Dune: A Review

Dune has a checkered cinematic history, as just about everyone at this point is aware of. There was the 1984 film by David Lynch that was, charitably, a real hot mess; Lynch was and is a brilliant director but he was overwhelmed by the scale of the production, the necessity of working with the De Laurentiis family and the attempt to put the whole book into just over two hours of film. And then the film was bogged down by the sheer 80s-ness of it all, from the era-standard special effects to the Toto soundtrack. The 2000 Sci-Fi Channel miniseries had more time to play with, but also the budget and production constraints of being a Sci-Fi Channel miniseries in the era before “peak TV”; the Fremen in this adaptation looked every bit the well-fed central European extras that they were, and the special effects were TV-level. Real cinema nerds yearn for the never-was 70s adaptation of Dune by Alejandro Jodorowsky, but I can’t help but think that ultimately it would have run aground on the same rocks that the 1984 edition did: Ambition hobbled by production realities and a special effects infrastructure that wasn’t yet up to the task of showing the scale and scope of Frank Herbert’s vast setting.

Now it’s 2021, and here comes Denis Villeneuve to essay the book in cinematic form. For what it’s worth, his version of Dune is absolutely the most successful cinematic take on the book to date. Leaving aside Villeneuve’s own (considerable) directorial talents for the moment, he is fortunate that here in 2021, movie studios have well established the concept of stringing out a single novel over more than one film, and that the state of special effects now allows a level of photorealism that Lynch or Jodorowsky could only dream of. It’s the right time, from a business and practical point of view, for a Dune film to be made in a way that won’t inherently let down the source material.

To bring Villeneuve himself back into it, it’s fair to say that he is a very fine match for the material. To begin, Villeneuve’s visual aesthetic, and its tendency to frame people as tiny elements in a much larger composition, is right at home with the Dune source material, in which legions of Fremen and Sardaukar and Harkonnens stab at each other, and 400-meter sandworms tunnel through the dunes of Arrakis. To continue, anyone who has seen Villeneuve’s filmography is well aware he is a very very very serious dude; there’s not a rom-com anywhere in his history. Dune’s single attempt at a joke is done and over in the first 20 minutes the film, almost before it even registers. One can argue whether or not Frank Herbert’s prose and story styling in Dune is exhaustingly and pretentiously serious or not, but it is what it is. Given what it is, it needs a director whose own style matches. That’s Villeneuve. I don’t care to see Villeneuve’s take on, say, Galaxy Quest. But Dune? Yup, that’s a match.

Thus Villeneuve’s Dune is pretty much exactly what it needs to be. Villeneuve and his co-screenwriters confine themselves to roughly the first half of the book’s action (the second half has already been greenlit and is scheduled for arrival in 2023). This gives the story enough space to breathe and for characters to, if not necessarily develop, at least be lived in a bit before all hell breaks loose (as of course it does). Villeneuve has created an 11th millennium universe that feels like it’s been inhabited for all that time, where everything is massive and even the spacecraft creak; the CGI objects actually feel like they have mass, which is a neat trick so many people directing science fiction special effects don’t quite pick up on. It is dour and more than a little underlit, and even the desert has a permanent pall from (one presumes) all the dust in the air. There was more than one scene where I wished I had brought a flashlight. But again: this matches the Herbert’s text pretty well! The Padishah Empire was not particularly well-lit, if memory serves! So I’m not going to ding Villeneuve too much for that.

I found the aesthetic of this version of Dune more interesting than the script, but this is not necessarily a complaint. The script is actually functional, relies not at all on internal monologues (which could be draggy in the novel and were ridiculous in the Lynch version), and Villeneuve, unlike some notable directors of science fiction that one could name, actually appears to prefer to let his prodigiously-talented cast actually act, rather than merely declaim their lines from the script, brows furrowed. I mean, yes, they do that — there are furrowed brows galore here — but they don’t only do that. Letting actors act really does do wonders for an otherwise primarily functional script. Who knew.

Also, the film gets Paul Atreides as close to right as any of the filmed attempts have managed. You will not believe that Timothee Chalamet’s take on Paul is 15 years old at the outset of this film (nor does the film suggest that you do so), but you will absolutely believe that his Paul is a kinda-twinky hothouse flower of a duke’s son, suddenly thrown into the deep end of the desert, if you will. On Caladan, Paul looks just as likely to pull out a chapbook of his own bad poetry and recite it to Gurney Hallack as he is to take knife-fighting lessons from him. Paul is precious, in other words, which I think is the right way to start him off.

This Dune isn’t a perfect adaptation. Some important characters and events have their arcs truncated or elided (the motivations of Dr. Yueh, for example, are left almost entirely off-screen), and some characters and events are not present. We have to assume Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen shows up in the second film, if he shows up at all. I think some changes here are for the better — I especially appreciated getting to see the Duke Atreides and the Lady Jessica having an important moment together — but some changes are just changes. The stuff that’s elided or changed or left out isn’t necessarily unimportant to the story the film tells, I just think the filmmakers assume that their audience has read the novel, or has seen previous filmed versions, and knows things that they then feel justified in skipping over. Which, I guess? But it would have been better to have added another five minutes to the film and spackled up those plot holes.

But overall, I think Villeneuve, his co-writers and this cast and crew have done as well translating Dune (half of it, anyway) to screen as it is probably possible to do. At least, I don’t see how much closer they could have gotten to capturing the weight of Hebert’s tale as they have here. Is it a masterpiece? Eeehhhh, check with me in five or so years, when I’ve seen the second half and have had time to live with it. I suspect Arrival will keep the crown for Villeneuve’s best science fictional effort. But given that the other filmed versions of Dune are “camp disaster” and “serviceable television product sliced up between commercials,” this one wins on craft, story, budget and overall vision. It’s now the definitive cinematic Dune. It’s nice to have something onscreen that finally comes within hailing distance of what the book imagines.

On that note, and to close out the review, I really would suggest seeing this film in the theaters, rather than at home on your TV, even if you do have a nifty big screen and sound system. I have a nifty big screen and sound system myself! But unless you have an actual home theater with a 200-inch screen, you’re gonna miss a bunch of stuff, or at least the best effect of that stuff. I’m not your dad, mind you. Do what you want. But if I were you: to the theaters with you.

— JS

49 Comments on “Dune: A Review”

  1. Basically concur with your points. I think Paul should have been a little more rugged. Hard to see his father in him although that could be explained by Bene Gesserit manipulation by his mother. It will be interesting to see his continued development in Dune 2.

    I’m afraid the elided background material will leave those not familiar with Dune frustrated. Dune 2 probably will explain more but they will not see it due to that frustration.

  2. I actually enjoy the David Lynch version with all of its excess but the Villenueve version is obviously better. My wife and I watched the new and then re-watched the Lynch. She had never watched the original and laughed at it throughout while I recited dialogue.

  3. They could easily have pared down the invasion sequence, which was tiresomely long for a movie with so many other things to accomplish. I mean, giving Jason Momoa stunts is great! But the rest got to be wearing.

  4. My only quibble would be: why not just title it up front, “Dune: Part 1” or “Chapter 1” or whatever. I was slightly surprised it was only part one of two, and part two apparently had not started filming or even been green-lit yet – what clueless movie exec was hesitant there, I wonder? I think anybody who hasn’t paid attention to the reviews or read the books up to this point, who then stumbles across it on HBO Max and watches it, may be taken aback by only getting half the story in 2 1/2 hours. I mean, it sorta works as a cliffhanger, but… still possibly an unpleasant surprise.

  5. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed the cinematography of a movie this much before – I was drinking in many of the scenes, and I am so damn glad I saw it in a cinema. Nearly every shot could be a painted canvas (yes, I know that sounds over the top) but honestly the detail and art and composition was making me grin with happiness half the movie.

    I’ll definitely go see it again in the theatre, which is rare for me.

    I felt a bit sorry for Jason Momoa, who tried a bit too hard and came across as somewhat Brian Blessed “I’M JASON MOMOA! I AM ACTING NOW!” each time he appeared on screen, but that’s because he was clomping around amongst a large group of very good actors who fit almost perfectly.

    I do love the 1984 Dune because it’s unapologetic about its design and takes itself pretty seriously, but Holy Guacamole, I am so happy that Villenueve did this film. It works so damn well and I will cheerfully forgive any missing details from the book.

    I honestly can’t wait for the second part now.

  6. Haven’t seen the movie yet, but as I recall it, Yueh’s story in the book boils down to “Imperial techniques of loyalty conditioning are totally unbreakable except for the diabolical, unforeseeable plan of threatening someone’s loved ones“* so keeping that offstage seems like a fairly wise thing to do.

    *hat tip to James Davis Nicoll, whose snark I have stolen

  7. Saw it in the theater first, and then rewatched it on HBO MAX. Loved the film. I have no complaints.

    I did meet with a fellow Dune aficionado over a beer last night and he made the same comment that you did, John: Dr. Yueh got short shrift. He did not think that it ruined the film by any stretch of the imagination, either; he just thought it might have been nice to add a bit more detail in, if possible. All in all, we were in agreement: It was a great film and a worthy rendition of Dune.

    My wife—not a sci fi fan at all, mind you—also enjoyed the film. She was affected by the gravitas of the story and, well…let’s just say she swooned over Oscar Isaac a bit. Hey, whatever it takes to get her to see movies like this with me, I’ll take it!

  8. The suggestion to watch it in a theater is particularly helpful, and appreciated. Some reviewers default to preferring the big screen experience, but that’s more important for some movies than others. I figured Dune might be worth the trip, and am glad to see that suspicion confirmed.

  9. I grade the movie as incomplete. I watched the movie with my kids and I had to explain quite a few things to them so it made sense. Given the length of the movie, I struggle on whether they should have spent more time providing some of the background information that is in the book. I guess that is where the director’s version can help.

    What has been delivered is of a far higher caliber than any prior adaptation. I loved the vast scale, but I think for part 2 we need more of the focus on the transition Paul goes through from outsider to messiah/leader. I look forward to some time in 2023/2024 seeing the complete version but Villenueve and co are on a good path to deliver a definitive version of Dune.

  10. I enjoyed Dune, and it inspired me to go re-read the novel (which I discovered I had bought on sale from Bookbub a couple of years ago and never opened). My one qualm: as laid out in the movie, despite knowing that the Harkonnens are up to no good, the Atreides seem to be caught woefully flat-footed when this massive assault (that they should be expecting) comes in. So we go from palace intrigue to “never mind, just going to blow shit up” at the drop of a hat.

  11. Thanks for posting this today. I just finished re-reading the first 3 Dune books, and I wondered what folks who KNOW Dune were thinking about the new movie. I’ll definitely see this one in the theater. And also, my inner rage level thanks you for posting something non-political this morning. I’m getting way too much of that.

  12. The fact that it is broken where it is makes perfect sense once the second half is out. It marks the end of Paul Atreides, and the beginning of Paul Muad’Dib.

    Overall, I agree with your review.

  13. Thanks for such a complete and intricate review. I have been waiting for a really good movie based on one of my all time favorite books, and apparently it has arrived (at least part one). The Dune movie is definitely on my weekend activity list. Really looking forward to it.

  14. Saw it on the small screen in a neighbor’s backyard, and then on the big screen s few days later.

    If I read Dune then it was long ago. Ditto the first movie. This just means it was all new for me, I guess, and enjoyable.

    Oh, on the small(er) screen we had subtitles. That really helped and wish I could have the same at the theater.

  15. What stood out for me between first movie and this part1 was the muting the visuals of the very evil and controling Harkonnes. Also the invasion details of the drama of the many scenes are missing.
    I can only surmise they were omitted to spare youngsters the graphic and fearful examples of a slavery so vile based on an installed blood heart device the master Harks can use to tortute or kill one who they are displeased with.

  16. Now, be fair. There were two jokes:

    Smile, Gurney / I am smiling.
    You put on some muscle? / Did I? / No.

  17. I live in Georgia. No way I’m doing theaters.

    This isn’t just stretching a novel into multiple films. It is pretty clearly an effort to create a new franchise, given that Dune has, what, 22 sequels and a prequel already in the works?

    For me, the Dune franchise got increasingly turgid, and I stepped off the Dune buggy with Heretics of Dune, before it was even half over. I don’t see it becoming a new Game of Thrones or Star Wars, but then I didn’t see Star Wars being Star Wars either so what do I know? I saw that movie in the first week of release and walked out shaking my head and saying it sucked ass. Its popularity has baffled me ever since.

  18. Kevin W Grierson said “Atreides seem to be caught woefully flat-footed”

    I thought that the movie paid indirect service to this in the one scene where the Harkonnen forces are fighting up the stairs against the Atreides forces and are essentially slaughtered at a 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 ratio in a relatively, hard-fought fight.

    Alas, the Sardaukar drop down, the Atreides forces turn to engage them and are instantly annihilated.

    The oddity in Dune is that there is no greater fighting force than the Atreides. Except the Sardaukar who instantly annihilated them. Except the Fremen who normally annihilate the Sardaukar but “respect them”.

    Oh, and Duncan Idaho who single-handedly killed something like 19 Sardaukar before falling in the book.

    Oh, and Gurney Halleck who beat Duncan Idaho like 60% of the time.

    Oh, and Paul Atreides who eventually would be better than either Duncan Idaho or Gurney Halleck.

    Needless to say I was amused as a child by the endless “This is the most powerful fighting force in the universe” progression.

    Long version short: The Atreides fully expected to defeat the Harkonnen because they were the superior force and the Empire would never unleash the Sardaukar because then all the great houses would turn on the Empire. Alas, treachery.

    While the movie spoke briefly to the comparative merits of the various fighting forces, the movie really only touched upon the historic balance of power after the surprise attack.

  19. @Marie Brennan:

    “Read that and basically went, nope, very glad it never happened.”

    I came to the same conclusion after watching “Jodorowsky’s Dune”. That movie really brings home how grateful we all should be. Most of all Jodorowsky himself.

  20. As to the Atreides getting caught flat-footed, I thought Gurney, Duncan, the Duke and Jessica telling Paul how treacherous House Harkonnen was, but how the Atreides had a superior fighting force, helped cover that plot hole…at least some. I even think there was some mention that the Sardukar being the one force that could defeat the Atreides, but it was inconceivable that the Emperor would let them attack a lone House because the rest of the great Houses of the Landsraat would then rise up – so when Sardukar showed up in support of the Harkonnen troops, it was a shocking betrayal. Admittedly the Big Picture moviemaking kind of dwarfed the maneuvering, but they were there nonetheless.

    Overall, I liked it – like Scalzi, I’ll have to get back to you after Part II as to whether or not I loved it. It was interesting how both Feyd-Rautha and the Emperor didn’t show up at all in Part I – and it was a bit odd that we were TOLD how awful the Harkonnen were, but never shown any sign of it other than their attacks on the Atreides.

    I thought Timothee Chalamet’s Paul was enough of an indulged kid that it’s unsurprising nobody would take him seriously at the start of the movie, but it was also clear that he took his family’s move to Arrakis very seriously, studying up on the planet and not just trusting his visions. He convincingly portrayed Paul’s growing into his role over the course of the film, which was not something either Kyle MacLachlan or Alec Newman really managed.

  21. Watched at home. Liked it a lot. But I think I’m glad I saw it at home because there were several times that I could not hear the actors over the background noises. Perhaps a movie theater sound system would have balanced that better but more likely I think I just would have had no idea what they’d said. (Especially an early scene between Paul & Jessica – I just wanted to yell “stop whispering!”)

  22. We really enjoyed the adaptation– some things were not fully explained, but they often didn’t need to be because of how the film handled them. Part Two will, presumably, address the Guild Navigators.

    Others have already addressed the film’s visual qualities.

    The usual suspects have complained about the casting of Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Liet Kynes. She does an excellent job as one of the few characters for whom sex and gender are not really relevant– Kynes works somewhat outside of the Dune’a social mainstream. A female Kynes and the expansion of Chani’s role in the first half also provide a balance for contemporary audiences, given that the film needs must maintain the source novel’s overall handling of gender. It’s nuanced, and fascinating and necessary to how Herbert’s story unfolds, but it is also problematic and dated.

    The film accepts Herbert’s world on its own terms, making some allowances for the differences in genre and era.

    A lot has happened since 1965.

    I’m glad Part Two has received the green light.

  23. In fairness, Lynch did an awful lot right, and if he hadn’t Villeneuve would never have gotten 165M to do a lot of the same things again with better special effects.

  24. this is a copied review we liked (after 2.5 hours):
    a boy goes to the beach and hangs out with his Mom.

  25. I would love to see “Dune” on the big screen, but alas, Auckland’s cinemas are not currently operating because of COVID-19 and also, local theatrical release is not scheduled until early December…

    There are no streaming options currently available either, so meantime the desire to see it remains unfulfilled.

  26. Of all the visual improvements that time and technology have gifted to Villeneuve, the most exciting for me was that we finally got ornithopters worthy of the name.

  27. I tried the novels as a kid and couldn’t get hooked. I saw the Lynch film when it came out. Kyle MacLachlan was beautiful and so was Sting. When I saw it, those special effects were state-of-the-art, and no one complained at the time.

    I was probably ruined by first reading a parody of it from Harvard Lampoon. It started with a lengthy description of a place, neither her nor there. Not up nor down. Kind of in-between. After a page or so the description ended with, “Okay a little to the left. That’s it. Now scratch.”

    I’m halfway through the new film. On TV. It’s gorgeous. I’ll finish it and wait patiently for part 2.

  28. Short version: enjoyed Dune on the small screen. Long version : I am a massive Dune geek. I do not think the film is perfect. Some parts annoyed me such as the lack of clear time for Dr Yueh , odd lack of time of Petir De Vries…no Feyd-Rautha (yet), some of the lighting etc. From the book the Emperor could not intervene – House Atriedes knew it was a trap but had no choice but to go to Arrakis. The Emperor did something no one had done before and allowed his Sarduakar to be used ( in disguise). Lynch’s film had the better political explanations at the beginning. The spacing guild barely get a mention and this where with the Bene Gesserit and great (and minor ) houses that the intrigue is at. Still a lovely film and lovely experience. Like Bladerunner 2049 – beautiful but flawed. I will be further irked if significant story arcs are removed e.g. Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen as it’s core to this and later parts of the whole.

  29. Let us not forget that Liet-Kynes is a male in the books.

    I very seldom like film adaptations (The Expanse is an exception), and I’ll probably not watch this one for some time (years) to come.

  30. I read the novel 45 years ago, and have never felt like returning. Although–it took years before I got that it was a brutal deconstruction of the (historically terrible) idea of prophecies, destiny, and “chosen ones”. My worry about a new movie version was that it would nail the visual elements, but lose the thematic ones and present just the surface of the story. And yet I’m not interested enough to watch it. Getting cranky in my old age.

  31. Calisse de tabarnac, John — I can’t read this.

    It’s VILLENEUVE, not Villenueve. He’s French-Canadian, not Spanish or Portuguese or Italian.

  32. I haven’t had a chance to see this yet–perhaps this weekend. I wanted to wait and see if Part 2 was going to be greenlit, because it would have broken my heart for there to only be half of a new Dune movie.

    That said, I love love LOVE the Lynch version (and the longer Alan Smithee version) for many of the reasons folks dislike it–it’s over the top and ridiculous and the voice overs are the best. If Part 2 doesn’t at least have Paul saying, “My name is a killing word,” nnnngh.

    I’m also a big fan of the book (but not the sequels/prequels) and am really looking forward to how this compares to my mental picture of Dune, Arrakis, desert planet. All signs are pointing towards it matching very well indeed.

  33. I liked Dune fine, but I also want to see what would have happened if Villeneuve had passed away peacefully in his sleep after principal photography for the entire book had been completed and the footage had been handed off to George Miller.

  34. I really like the movie, but my biggest beef was the portrayal of the Lady Jessica. In the book she is a fully trained, capable Bene Gesserit sister. She has her inner doubts, but is generally in command of her situation.

    In the movie, she mostly seems to stand in the hall (or in the rain) and cry a lot. Only at the very end do we get a short sense of her being the BG sister she was brought up to be.

    And yeah – the ornithopters were the best! I want one!

  35. [i]”I just think the filmmakers assume that their audience has read the novel, or has seen previous filmed versions, and knows things that they then feel justified in skipping over.”[/i]

    Someone I know recently also said something to this effect and I’m curious what’s an example of that? I didn’t really notice this, but it’s quite likely that (since I have seen the Lynch version multiple times) that I don’t recognize it. I know neither of my kids commented on missing anything (my 21 year-old son had seen the Lynch film and had questions about the Spacing Guild and preferred Lynch’s alien version of them, but assumed that we were seeing them in the domed helmets).

    For myself, I loved the Lynch version in all it’s weirdness and limitations (which might be some nostalgia). I think Villenueve’s version has the chance to become the definitive version. I’ve never seen the Syfy/SciFi version and honestly have no desire to do so, since I assumed the limitations suggested here. I’ve bounced off the original book at least twice, but it’s been decades and I might give it a chance again (although I hear the second book is just ‘ok’, the third book is good and all others are absolute trash).

  36. Watched yesterday, at home; I can see how a theatrical experience would be better, and work well for this, but it’s just not okay yet for us. I’ll have to hope that when Part 2 comes out the theaters will have some screenings of this part as well (And, of course, that by then it will be OK to be in a theater).

    I know editing happens, but there were a surprising number of lines in the trailer that didn’t make it into the release… or maybe will show up in Part 2?

  37. Better yet, find a REAL IMAX screen somewhere within driving distance of you and make a day seeing this on the BIG screen. That was a treat!

  38. Nit: Dune isn’t set in the 11th millenium. It is the 11th millenium after the Butlerian Jihad, which is itself around 11 millenia in our future. So the timeframe is around the 23rd millenium.

  39. I think this version finally figures out that you tell Paul & Jessica’s story, and everything that doesn’t move that story forward can go. Did we need to see Doc Huey’s motivation onscreen? Not really, when a line of dialogue sufficed.

    I did comment in a review for the RPG that Dune had no laughs in it… and now we get ONE. Thanks Dennis!!!

  40. I wanted to see Dune at my favorite IMAX in the Bob Bullock Museum here in Austin, Texas, only to discover that tickets for the entire run were sold out. I ended up watching it on HBO Max but will see again at a movie theater in the next week or so.

    “The Padishah Empire was not particularly well-lit, if memory serves!” I also noticed that. There are no scenes of the Emperor and his daughter, we only see the Sardaukar. However, I sort of like Villeneuve’s treatment the Empire’s behind the scenes backing of Harkonnens, it has a more ominous feel.

    With about 15 minutes to go in the movie (Dune part one) I wondered if we would even get to see a sietche. Nope, have to wait for part two. I think an extra 15 minutes could have been added to fill in some gaps in this part one of Dune. Overall, I like this Dune so far.

  41. “Dune has a checkered cinematic history”

    LOL, Boy, howdy. Dune has a checkered PUBLISHING history. Don’t get me wrong — my adolescent self read and re-read Dune with the same enthusiasm I gave to Tolkien. Likely, I valued it for the combination of imagination, scope, excitement, and unambiguous black/white morality.

    Then Dune Messiah came out and I was underwhelmed. The follow-up and apparent conclusion, Children of Dune was more interesting. And then God Emperor came out. Which would have been a fine if self-indulgent conclusion to the series. But Jiminy Crickets, who imagined that the the world needed that unending chain of hackish sequels? At this point Dune just leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

    Yes, I will watch the movie and hope to enjoy it. And hopefully I’ll changed my mind about commercially driven SF in seventy years when John’s estate publishes the Old Dogs War series, featuring olive green super-powered Dobermans on a mission to rescue Zoe from the evil alien overlords.

  42. The only time I tried I-max where you (have steep seating and) the whole screen so “you are there’ the experience was sadly impacted by a constant stream of latecomers unavoidably seeable. Next time, normal screen.

    Back in the 1970’s I bailed out of the Dune novel because, having just read about Mark Twain’s riverboat republicans, I couldn’t bear the feudalism.

  43. When SF conventions are safe again (post-COVID, sort of), any screening of DUNE will be a major attraction to those of us unwilling to sit in a cinema to see it right now. Maybe back to back with the Lynch film, for contrast and effect.
    I have my fingers crossed that Timothée Chalamet will turn out to be one of those fragile-looking yet wiry dudes like Peter Cushing, in whatever he films.

  44. Saw Dune in IMAX, fully masked (verisimilitude!) and it was completely worth it. Filming on location was a much better choice than CGI. It does make a difference. (Go watch the final cut of Bladerunner if you really want to see craftsmanship at its peak.) Which, incidentally, is how I feel about the cinematography of Dune.

    The film could have been greatly improved by giving Dr. Yueh an additional 10 or 15 minutes of screen time, which would have eliminated a lot of confusion about the invasion and motivations. People who will sit through a 2.5 hour move will still sit through a 2.75 hour movie. Instead, we get the force-fed version, “I’m betraying you to save my wife; here, have a poison tooth to kill the Baron, bye!” The book makes it abundantly clear that the Atreides were betrayed from within. But I really liked the rescripted version of the Baron huddled in a fetal knot on the ceiling, awaiting rescue, rather than the book version where he fortuitously drifts away just in time, saved by his suspensors. Some additional time to develop Piter de Vries would have been nice too.

    Speaking of rescripting, I really liked Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Liet Kynes and really liked her rescripted storyline. Liet Kynes in the books was kind of a throwaway, with his storyline as an incongruous speed bump in the novel. Actually, I really loved the casting for the entire movie, especially since there seems to be nonwhite people in this Dune universe. Although Oscar Issac is still too white. (I would have sent him to Ibiza for 3 weeks and told him to get a tan. Possibly booking a second ticket so I could watch Oscar Issac get a tan.) Duke Leto is specifically described as being olive-skinned with grey eyes. That said, the casting really is genius, especially Rebecca Ferguson and Timothee Chalamet, who, despite being the same age as Kyle MacLachlan when he was in the Lynch version of Dune, somehow manages to read as younger. The Lynch version of Dune is so. Very. White. Really really white. Right down to the inexplicable feudal European costuming for a galactic empire movie. Which, when you think about it, is kind of strange for the PADISHAH Emperor. Def an Indian-Iranian flavor there in the novel but nowhere to be found in the Lynch version.

    The ornithopters still aren’t ORNIthopters, ie., aircraft based on BIRDS, not dragonflies but who cares? They were beautifully done, as was the ornithopter crash. Villeneuve clearly spent some money on getting engineering advice and it’s always nice to see some actual SCIENCE in a science fiction film.

    Yes, the soundtrack could be loud but I suspect that was because Villeneuve was letting the music and the scenery doing the talking. A refreshing change of pace from the Lynch version where everyone declaims loudly and portentously and generally chews up the scenery. (Looking at you, Sting.) Also the whispering? Necessary in the desert, even between two people. Worms are attracted to non-desert sounds. Two chattering hairless monkeys would have been enough to suddenly end the Atreides line forever. (To say nothing of the movie.)

    Thanks for the reminder about the actual age of the Dune universe! I was wondering why it felt so… young. I vaguely remember thinking that that it was supposed to be some 20K years in the future–long enough for Earth to become a myth but couldn’t remember the dates from the books. The age of the empire makes more sense when you remember that the Padishah Emperor is some 200 years old and looks as if he is in his early 70s… in the books.

%d bloggers like this: