First look at Peach Trees [Dredd] by screenwriter Alex Garland.
Genre: Science-Fiction, Action
Synopsis: When Judge Dredd arrives with rookie Cassandra Anderson to investigate a trio of murders at high-rise called slum Peach Trees, a drug lord puts Peach Trees on nuclear lockdown and the Judges are trapped inside, hunted by the entire populace. The Judges must choose between escaping the building, or ascending two-hundred stories to prove the drug lord guilty and execute her. Garland [The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine] writes this adaptation to the popular AD 2000 comic strip. Pete Travis [Vantage Point] is set to direct for DNA Films. Karl Urban will star.
Mega City One is the last outpost of civilization in post-apocalyptic America. It's a series of mega blocks, monolithic high-rises that serve as their own self-contained towns, stretching from Boston to Washington. Skyscrapers are the low-rise buildings peppered between them. When we meet Dredd he's suiting up. We meet his Lawgiver Gun, which seems to be matched to his DNA. The whole time, the top half of his face is hidden by his visor, and we only see chin and mouth, "as if they have been carved from rock."
He chases a car full of Slo-Mo junkies on his motorbike. Slo-Mo is a drug administered via inhaler, and not only does it slow down time for its users, it causes the world to look beautiful, iridescent and bright. When the junkies steamroll some civilians trying to get away from the Judge, they start to die.
Dredd has all the authority of police, judge, jury and executioner.
While they die, we learn that the Lawgiver is voice-activated and contains many different kinds of ammo. We also learn something about Dredd. He has phenomenal aim, even when he has to place a shot through a civilian, "Remain calm. The bullet missed all major organs, and a paramedic team will be with you shortly."
Rookie Cassandra Anderson is an orphan who was given a Judge aptitude test (as is standard for orphans) at age nine. Although her score was unsuitable, she was entered into the Academy upon special instruction. When we meet her, we learn that her final Academy score is three percentile points below a pass. As she stands before the Chief Judge, Dredd wonders why she's in uniform. When Anderson is able to point out how many people are in the next room observing her, without seeing them mind you, we realize that she's a psychic, a power she possibly developed as a child because she lived one hundred meters from a radiation boundary wall. While the fall-out proximity made her a mutant, it also killed her parents. Although she's failed the Academy, the Chief Judge is giving her one more chance. She's to spend a day out in the field with Dredd, and he's to assess whether she makes the grade or not, "Sink or swim. Chuck her in the deep end."
I liked this script, it completely aborted itself from the previous cinematic treatment and returned to core Judge Dredd territory. This isn't about the creation/origin of a hero or antihero, this is about the character being put in a worst case scenario and seeing if he can just make it out alive. It's a new formula. Its Die Hard. Take a popular character and put them in a situation that is basically the worst series of obstacles ever. Or take a superhero and put him inside a contained thriller. In a climate where it seems like Hollywood will never tire of making comicbook movies, this script proves that these tales can be told without telling their back story as the movie. Secondly, as a shoot-em-up, Garland has created a pretty cool cinematic device with the drug Slow-Mo. Although it makes the world slow down for its users, it doesn't give them super-speed. However, there are lots of POV shots, especially in the middle of the action, and it gives those action sequences more of an edge than just a straight shoot-out. As a reader of 2000ad since the age of seven I am really impressed by this Garland's script.
Peach trees may well be a pseudonym just as Frostbite was for Captain America.