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🪱 REVIEW: Denis Villeneuve's Dune

Dune is a epic science fiction film, directed by Denis Villeneuve, first of a two-part adaptation of the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert, primarily covering the first half of the book. It was produced by Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. 

Set in the distant future amidst a feudal interstellar society in which noble houses, in control of individual planets, owe allegiance to the Padishah Emperor, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides, whose noble family accepts the stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis. As this planet is the only source of the "spice" melange, the most important and valuable substance in the universe, control of Arrakis is a coveted — and dangerous — undertaking. The story from the book and movie explores the multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the forces of the empire confront each other in a struggle for the control of Arrakis and its "spice".

This is the third adaptation of the classic novel, the first was David Lynch's 1984 version, staring Kyle MacLachlan, Patrick Steward and an assembled cast, which had mixed reviews and Lynch despised the result of the film, but it gain a cult following. It wasn't Lynch's fault but Universal's interference because the studio has been searching for a Star Wars competing franchise and failed (Until 2003). The second adaption is more faithful to the novel, John Harrison's 4 hour TV film, staring William Hurt, from Hallmark Entertainment (they we're very different back then) for Syfy channel which premiered in 2000. It changed "some" stuff from the book, but it was more faithful and gained more positive reviews. As of 2003, the miniseries was one of the three highest-rated programs broadcast on the Syfy. It received a sequel, Children of Dune (a combination of the second and third books), starting James McAvoy, and a mediocre game adaptation for PlayStation 2. 

Take your pick, there's three to choose. One story, three versions.

In the 1970's Alejandro Jodorowsky attempted to adapt the book into film, but failed due to the high budget at the time. I highly recommend watching Sony's documentary, Alejandro Jodorowsky's Dune, the greatest film never made.

After Paramount failed to adapt the film in the late 2000s, Legendary Pictures (a subsidiary of the Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group.) picked up the film rights. Denis Villeneuve, a director from Quebec, was hired to direct the after the success and critically acclaimed Prisoners and Blade Runner 2049 (both produced from Alcon), because of his unique visionary style and directing merits.

Disclaimer: I have not read any of the books, but I have friends that have and helped me with this review.

The Story

It stars an assembled cast, many familiar from other popular films and TV shows, Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgård, Zendaya, and many others.

The story is compressive, stable and understanding. Some folks (mostly normies) may not understand most of the character's names, terms, or the plot 'til they watch it the second time; and you must have patience (Unless you have short attention spasms.) Just like Star Wars and the Middle-Earth films, you'll remember the basic ones that stand out like Paul, Arrakis, Spice, and the Sandworms. Some of the dialogue is a little quiet when you try to understand what they're saying. 

The plot is engaging and interesting diving deeper into Herbert's world as intended. You will noticed things that are a little familiar like Star Wars. The book came out 12 years before Star Wars, and that movie (and other media) took alot of influence from the book. Examples, The Voice = The Force, Arrakis sandvehicle's = Jawa's sandcrawler, The Baron= Jabba, Arrakis=Tatoowine, Paul=Luke, House Troopers = Clone/Storm Troopers, Jake Sully arrives at Pandora and encounters the native Naavi= Paul arrives at Arrakis and encounters the native Fremen, and reference to Spice. You get the picture. The movie does it's best not to be a Star Wars clone or rip-off and does a pretty good job of it with a modern aesthetic. 

Unlike other sci-fi films like Star Wars, you're not going to see much guns, you will often see swords, daggers and knives and no computer, just analog stuff. There's a reason in the lore of the books on why they don't use guns. The technical revolution caused by the introduction of the Holtzman Shield because the the bullets are too fast to penetrate the shields had made projectile weapons largely obsolete. For computers, a little more than 10,000 years before the events of the movie, there was an intergalactic war between humans and artificial intelligence. (Does this sound like The Matrix? No, The Matrix sounds like Dune.) Regardless, the humans won, computers were banned, and the events of the movie were set up. That's why you see analog equipment. 

A criticism I would like to point out is the race and gender swapping of the characters for the "diversity and inclusion" bullsh*t. In the book they were suppose to be Caucasians as originally attended. A noticeable change was one of the key characters, Dr. Liet-Kynes, who was originally a Caucasian man turned into a Black woman. This had gain major criticism and concerns before the film was released, even accusing the filmmakers of purposeful "Tokenism". The Dune series doesn't have as many fans as The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars does, so that's why it wasn't too big in the news. If they done this with The Lord of the Rings with little black Hobbits, it would have received heavy back-lash and many would condemn it. I personally do not agree with race/gender swapping characters that were originally intended, it won't look right nor realistic, it can look tokenized and very out of place.

One of the reasons why they done this was because of left-wing critics and racist Twitter freaks criticizing the director's previous film, Blade Runner 2049, for being "too white". (Nothing wrong with having an all-white cast, white people wants to watch movies too ya know!) And another reason was Warner's parent company AT&T's racist diversity and inclusion mandate. (They have a disturbing obsession with race for some reason))). 

I do criticize the film for the gender and race swapping, but the way the director did it was "mostly" clever, they tried to make less tokenizing as possible (I believed they did their best without getting "accused".) In the book, Paul and his people encounter the native Fremen. During the creation of Arrakis and it's people, the author took influence from Arabian, Berber, and Middle Eastern culture. So, in the movie, most of the Fremen were black or very dark skinned like Arabs and Sub-Saharan Africans, assuming because of the hot desert sun, makes since. That part felt natural. But a "few" scenes, especially in the beginning of the film were Leto accepts the Stewardship, stood out like a swore thumb. 

But most of the race swapping didn't hurt the film at all, the film was still entertaining and I really had a great time, despite those criticisms. It has a brilliant assembled cast, each actor was not horrible and preformed the characters very well. However, some of the dialogue is too quick and quiet, that you would need to add subtitles or rewind it to hear what they are saying. (I'm not deaf, this was on high volume.) In Star Wars for example, when they speak the dialogue, either a conversation or calling a characters name, it's loud and clear, and straight to the point. Most modern films don't do that often.

Notice Dr. Liet-Kynes isn't in the cover of the tie-in edition of the novel?

Moving on from that, let's talk about the visuals. Cinematographer, Grieg Fraser, made the impressive visuals and cinematography for the film. It's not shaky or out of place like some of today's movies, it's very stable, organized, and to the point. It often uses the "show don't tell" technique and it's used very well.

The special effects are well done and mostly don't look fake or too over the top. They used a mix CGI, green screens, and particle effects. When they made the iconic sandworm, they said they didn't want it to be a typical Hollywood CGI monster, they wanted it unique and stand out. And they did a good job. One of the antagonists, the Baron, played by Stellan Skarsgård, used make-up and other stuff to make him look big and it looks believable. It took seven hours to finish the make-up on his face. One of the producers said their would have been no point of using such make-up on and dedication if the actor couldn't act and preform his character. And she was right.

And now for the music and sound. Composer, Hans Zimmer, made a good soundtrack for Dune. He declined to make music for Tenet in favor for Dune, because he was a huge fan of the books and always wanted to make a score of it. Zimmer uses non-traditional instruments to fit in with the themes and setting of Arrakis, and it's quite unique and I don't know what to say. I know some of the music takes influence from Middle-Eastern music and didn't want to use Western instruments because he believed it wouldn't fit in or out of place (makes since). Reminds me of Marty O' Donald's iconic soundtrack for Halo, that used non-traditional instruments for it's sci-fi setting. I don't think it's Zimmer's "best" work, it's good but not as iconic; it's still a great score though.

When you watched the film and behind the scenes, you really know that the cast and crew really put effort and dedication into making this film. This puts Disney Star Wars to shame.

I did a poll on Gab, last year "What's the best adaptation of Dune?" The results were: Dune '21 was first, Dune '84 was second, and Dune 2000 was third. There's been an argument within the fandom which one is the best adaptation, because all three are unique versions of the same story. If you didn't like Denis Villeneuve's take on Dune, then I would recommend John Harrison's 4 hour TV adaptation and it's sequel, despite it's low budget. David Lynch's Dune '84, respectively, I wouldn't recommend it, unless you didn't read the books. 

Dune is one of those books that are "unfilmable" or hard to adapt into another medium. Denis Villeneuve and Hans Zimmer read the book and knew the lore, and carefully (and mostly) adapted it the way as it was intended from the source material without mostly butchering it or making it weird. Some parts were cut, like some long subplots, but overall despite it's criticisms and flaws, the film is a wonderful adaption and a good entertaining sci-fi flick I haven't seen in a while since Blade Runner 2049. Today's sci-fi films, don't feel very sci-fi, but Dune did. Warner Bros. and Legendary took the risk like they did with the Lord of the Rings, and brought the iconic book to life in the silver screen and it was a moderate box office success. Warner Bros. wanted a sci-fi equivalent to the Lord of the Rings and a Star Wars competitor, Dune is the closest thing you'll get. 

Some purists who read the books, would have to bite their tongue on some things of the film, but it's a good adaptation and I would recommend it. 

8 out of 10. 

However, I would not recommend buying it just yet until the second part is released and if it's any good.


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