Saturday, October 23, 2021

Fairly Short and Hopefully Spoiler-Free Review: Dune


My disappointment isn't immeasurable, and my day is not ruined. Stunning cinematography, impressive effects, and a great score. But if you're looking for the story, this version of Dune isn't worth a 12-mile round-trip bicycle ride to see on the big screen. I'll be blunt: I caught myself checking the time. Twice.

Longer version:

David Lynch's 1984 version -- the initial theatrical cut, which I saw on opening night, before it was shortened to 90 minutes, as I saw it a month later -- is a superior rendering of the novel. Yes, it's got circa-1984 effects. Yes, it's got David Lynch weirdness built in (that's a feature, not a bug, at least when it comes to the portrayal of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, btw). But it tells the whole story, and does so comprehensibly, and does so reasonably faithfully, in (per Wikipedia) 137 minutes. I re-watched it last month, and while movies from the '80s tend not to age very well, it still works for me.

Denis Villeneuve's version runs 156 minutes, only covers the first half of the story, glosses over significant plot elements, key players (the Spacing Guild is barely mentioned, for example; the two mentats from the novel appear but there's no explanation of what the hell they are; etc.), and character motivations (Yueh gets the brief motivational explanation, nothing moving about it), presumably so that he can resolutely focus on lead character Paul Atreides.

I don't object to spending 156 minutes on the first half of the story.

I do object to boring me nearly to sleep by not making the characters and what happens to them seem worth caring about.

I don't think that any of the actors did a poor job. It felt more like most of them were given some lines and some marks to hit, then shoved into the background once they'd managed to shoehorn some bit of needed explanation into the plot. The real exception to that rule is Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, who is magnificent.

Sharon Duncan-Brewster also does a fine job as Liet-Kynes ... fine enough that I only grumbled to myself a little bit about the recent film-maker habit of changing up the sex/gender of well-known fictional characters for no apparent reason.

I'm sure I'll watch the movie again. Maybe even on the big screen, since my family wants to see it and my tickets are paid for by the month, not the movie. Perhaps on a second viewing I'll find more to like about it.

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