Villeneuve’s Dune - Flash Review


I am not a Dune purist.

The first time I tried to read it, as a teen, I had both LOTR and The Stand under my belt, and yet something about the similarly thick tome felt too dry.

I remember popping in the movie and not making it through, though I can’t specifically remember why.

Thus my exposure has been mostly secondary all this time, and Dune did not make sufficient contact with me during my formative years to be nostalgic.

I did read about half before something in my tbr pile shifted and I started in on indie reviews, and I plan to finish (actually meant to before the movie), but ultimately I’m not equipped to nerd out on this one, so know that my thoughts come from the place of a SFF fan but not a Dune guy.

I have been looking forward to this quite a bit, as it’s been a long time since I sat down for a big budget event. Even better - I get to watch at home, so pants are optional. Let’s go!

Since this is an adaptation of a time-tested and beloved story, I think most people will be concerned with faithfulness, quality, and overall experience.

As explained above, I can’t speak too much to faithfulness, but my general sense while watching was that everything made sense and felt Honest. I’m going to guess that it’s reasonably faithful.

Even I noticed there were scenes missing, but that’s to be expected in a 2.5 hour movie. For the most part, it seems to be complete.

My initial thoughts on quality were that the film is predictably beautiful. Nothing with a budget in the hundreds of millions should ever be anything less. Your mileage may vary with the ship and structure designs, but I enjoyed them.

The spacefaring ships in particular have a massive, imperial presence and I really appreciated the many shots that highlighted their scale vs. the humans.

Fashion is not my area of expertise but as far as I can tell the costumes are quality. I didn’t see anything gaudy or out of place. Overall though it’s a typical far-future imperial style, not much different from Apple’s Foundation series.

The CGI seems up to par but I think my lackluster screen may have taken away from realism to some degree. Someone watching in 4k might be able to speak better to the ultimate quality.

Visually my main impression was one of confidence. Design choices felt deliberate and well thought out. This kind of confidence goes a long way for me in selling the overall product, be it books or games or film. Even if there were a few designs that didn’t strike me, everything is consistent and works together to build a believably epic world.

Which brings me to the emotional presence of the film. There’s a definite ‘emo’ quality to it, and a minimum of lightheartedness. When that’s what you’re in the mood for, no problem! But I did think there could have been a little more humor worked in, as overall the film came off slightly dry. Now this is a tricky thing to ask for, I realize - Dune is not a place for Whedonisms.

Still, some a carefully crafted humorous edge could have brightened the experience.

In a similar vein, the washed out color palette left a little to be desired. Slapping grey on everything is the go-to nowadays for Serious Film and TV. And a dreary paint job is to be expected on a desert planet where lots of people die.

But a little more vibrant color here or there would have been more than welcome. Perhaps pieces of jewelry or ornamental hems on the costumes that could have been as saturated as the blue eyes of the Fremen. Or more contrasting colors for the thrusters of ships. Incongruous lights dotting the city, or any other element that juicier colors could have been worked into.

For all that, if you’re in the mood for a somber watch, this film has you covered.

I’m a terrible judge of actors, but to my sight everyone did just fine. Timothee seemed to slip right into the role of Paul, and it was an interesting surprise to see him being proficient in combat despite being a stickman.

One standout moment for me was Gurney hollering into Paul’s face about taking Arrakis seriously. Nice, visceral moment.

Let’s wrap up with story. Obviously the core is solid. The movie’s split point felt right, if slightly anticlimactic after the tragedy at the palace. I can definitely say that even if I had no prior knowledge of Dune, I would be excited for part 2.

My main hope is that we don’t have yet another bait and switch, where the second portion of a story is twisted to ‘please modern audiences’ with inverted morality, messages not present in the source material, and all of that bad jazz. For now, the adaptation seems to be faithful and it was quite refreshing to sit down for a quality epic film after months or years of serious lack on that front.

So, is it worth your ticket? Yes! Get out of the house!

Or stream it pantsless and enjoy the breeze.

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