Sunday, October 24, 2021

Muad'Dib Watch: Dune (2021)

Watched:  10/24/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Denis Villeneuve

Well, whatever opinion I have will be wrong, by everyone who watched this movie.  And, especially, if you read the book.

I've only read Dune once, years ago, at the recommendation of RHPT and StevenH (and probably Lauren, if Steven was pitching it).  That said, I thought it was a singular reading experience.  My inability to return to the book has much more to do with life being short and me doing other things rather than my lack of love for what I read.

I think people who read and grok Dune are changed a little after, maybe in tiny ways, but a bit.  I cannot imagine approaching a Dune movie without having read the book - I know watching Lynch's version without having read the book led to me giving up 20 minutes in.  But after reading it, I was like "oh, yeah, this is maybe not the best way to do this, but ok."  Similarly, before reading the book, I could only follow the SyFy Channel TV mini-series version of Dune so far before I was like "y'all are on your own".

So - I have no idea what those who didn't read the book took away from the movie currently in theaters and running on HBOmax.  

My first impression was that Villeneuve had very well understood Herbert's vision, and I couldn't believe how well the film matched what I'd seen in my mind's eye reading the book.  The vehicles, architecture, landscapes and sand worms were one thing, but the lighting and mood felt... exactly how I'd felt while reading the book.  That's a rare occurrence for me, personally.*  

A lot of ink will surely be spilled, rightfully so, over the beautiful visuals.  And, as someone still unwilling to brave the local cinema (and who didn't have time this weekend to go to the movies, anyway), I am absolutely crushed I didn't see this on the biggest screen possible.  Here's to a future re-release.  

In general, the movie hits the beats I remember from the book, minus one or three I saw as more crucial than the filmmakers, I guess.  But I'll eat my hat if there's not a 3.5 hour directors cut coming.  I refuse to believe there's not more Dr. Yueh on the cutting room floor, more of Shadout Mapes and more of Paul seeing the locals in the villages.  

I get that the movie was not going to be everyone's bag.  People tend to have deeply personal reactions to Dune, and not everyone is here for what the book is serving up.  I imagine the same will be said for this film, which many will stumble into looking for a sci-fi romp in the desert.  To them, all I can say is... how you doing?  You all right?


Because this movie is only half of the first Dune novel, which totally and completely makes sense. - the problem being is that the film ends on a wicked down note and with no resolution to anything.  What's super weird is that I guess WB wanted to see how this half did before making the second half.  There's no sequel coming next year.

And, because time passes in the book, sure, why not wait a while before the next installment?

Per the cast - I had no issues.  I like everyone they chose, even Jason Momoa, who I guess some people have feelings about As Duncan Idaho.  Not me.  Do not care.  He's fine here.  I've been aware of Chalamet more than I've watched his work, but he makes a solid Paul, in my book.  And, despite high school crushes and whatnot, Zendaya is a better choice for Chani than Sean Young.  She's certainly not a weak link, but Rebecca Ferguson just never quite had the same ownership of the screen as Francesca Annis in Lynch's version.  I expect Lady Jessica to be more a force of nature than what we got, especially in a story with so few female characters, and none in what are perceived as leadership roles.

Some of the dialog felt weirdly... pedestrian?  I think I heard someone say "come on, you guys" at one point, and that felt off to me.  But I get that they were trying to walk away from inaccessible faux Shakespearean speak.   And not everything needs to sound like it was in a mid-20th Century sci-fi novel and all the weight the dialog in those books tends to carry.

Anyway, I thought this was really the best I could of hoped for in a film adaptation.  A movie is not a book, but I felt the spirit of what I liked in the book was alive and well in the film.  Because WB let Villeneuve do his two-movie experiment here, I love that we got real pacing in a movie and a film that didn't have to hit certain beats to meet audience expectation.  This movie can be it's own thing, and I hope audiences will embrace it for what it accomplishes.  

I have a suspicion younger audiences will be tripping over themselves to point out that the film is (gasp) an allegory and has no small amount of discussion of imperialism (what with their being an empire and emperor, yes!  Well done!) and colonialism.  And, yes, it absolutely swims in the idea that an outsider is the one to lead the locals to victory.  Very Lawrence of Arabia.  But if you're going to do that (and the horse if out of the barn on this one) then you might as well do it as well as possible.  

Some will definitely be mad that the movie feels its own import or will call it ponderous.  This, to me, is a way of saying "I can't watch something that isn't as light and frothy as Ant-Man".  Like, you be you, but movies are allowed to be big, epic showpieces.  Especially if they earn it.  And this movie does.  You aren't required to like it, but the material begs for this kind of operatic treatment, and I credit Villeneuve with swinging for the fences.

I am sure you're cracking your knuckles to let me know what you liked or didn't.  Go nuts.  

*I mean, we got Jason Statham as Parker.  


Stuart said...

**cracks knuckles** **cranes kneck** **shot of whiskey** **deep breath**

It was fine.

The League said...

well, that's some damning with faint praise.

Steven said...

Fair review and I agree totally with you.