OK, well. Dune then. Sort of a live review, as I watch. Some more in-depth thoughts at the end. Mildly spoilery, but not if you know the story already. Fair warning, I will not be judging this...
OK, well. Dune then. Sort of a live review, as I watch. Some more in-depth thoughts at the end. Mildly spoilery, but not if you know the story already.
Fair warning, I will not be judging this film on purely it's own merits. It exists in the world and also in the world are Lynch's film (for reference I consider the spicediver fanedit, Alternative Edition Redux, to be the canonical version of that), the Sci-Fi channel miniseries and obviously the books. Yes, even the prequels - the first of which is one of the worst books I've ever read and I've read The Davinci Code. Anyway, on to actually watching it...
Well, it's pretty. One problem is that no matter how good the design is - and the design is VERY good - it's just not as good as Tony Masters and David Lynch building on material from Mobius and HR Giger. This film is obviously heavily influenced by them though.
In my head Caladan is a lush, fertile, welcoming world. It's been colour graded to grey and desaturated. Feels wrong.
He's lifting both shots and dialogue from Lynch's film. That's good. My brain is filling in the missing bits of internal monologing.
Nice implementation of Chakobsa. I like that.
Hans Zimmer can just fuck off with that big stupid honking sound he shoehorns into everything. So annoying.
This film is missing Roger Deakins. I mean you can say that about a lot of films but this one especially. It is beautifully shot but Deakins would have taken it to another level.
Why are people whispering at each other over like ten metre distances? I hate that. Speak up, you're outside, it's windy and you're far apart! It's not moody if you obviously can't even hear each other. Yes, small thing, but things like that which upset your suspension of disbelief are jarring.
You can't put a crysknife away without it tasting blood. Pffft. That's just ignoring lore for the sake of it. Five seconds would be all it took to do that bit. We could have had one fewer lingering shots on the knife itself instead. As an aside, the Shadout Mapes as a means to explain bits of Arrakeen and Fremen lore to the Atredies (and us!) is horrendously under-used.
The ornithopters in this movie are badass. There is an in-universe reason for them that I can't remember.
I wonder how much of this works if you haven't seen Lynch's version (which has much more internal thoughts of characters) or read the books?
Stellan Skarsgard is channelling Apocalypse Now era Brando pretty hard and that is in no way a bad thing. His Baron is absolutely superb, probably the best part of the whole film. Piter de Vries is nowhere near weird/creepy/insane enough. Leaving out Feyd-Rautha is a mistake, he's the anti-Paul and even though Sting did a relatively terrible job in Lynch's film, that doesn't mean he's not important.
Zimmer teasing elements of Eno's original theme is a nice touch as well.
You know what's cool? What's cool is that at certain key moments I get lines from the book appearing in my head, from whichever scene is happening. That's a really good sign. I haven't read Dune for years.
So OK, overall, it's not as bad as I was expecting. It's pretty. It's stylish. It's annoyingly colour graded but what isn't these days? But this film doesn't add much to the telling of Dune over the Lynch's film or even, really, the Sci-Fi miniseries. Villeneuve is obviously a fan of both books and Lynch's movie and what he has made is good. A lot of what he's made is basically just a remake of what Lynch did, and I don't just mean because both films are based on the same book - there are multiple direct lifts straight from Lynch's film, and that is perfectly OK. But it's not about what is here, it's about what isn't.
Because it leaves a lot out - it's shallow where it should be deep, it's straightforward where it should be mystical, simple where it should be weird. It's 8-10 characters when it should be twice that and worst of all a lot of it seems to rely on viewers knowing the lore rather than having time to explain it: and all that is because film is the wrong medium for this story.
It misses out on exploring much about any of the characters simply because nobody has enough screentime to go into their motivations, which are generally multifaceted and complex - I do appreciate Villeneuve not wanting to have characters stand around expositioning at each other (MCU, looking at you), or doing a voiceover of character's thoughts like Lynch did, but that means you really need to spend time with them so they can show us what they're thinking, not tell us. "Show don't tell" is good filmmaking but it takes time.
For example, Paul and Jessica get most of the screen time but we don't really learn much about them. Because you need a lot of lore to contextualise their motivations - Jessica's actions and desires need to be placed in the wider context of her relationship to Leto and the Bene Gesserit and their plans and while Villeneueve does try to do that a bit, it's one or two lines with Leto and one rushed (literally, they're doing a walk-and-talk) conversation in which Helen Moahim mentions the Kwisatz Haderach and little more.
The Guild are barely even mentioned. You see some lower level navigators but you don't know who they are if you don't already know who they are. The Guild's influence is so important to so much of what happens in Dune but if you didn't know they existed already I'm not sure you'd leave this film knowing there was a spacing guild at all. Same goes for the Emperor and the Landsraad, they hardly come up at all. The thing about Dune is that it's not just about Paul. Paul is important but he's really just the pointy end of a lot of long-game players and systems and their interactions. That doesn't really come over in Villeneuve's film. Also it's not really a structural issue but I'd have loved to have seen more of the Heighliners. A Navigation sequence would have been fun too.
The thing is, Dune deserves a TV series. A high budget one like Game of Thrones. I want an hour on Caladan, learning about the Atredies. I want an hour on Kaitain learning about the Padishah Emperors and the Bene Gesserit. Same with the Harkkonens. I want to be 3 or 4 episodes in before I even see Arrakis. Movies are great for telling short stories, maybe novellas at best. But big, long, complicated books need to be on TV where they can spread out, take their time, develop characters and fill in backstory and motivations.
Overall, 7/10 and I really hope the second movie gets funded because stopping here would be even worse. It's worth watching but don't expect a great deal underpinning what is still a very beautiful film. I could have written that same sentence about Bladerunner 2049, thinking about it.27 votes