Monday, November 1, 2021

Dune (a movie review post)


Generally speaking, I'm going to say that it's a good thing when you finish a movie and continue to ruminate over it. Usually, that means that the movie has given you something to think about or that it was so entertaining that you can't get it out of your head. But, sometimes, it's the opposite. Sometimes the things that bothered you about a movie won't leave you alone and, if it's really bad, start bringing up other things you didn't like about the movie. As you think about it and think about it and, yes, think about it, it gets worse and worse. A movie that you enjoyed, or mostly enjoyed, watching becomes something you actively dislike.
Yes, sometimes, it's Dune.

I had hopes for Dune. I won't call them "high hopes," because I was also wary, despite the cast. Back in 2000 SyFy did a limited Dune series, and it was amazing. They captured the story in its full glory, and it is something I have gone back and watched many times. So my thought process when they announced the new movie went something like this: "huh wow I don't see how they can make something better than the limited series. Surely, though, they wouldn't be making a new movie if they didn't think it was going to be better than the limited series. I mean, they have to be aware of that, right? So they wouldn't do it if it wasn't going to be better? Right?" So I was looking forward to the movie. Surely, they had to be bringing something new to the table...

My wife tells me that I have faulty logic when it comes to this because I forget the part about money. The money part makes it not that important whether or not it will be better; it only needs to be something that people will go see. And there is the part where most people are unaware of the limited series. And wouldn't care about it if they knew. It was before the TV exploded into what it is now. It was pre-GoT.

Needless to say, I have issues with this new iteration of Dune. My wife said that my reaction is very "I'm not angry with you, just disappointed." Which is pretty true. heh

So where are the issues?

The first one that broke me out of the movie, always a bad thing, is the scene where Paul is tested. Put your hand in the box; receive ultimate pain; if you pull your hand from the box, we're gonna kill you. Paul gets through this torture scenario with the use of what becomes his mantra throughout the book (and, appropriately, in the SyFy series): Fear is the mind-killer. It's a whole thing and so fucking famous. It's probably the best known thing about Dune. In the movie? Nah... He doesn't say it. Instead, his mother, who is waiting in the hallway, is the one muttering it. WTF? Which is what I thought while I was watching it. What the actual fuck? We were watching on HBO since we have it, and I actually had to stop the movie. That is a bad, bad sign.

Then there is the absence of the big party. That's the next place that really threw me. This is important for two reasons: The princess is not introduced at all, and the party is where Paul meets her in the book (and, guess where, in the SyFy series). She is not an unimportant side character, so this is kind of egregious. Also, it is through the party that the Sardaukar infiltrate the estate. Palace. Whatever you call it. Sure, Yueh betrays them, but the Sardaukar are already there.

Speaking of Yueh, he's there just enough so that you know who he is when he betrays Leto, but his character is just... wrong. And there's no emotional investment in the fact that Yueh betrays them, because you don't know him at all. And he still gets more screen time than, say, Duncan or Gurney. I'm not sure why Villeneuve didn't just cut out everyone other than Paul and Jessica. He doesn't seem to think any of the other characters are important enough to bother with.

To top it off, the movie is slow as fuck. I like slow movies. I'm not one of those people who needs constant action or anything close to it. I think Arrival is brilliant. Slow and brilliant. But this movie is so slow that my wife got bored while we were watching it and declared at one, "How much longer does this thing have!" You know a movie is good when my wife cries during it, but not when she is crying (not really) from boredom. And she called it "this thing," never a good sign. Not to mention that she has an excellent time sense, unlike me, and I told the family before we started it that it was 2.5 hours long. For her to have lost track of the timing of it because she was just that bored is significant.

I could go on, but, clearly, this is enough to let you know where I am on this movie. All it accomplished was making me want to go re-watch the limited series again... oh, but you can't! Because Warner Bros. squashed it, and it's not available for streaming anywhere. Fuck you, Warner Bros.! That's just rude. Oh, you can stream Children of Dune, sequel series, on Amazon, but you can't stream the actual series. Again, fuck you, Warner Bros.

Do I have anything good to say about the movie? I don't know. The cast is pretty decent. Sort of. Chalamet is adequate. He doesn't seem like he's going to be able to pull off Paul as the story progresses. Maybe I'm wrong about that. I guess we'll find out in two fucking years when the next one comes out. Why am I mad about that kind of delay in a movie I have clearly disenjoyed? Because the movie could have been ready to come out almost immediately. Dune was slated for a 2020 release, but was delayed because of the pandemic and because Villeneuve didn't want it released on streaming. They could have been working on the sequel... By the way, this movie was not advertised in any way as a "part one;" it was advertised as Dune, the whole thing. Which, yeah, I thought was crazy but, also, part of why I thought they were doing it as a movie. Breaking the book into several movies should have resulted in a better product. A much better product. Not this lackluster piece of... well, it's not quite shit. I mean, it's not Lynch's version, after all. Anyway, they could have had the sequel almost ready to go by now but, I guess, Warner Bros. wasn't confident enough to greenlight the sequel until the release of this one.

I was talking about the cast...
So far, I think Alec Newman was a better Paul.
I like Rebecca Ferguson, but I don't know if I like her better than Saskia Reeves.
I like Oscar Isaac, but William Hurt was much much better as Leto. It might be because his role was more significant.
Jason Mamoa is great as Duncan Idaho. He's very much Mamoa, but he's great at it.
I like Julie Cox better as the Princess because... oh, yeah, because there is no Princess in this version.
And, honestly, there is not enough of the other great actors cast in this to tell if they are any good.
The whole thing is... just... disappointing.
And, yeah, maybe I am a bit angry, too.


  1. I have to admit, I have no interest in seeing Dune. I did read the book once, and that was enough for me. I don't really understand the culture around it, so I usually just nod along when it's mentioned.

  2. Andrew, thanks for letting me know about your review. I love it. In this particular instance, I admire that you can be so separated from it that you can analyze it critically. I think my brain has always loved the story of Dune so much, and I've seen all the adaptations like you have, that it finds difficulty separating out what appeared in one adaptation and is lacking in another. In other words, I believe I've lost objectivity. Now that you have pointed it out, I think that the feeling I have regarding Villeneuve's adaptation is also boredom. At first, I thought maybe I was missing things from Lynch's version. But maybe not. It seems odd with all of the things that happened that I should feel bored, and I'm not sure why I feel that way. Perhaps it is that I felt no attachment to the characters. You are right that a lot of the characters were just minor things. Anyway, great review.