There a great difference between movies released in the summer movie "season" and movies that are emblematic of the summer season. Movies that embody that summer mood. These are movies you always watch when the season is making you jump.
I want to address the best summer movies. Movies that are about long days and about living for night.
Today, I'll look back at 2012's cult 3D-showpiece: DREDD, starring Karl Urban.
DREDD is one of the best summer movies.
A quick note, if it wasn't abundantly clear: we aren't talking about the 1995 Stallone Judge Dredd movie. While that goofball diorama of ego and LA riots-fever dream kinda works 20+ years later, it isn't an actual movie.
By comparison, Dredd 2012, aka DREDD 3D, is an actual movie, recorded on three-dimensional celluloid with its capslock left on the entire time. It's close-quarters, sweaty, dirty, vicious, and contained to one location. Certain summers in your life may feel like roadtrips, while others may feel like you spent entire lifetimes in a single building, waking and dying as you live and breath alongside a cultural microclimate.
Dredd sends the ultra-cop Dredd to a murder scene in a 200-story apartment tower at the center of a future-city. All the doors lock at the command of a drug queen, eager to protect her enterprise. Dredd and his trainee, Anderson, must fight to the tower's peak.
It's a fantastically simple science fiction setup. It's a mini-community inside the tower block with rules and subcultures. Dredd is an interloper to the building and Anderson is an interloper to judge fieldwork. Like the best summer movies, Dredd is about the paralyzing fear of a character outside their comfort zone, facing mysterious danger in a strange violent world.
What's more, the drug being manufactured in the building slows time to 1%. If that's not the perfect companion to the endless feeling of the summer season, I don't know what is.
Reader relates to Anderson's growth on a job (the first day on the job trope)
The audience travels along with the young, clairvoyant Anderson as she learns from the singular Judge Dredd. Dredd is a walking sentence, and that's a statement with multiple meanings. He is the end result of criminals breaking the law, and he is devoted to that law, down to the letter. If the law is on the books, he enforces it. He has no compassion. He has no character arc.
Instead, it's Anderson that gets to have the character arc, inhabiting the "first day on the job" trope that fits so well with the summer feel. How often have you gotten into your first day and immediately wondered if you'd survive to lunch?
The rookie cop feel carries over into another trope even the best summer movies can't seem to dodge: cops are everywhere and the possibility of a police state is terrifying. Of course, the drug dealers Dredd is slaughtering in brilliant slow motion, thanks to the film taking the blazed victims' perspective during many gunfights, are horrible human beings. Nonetheless, Dredd is a cautionary tale of a hero without personal conscience or envy.
The brilliant film owes so much to Alex Garland's masterclass script-pacing. It's a near-perfect movie of the summer season.
ONE LAST THING: Did you miss any other articles in this Best Summer Movies recommendations series?