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November 2, 2021 at 5:21 pm #327geektalkKeymaster
Dune is one of the most anticipated movies of the year. Does it live up to the hype? Join me for my (mostly) spoiler free review.
well [ __ ] it finally happens when itcomes to movies saddled with a [ __ ] tonof anticipation it’s tough to think of abetter candidate in 2021 than denisevellner’s dune the latest attempt toadapt frank herbert’s labyrinthinesci-fi novel to the big screen and to behonest it really does feel like there’sa lot of riding on this movie in amarket dominated by brain dead actionfranchises and endless bland predictablecomic book films dune representssomething a bit different a slower morethoughtful and mature kind of movie thattackles grand ideas on an epic scale anddoes it very much at its own pace june’ssuccess or failure could prove to be thebellwether for the entire sci-fi genreso i guess it’s a good thing that itturns out to be a really [ __ ] solidmovie that reminded me hollywood isactually still capable of making goodstuff if the right people are involved imean there’s definitely a few caveats tothat and some issues with the writingand pacing which i’ll cover later in thereview but for the most part i came awayfrom dune feeling like i’d watched agenuinely smart engaging andwell-intentioned take on some prettychallenging source material directed bya man who clearly wanted to tell hisstory in the best possible way nowbecause i’d encourage people toexperience this film for themselves i’mgoing to keep this review light onspoilers and stick to a general plotoutline before getting into thenitty-gritty of the review so suit updear viewer and let the spice flow duneis set in a distant future where thehuman race is spread out to colonize thegalaxy in a vast interstellar empiredominated by a number of extremelypowerful and wealthy noble houses all ofthis is made possible by a rare materialknown as spice which grants extendedlife heightened awareness and a kind ofpsychic vision that allows pilots tonavigate from one side of the galaxy tothe other the problem is that only oneplanet in the known universe has thestuff and that’s the barren desert worldof arrakis whoever controls arrakiscontrols the spice and whoever controlsthe spice controls the galaxy the otherproblem is that mining spice is adangerous business not only do you haveto contend with harsh conditions andgiant sand worms that can eat entirevehicles but also attacks by fremenwandering nomads that have made arrakistheir home for generations the planet’sbeen under the control of the oppressivehouse harkinan basically the bad guys ofthe story but at the start of the moviethe harkinans have been ordered to leaveand house the treaties have been put incharge instead duke leto the head of thehouse travels to arrakis along with hisson paul and his concubine lady jessicato take charge of the planetsunfortunately it all turns out to be abig trap and the atreides forces getwiped out in a single disastrous nightleaving only a few scattered survivorsone of which happens to be paul willthis unprepared young man have thestrength and determination to become thelegendary messiah that’s meant to unitethe scattered freeman into an armystrong enough to retake the planets andeven if he does what will he have togive up to become such a man rightthat’s the plot summary out of the waynow it’s time for some analysis first upjune is a visual masterpiece that looksabsolutely incredible especially if youwatch it in imax vlan have proved withblade runner 2049 that he can delivervisual spectacle that’s more than justexplosions and destruction and he reallycements that reputation with duneeverything from the grand sweepinglandscape shots of arrakis and theatreides homeworld to the cityscapes andspaceships orbiting the planet it alllooks gorgeous and it really showcasesthe power of modern film technology whenit’s properly used the equipmentvehicles and general level of technologyis pretty much faithful to the books toothe ornithopters look like real aircraftthat could actually fly the spaceshipsand battle barges are big hulking andimposing designed to project sheermilitary power and dominance even thepersonal force fields which havebasically done away with the concept ofprojectile weapons are well realised andthought out here the world of dune isbasically a series of contradictions andcontrasts a world of super advancedtechnology that has armies fighting eachother with swords and spears a galaxyspanning civilization ruled over by aprimitive feudalistic governmentindividuals with more power and wealththan we could begin to comprehend stilldriven by the same petty impulses ofgreed jealousy and paranoia the moviealso does an excellent job of buildingup the various factions andorganizations at play giving you enoughto understand their relationships andimmediate goals without knowing theirultimate motivations from the decadentnovel houses vying for power to thenomadic fremen who keep their truenumbers and strength hidden to thesecrets of benedict quietly manipulatingevents behind the scenes there’s a realsense that everyone is plotting andscheming against everyone else andnobody’s ready to tip their hand yetcasting and performances are mostlystrong across the board oscar isaac issolid as the embattled duke leto anhonorable man slowly realizing he’s beenset up to fail but doing his best in animpossible situation josh brolin andjavier bardem are both veteran actorswho know their business and never dropthe ball and stellan skarsgard is pitchperfect as baron harkin and portraying amuch colder and more calculating versionof the character than we’ve seen beforetimothy chalamet probably wouldn’t havebeen my first choice as paul he’s a bittoo young and too feminine looking buthe does grow on you over the course ofthe movie and there’s moments when hereveals a darker side to his characterthat play out really well he’s a man whodoesn’t truly understand who and what heis railing and rebelling against thedestiny that circumstances are slowlypushing him towards also i love the factthat rebecca ferguson is playing hismother when she’s only like 13 yearsolder than him on the other side there’snot many people who consider jason momoato be a versatile actor and this movie’snot likely to change anyone’s minds ialso had reservations about zendayaafter her uh performance in thespider-man movies and to be honest myfears were kind of justified here shedoes the same weird squinting thing thatsomeone must have told her conveys aman’s personal gravitas but the goodnews is that she’s barely in the movieshe shows up in dreams and visionsoccasionally but she only appears in theflesh for like the final 10 minutes ofthe film and i’m fine with that talkingabout the ending though it does bring meon to one of my big criticisms of dunein that it doesn’t really have one itjust kind of stops in the middle of ascene with no resolution to anything andno sense of narrative completeness iknow they made the decision to splitdune into two films but honestly i thinkthey could have found a more naturalendpoint than this basically this entiremovie serves as a prologue to the realmeat of dune’s narrative which is paul’srise through the ranks of the fremen thestruggle against his destiny to become amessiah and the eventual battle toretake arrakis and that being the caseit leaves you wanting more because itfeels like it delivered less than itshould and i think some of this comesdown to the pacing dune is absolutely aslow burner of a movie that’s not to saythat nothing happens but everything thatdoes happen plays out in a slowmethodical kind of way there’s longreflective scenes where charactersponder their fate and explain theiroutlook big extravagant shots of shipsmaking planet fall cityscapes and peoplestaring off thoughtfully towards thehorizon and it’s all accompanied byheavy epic hand zimmer music that makesevery single moment and every decisionseem like it’s going to change the fateof humanity it’s all good stuff but itclearly adds to the runtime of what’salready a pretty lengthy movie and ican’t shake the feeling that if theediting had been a bit tighter theymight have been able to advance the plotto a more satisfying end point itdoesn’t really help that the story isdelivered as if everything that happensin it is a foregone conclusion the fallof house atreides is telegraphed aboutan hour before it happens paul’s destinyis a chosen one is established in hisfirst few scenes and hammered home againand again throughout the movie everycharacter’s walking a path that’salready been laid out for them most ofwhom seem to know it already and theresult is less of a dynamic story shapedby the characters and their decisionsand more of a self-fulfilling prophecyinevitably coming to pass it’s prettyhard to build up tension when you kindof know what’s going to happen alreadythe world building is insanely complexand detailed in some areas but weirdlysparse and bleak in others like a goodchunk of the early movie is set onkaladan the atreides home planet butapart from soldiers a few militaryadvisers and government personnelthere’s not even a hint of what theactual population looks like there’s nocities no civilians no culture nosuggestion of what everyday life is likeunder a treaty’s rule it’s the same oncethey get to arrakis there’s a brief shotof local civilians that have come out towitness the arrival of paul and theothers but the only window into thisplace is the fremen and you don’t evensee them until the finale i get thatthis stuff isn’t strictly necessary tothe story but watching lone characterswandering through vast empty palaces andparade grounds leaves you with the weirdsense that all of this is happening in avacuum which is pretty much the oppositeof what the movie should be trying to donow all these issues probably make itseem like i didn’t enjoy this movie buti can assure you that’s absolutely notthe case dune is a smart technicallybrilliant and deeply immersive moviethat genuinely impressed me and thereason i’ve taken so much time tooutline my criticisms is that most ofthem are so deeply buried that they kindof demand a lot of explanation theycertainly didn’t ruin the experience forme and if anything the fact that thisfilm was able to do what amounts to thethankless donkey work of the narrativewithout too many missteps really bodeswell for the sequel i just hope weactually get one when i reviewed thetrailer i voiced my concern that a morephilosophical less action-oriented movielike this might struggle to make backits hefty budget i know that i’veactually seen it my opinion hasn’tchanged much don’t get me wrong weabsolutely need more movies like dunebut the unfortunate reality is thatwe’ll only get them if people arewilling to pay for them i just hopethey’re willing to pay for this onebecause honestly it deserves itanyway that’s all i’ve got for todaygo away now
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