolutely bang on the money here. Shying away from filming an established storyline, from the comic, lets the film stand on it's own two feet and avoids any of the pitfalls that the Stallone version (fun but horribly, horribly flawed) fell into. If there is a sequel then maybe that will be the time to look at something like 'Judge Death' (rumoured) or something like that.
What we have here then is no special event, just another day in the life of a Mega City Judge and that makes the violence all the more depressing somehow. This shit goes on every single day and what Dredd and Anderson are doing to fight it won't even scratch the surface of a huge problem. They fight anyway (for what looks like differing reasons but I actually suspect they're more similar than Dredd would want to admit) and that is where the power in this film comes from. It's a very straightforward story but Karl Urban's Dredd carries it along nicely and Olivia Thirlby's Anderson acts as an effective counterpoint. A naive belief in the law (until Anderson has to actually enforce it) versus an implacable drive to see justice done.
Going back to the Stallone version for a second, I thought the only thing they did right there was the backdrop that it was all set against. It was proper Mega City One just like in the comics and that was cool. 'Dredd' moves away from this backdrop entirely with a grim and bleak cityscape that is totally different yet somehow encapsulates just what Mega City One is all about; a refuge in a nuclear desert where the only release for the populace seems to be violent acts of crime. Very much like Elephant & Castle, in London, but without the nuclear fallout. That gritty backdrop suits the underlying tone of the film far better than a futuristic sci-fi cityscape ever would have done.
It's like a whole new version of 'Judge Dredd' then with enough nods to the original (Chopper and 'The Krysler Mark' were two that I spotted) to keep people like me happy. I've got all my fingers crossed for a sequel and I wouldn't mind seeing more of Urban's Dredd in comics (I think that IDW missed a trick here…)