Results 1 to 14 of 14

Thread: Dune, part one 2021

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    1,625

    Dune, part one 2021

    Dune, part one (2021)
    Directed by Denis Villeneuve
    Cinematography – Greig Fraser (Rogue One)
    Score – Hans Zimmer

    SPOILER ALERT, mostly for those who’ve never read the novel. If you’ve read the novel or saw the 1984 film… well, it’s more of the same only with better special effects and less time spent on minor characters.

    Dune, part one (2021) is a sprawling adaptation of the 1965 Frank Herbert novel that revolves around religious beliefs, which parallel those of the Islam religion, especially certain terms that Herbert borrowed like Jihad and the name of the principal character, Muhai’dib (which sounds similar to Muhammad) – the name that Paul Atreides (Ah-tray-dees) takes when he becomes leader of the Fremen; and even the desert setting (aka, the Middle East). But I digress… let’s start at the beginning; not of the novel; or the 1984 film; but the current film project released today.

    The opening is rather confusing, I would think, for most audiences to grasp. There is a brief narrative voice-over summary delivered by Chani – a Fremen woman who later plays an important role in her relationship to Paul. She explains something of the desert planet Arakis (Dune), of the Harkonnen (enemies of the Atreides), and the spice mélange, responsible for inter-dimensional space transport. Then we jump to the Atreides home world, which is a water world (sharp contrast). The Emperor’s messengers have arrived with a new assignment – take over the spice mining operations on Arakis; as the Emperor Shaddam has ordered the Baron Harkonnen out. Not wishing to start a war, Duke Leto Atreides obeys and prepares to transfer his family to Arakis, a desert world.

    The focus of both the novel, and this film, quickly changes to the Duke’s son, Paul. Unlike the novel or the 1984 film that makes an attempt to air out background or minor characters, we don’t know why the Emperor’s Bene-Gesserit Mother has dropped in to visit. The Duke’s wife, Jessica, with her worried face telegraphs that she knows why and later we learn it is because she’s kept her son’s identity hidden until now. Paul is special and in spite of his military training, the boy has certain qualities that make him stand out, such as using a commanding voice and vivid dreams of Arakis.

    All of the novel’s main characters are here but in extremely truncated roles, even smaller than they were in the previous 1984 film. The transfer to the planet and the ultimate demise of House Atreides happen in rapid fashion with the main emphasis falling on the story about Paul and little else. This also differs from the 1984 film in that, all of the “little intrigue scenes” with Gurney, Duncan, Thufir, Raban, Dr. Kynes, Mapes, the Emperor, the Baron, and other minor characters are basically reduced to a few lines of dialogue or nonexistent. It’s every character-building detail you know and love about the novel thrown away as unimportant. The Emperor’s daughter is only mentioned as that, no name, and in a throw-away line.

    What you have is a pounding percussive score, massive-scale visuals, and a smattering of plot points from the novel, just enough (such as the names of planets) to place them in the familiar “story” territory important to Dune aficionados but perhaps confusing to those unfamiliar with the terms and the long list of characters who are only presented in superficial fashion. Villeneuve has Timothée Chalamet play Paul as a pale, confused, dark teenager troubled by continued angst; his long black curls often obscuring his scowling face. If he isn’t bothered by constant dreams or visions, he simply stands there with the same blank expression on his face in nearly every shot. Chalamet comes across more as a fashion icon than he does someone who fits into the story. With the camera focused so much on just his still expressionless face, it starts to come across as more a fault of the director than the actor for giving so little attention to Chalamet’s reactions.

    Cinematographer Greig Fraser is as good as Lawrence of Arabia’s Freddie Young shooting widescreen drifting dunes, but then what’s so difficult about pointing the camera at sand… and there’s lots of it. Hans Zimmer’s score is more pounding militaristic percussion than it is soaring violins or memorable leitmotifs as Williams or Barry would do, fitting perhaps, considering all of the military emphasis. Where Villeneuve has more advantage in this 2021 version is in terms of visual effects. The scale, even in the novel, is a massive one… and when it comes to the final reveal of the worms, Villeneuve doesn’t disappoint – they’re big, as we expected them to be; gigantic creatures overwhelming in size… in both shots… that’s right… in nearly three hours, two shots.

    Overall impression was high expectation followed by… wait, what about this person… and this person… and this event… but that was important! STOP! Sorry. We’re moving on without them. And finding none of the complexity or nuances on the screen. In my mind, Herbert’s novel is so complex and so steeped in terms of character depth, that it’s impossible to make a film of it that justifies the story as Herbert conveyed it in print. Dune needs to be told, every week, in about twenty or so one-hour episodes, where we could learn about all of the people in Paul’s life who help shape him to become the most powerful person in the universe. Dune, part one 2021 does not. It’s big. It’s grand. It’s also missing too many parts. Probably good if you’ve never read the novel. Otherwise, goodbye Duncan Idaho… we hardly knew ye.
    Colige suspectos semper habitos

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    14,508
    DENIS VILLENEUVE: DUNE (2021)



    Villeneuve's 'Dune' is good, but a bit overwhelmed by its source

    Dennis Villeneuve revived Blade Runner in his own expanded version, which was very well received. (I had plenty of time for it, and unlike the Ridley Scott original, it required a lot of that commodity.) Now he does something even more important, because for fans of the Frank Herbert epic Dune the world's most popular science fiction novel, the ultimate sci-fi fan book, there was no completed film version but David Lynch's botched one. Those who know say this time Villeneuve has done it right. Or at least some of them do.

    Villeneuve has made a film for fans and readers of the book: he has said so, expressing the hope that what he has done will please them. It appears to have generally also pleased the critics, with some strong dissenters. Beside Richard Brody, who in the digital back pages of The New Yorker finds the new film too slavish to plotline and specifics and "sanded to dullness," there is Michael Sragow for Film Comment, who unfortunately for him is a huge fan of Jodorowsky's never-completed Dune, (as its conception is seen in a documentary) and who sees Villeneuve's version as "a literalist compression of the book" and "vast and ponderous would-be epic."

    I'd say Villeneuve may please the most dedicated fans of the books, but it's so loyal to those, it seems incomprehensible to non-fans in many particular details. And similarly it's a bit lacking in dash and originality, the sense of being the true work of an auteur who has made the source utterly his own and dared to branch out freely.

    This is the paradox: Villeneuve's Dune is specific enough to distinguish itself quite clearly at almost every point from the numerous other sci-fi epics it resembles. But it would be nice it it had been truly unique and strange in style and conception as a film as well. I'm thinking of the still photos and voice-over of Chris Marker's magical and memorable La Jetée . If only there were something like that.

    Another paradox is that while the landscapes both architectural and natural are impressive and distinctive, it's unfortunately true as Richard Brody rather cruelly says that at times despite its grand scale Dune occasionally seems a bit "cheesy" around the edges, like a CGI production waiting for its details, its vast buildings or massive crowds, to be "digitally filled in." I thought that, even as I was being impressed by the odd-looking hills and unusual buildings. And yet somehow the people who stumble around in the sand or engage in colloquy in English, in Chakobsa, or in special sign language, good as the cast is, seem less wonderful or memorable than the environment they're in.

    This is with the notable exception of Timothée Chalamet, whose making of a hero-messiah from a cherished princeling is a coming of age story that holds center stage here and is a role this actor seems made to play. Chalamet's slim, ephebe frame , ivory skin and impeccable bone structure are present in every scene in this his second and more successful appearance as a princeling; the first was as prince Hal in David Michôd's rather lackluster The King. The impressive and ambitious Dune, if it meets with success with the public, is poised to climax Chalamet's rapid rise to fame and leading man status and make him a megastar. It's a trajectory that was sent on its way with Lady Bird and Little Women but most of all with Call Me by Your Name, where he really made love to the screen, as well as to Armie Hammer and a ripe peach, and showed his skill at the keyboard and with foreign languages. Here, he adds martial arts to his portfolio.

    I'm still a little overwhelmed and baffled by Villeneuve's Dune, which is so authentic it's full of stuff that makes no sense to me. What is "the voice"? Why do people go blurry and vibrate every so often? What is this world, this oceanic planet Caladan Paul Atreides (Timothée) and his father Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) and mother Lady Jessica (the pleasingly recessive Rebecca Fergusson) live on? What is this other world of the desert planet Arrakis they mine for its "spice"? I kept waiting for the giant miles-long sand worms I'd heard about to appear and never quite saw one. They were there; I just didn't know what to look for. I was impressed by the unusual (if identifiably brutalist) architecture encountered everywhere, the pleasing if sub-Lawrence of Arabia-grade dunes.

    Indeed one just needs to prep for a story in which the author packed so much material. The [urlf="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dune_(novel)"]Wikipedia article[/url] mentions among "themes and influences" "Middle-Eastern and Islamic references, Environmentalism and ecology, Declining empires, Gender dynamics, Heroism," and "Zen and religion." The Middle-Eastern and Islamic material at times was quite evident, but one could see much was beneath the surface.

    There are some key fights, sometimes fought in a most unorthodox manner: what about those men in matching uniforms who turn cartwheels between fisticuffs? It all requires the kind of patient explanation you get in the moments leading up to a Metropolitan Opera radio broadcast - or a careful review by watching the movie again on HBO Max. I see now the good sense of my friend who read Dune weeks ahead of the film's release. But I feel that whether Herbert's text would appeal to me or not, no amount of study will make Villeneuve's - nonetheless impressive and watchable - version truly sing for me.

    Watching this in the same IMAX auditorium and the same seat where I saw No Time to Die two weeks ago, I had a different, rather less pleasant experience, even though this is arguably the better movie. To start with, there were more people in the audience - so many that it made me nervous and worried about mask-wearing and air, a sensitivity increased by the oxygen tubes worn on Arrakis by our heroes, so I continually felt about to run out of air or breathe poison myself. At the same time even more than the last I felt overwhelmed by a score by the same ubiquitous blockbuster composer, Hans Zimmer, which this time seemed less to thread together explosions as in the Bond picture and simply to be its own explosion overwhelming everything, including the dialogue, which at times I couldn't understand, at least when it didn't have subtitles. Wish I could have seen this in Paris, where the audience is more restrained and polite, doesn't walk back in front of you kicking your legs and chomp on popcorn (not that the chomping was audible over Zimmer's score). But this is a film to see in IMAX, or in the biggest best cinema you can find.

    The best part of Villeneuve's Dune is the cliff-hanger finale, when you see Paul commit to staying on the desert planet to manage it. It's an exciting leap Paul is taking, a more-than-hint of his promise beginning to come true in a big way, and it's something you feel, and a promise of more to come. Here, Villeneuve had me.

    Dune, 155 mins., debuted at Venice out of competition Sept. 3, 2021, also showing in Deauville, Toronto, Bogota, New York film festivals, Mill Valley, Chicago and Sydney. It opened in US theaters ad on HBO Max Fri., Oct. 22, 2021. Current Metacritic rating: 75%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 10-25-2021 at 11:44 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    1,625
    I would agree that Villeuneuve's film is visually striking and quite beautiful. Several shots in the film are quite memorable. However, this is Dune. Where is the Landstrad? Where are the Spice Navigators? The whole reason for the Duke being part of this plot against him is missing? You can't claim to be a story about Dune and leave out so many of the plot devices. It's like saying Gone With The Wind is a story about a southern girl and everything goes wrong for her... lots of visuals... none of the other characters matter... except maybe Rhett... oh, yeah... there's some kind of war going on. But more about that later.

    Dune is more than just a series of sweeping shots with giant spaceships that dwarf people to specs. And the whole thing about the Duke's father being killed by a bull is some of the most superfluous information in the entire novel. It's as if Villeneuve is trying to re-write the story to his benefit... then you don't have Dune. You have something else.

    There is a reason Jessica has Paul. There is a reason Paul knows what he knows. There is a reason Paul's small circle of friends are important. There is a reason the Emperor wants to diminish the Duke. There is a reason the spice Melange is so important. There is a reason the navigation guild is what they are and so dependent on the spice and that space travel isn't possible without them. There is a reason the societies are so militaristic. There is a reason the Bene Gesserit are so powerful and respected. And if you leave out all of these reasons and still claim to tell the story of Dune, then you've missed the whole point of the story. Yes, movies are a different medium. But the core story must be told. Otherwise, you have lots of pretty pictures with nothing to say and no reason for being there.
    Colige suspectos semper habitos

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    14,508
    You make an eloquent case. However, I'm thinking many of those "reasons" can be understood intuitively. With all due respect, the ultimate question isn't whether Villeneuve's film satisfies you but whether it works as a film. Iim also curious whether all Herbert fans are as displeased with the film as you are. I think not.

    On his blog/website Inverse, Ryan Britt, a Herbert fan, perhaps fanatic, and writer, would agree with you on much being left out but still thinks the film masterful. And he argues that in any form, including the books, the nature of DUNE is to be incomplete: "The truest Dune is the unfinished Dune."

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    1,625
    I think I need to go back and watch the film again. I think I'll go sometime this week before it slips into smaller theaters. Right now (locally) its in our biggest theater of the complex. I'll wake up early and go to a matinee. Then I'll know if my feelings have changed.
    Colige suspectos semper habitos

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    14,508
    Personally what I urgently need to see now is Wes Anderson's THE FRENCH DISPATCH. But I am also rewatching DUNE, piecemeal, at home on HBO. On the small screen the immensity is lost, but it's still exquisite, and I can turn down the volume of Han Zimmer's score to a manageable level.

    The two films' Metacritic ratings are very close, DUNE 74% and THE FRENCH DISPATCH 75%. But from the sound of the most enthusiastic criticisms, Anderson's is the more unqualified success and career best. But, there are problems with both (in comprehension, in encompassing the complexities), and both are a matter of taste and not for everyone.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    1,625
    I am so looking forward to seeing French Dispatch after reading so much about it and seeing some of the behind the scenes special effects. HBO just aired Moonrise Kingdom (one of my faves) but I have to say my favorite is Grand Budapest; I love watching that film again and again. So much to see that each I time I see, I see something else. I love that movie.
    Colige suspectos semper habitos

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    14,508
    I had to go out of my way, drive 15 miles on complicated, crowded highway, to see it this morning but it was worth it My review goes up now. Will you put your FRENCH DISPATCH review on the thread I started as I put my DUNE one on yours?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    1,625
    Yes, once I get the chance to see it... probably next weekend is what they're saying, November 5th
    Colige suspectos semper habitos

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    1,625

    Dune 2021 versus Dune 1984

    2021 versus 1984 – A look back, a look forward

    (Author’s note: I watched Dune 1984 and Dune 2021 twice within five days before I decided to write this comparison.)

    “Dune” is one of those complex science-fiction novels ever written, similar to “Lord of the Rings” in that it encompasses an entirely new universe that is different from ours, where the laws of physics and normalcy don’t apply. There’s magic; magical thinking; and extraordinary devices imbued with supernatural abilities. These are not ordinary people. These are not ordinary places. Both books were adapted to film, first in the late 20th Century, and then again in the age of digital special effects which tend to realize an author’s vision more realistically than miniatures and matte paintings. Peter Jackson gave us the definitive LOTR. I doubt anyone else could or should attempt to outdo his monumental accomplishment. Now Villeneuve gives us the definitive Dune.

    In 1984, Dino de Laurentiis attempted to accomplish this feat when he acquired the rights and discovered an enormous fan base that he could capitalize on, if he could get the film made. After the usual go around with writers and directors, David Lynch committed to the project and even helped with adapting Frank Herbert’s gigantic work into a usable screenplay that he could bring in on budget. The film would use the Emperor’s daughter as a narrator. She’d introduce the various parties and acquaint the audience with the novel’s unique terms before the opening credits. He assembled a strong international cast and when they finished production, edited a four-and-a-half-hour work, rejected by the distributing studio (Universal) and the film’s producer. Lynch refused to cut it and so de Laurentiis hired an uncredited editor to cut almost two hours from the film. Furious over this butchery, Lynch wanted his name removed but it was too late. The prints were made and film debuted in December 1984 at two hours and seventeen minutes. The movie flopped. On a budget of $42 million, it made only $30 million box office. Critics panned it.

    The 1984 Dune fell into obscurity with the success of Star Wars and Star Trek. No one thought they’d ever hear of Dune again… until around 2000, when talk started to surface that Ridley Scott was going to direct a remake (he’d been hired for the first version and quit to make Blade Runner). The film went in and out of many hands, many studios, until 2017 when Legendary film productions acquired the rights and Villeneuve expressed interest in directing. They gave the film a $165 million budget and one year to make. Villeneuve not only finished on time, but on budget… and then something happened, a pandemic.

    Anticipation for the film went through the roof. Fans around the world waited for almost two years before the studio announced the release date. Finally, in October 2021, the film opened in both theaters and on pay-per-view via HBO Max (those revenues are not published). Compared to the James Bond film, two weeks prior, Dune did not open to great box office numbers. However, less than a week after its opening, Warner Brothers (distributors) announced they’ve greenlit part two for 2023.

    Villeneuve approached the screenplay from a different perspective. Instead of loading up the opening with as much backstory as possible (the David Lynch approach); he opens with a brief narrative about Arakis as told by one of its native tribespersons – Chani. While we do not associate her voice with any character, she will become prominent later as “that dream girl” in Paul’s visions. Villeneuve is more expressive with his use of scale – the story is told on an unbelievably large scale… not armies fighting over castles, they’re fighting over space territory and planets. To do this, they use machines so large in size, they can be seen in broad daylight from a planet’s surface. With scales such as these, we see tiny specks as spaceships emerge from the opening that travel down to the surface. However, on the surface, the scale changes again. Instead of specks, we see ships larger than any spaceships we’ve ever seen in a science fiction movie to date, dwarfing people standing nearby into tiny specs.

    All of this size comparison gives us a scale to measure the vastness of Arakis’ desert, the size of the worms, and the incredible power these militaries wield when it comes to expressing that might. I did notice one caveat this time I didn’t notice the first time I watched Dune 2021. The Baron says: “The Emperor won’t allow any satellites over Arakis.” Presumably because he doesn’t want the “Landsrad” to know how much spice he’s mining and the profit he receives, even though the Harkonnen’s are the ones taking the risk. Their motive for staying on Arakis is profit. One might ask, “Why don’t they just take their big ships and wipe out all the Fremen from space?” Because they can’t find them… not only that, Arakis is a cruel harsh planet with sand storms that blow winds over 800 kph (note how they use the metric system). These storms are over 5000 meters high (almost as high as Everest, at 8800 meters) and wipe the area clean of anything in their path. They don’t kill the worms either based on an edict from the Emperor (although his order is based on information given to him by his “ecologist” Dr. Kyne).

    Villeneuve injects political tensions into the story rather than focus on the myriad of minor plots the 1984 film tried to duplicate from the novel. His idea is that most of these details are superfluous to the overall story – how Paul is actually a superbeing that has yet to understand the true depth of his abilities. The Bene Gesserit allude to this throughout the first hour of the film. Once the revenge attack takes place, the movie is all about Paul’s survival in the desert. Written as an homage to the likes of T.E. Lawrence, the Koran, the Talmud, and even an ecology story about spreading dunes in Oregon, Herbert’s tale of Dune is a complex one that even the novel’s writer finds difficult to grasp as to which plot point is the most important – Paul’s power, his romance with Chani, his priestess mother, his enemy – the Baron, even his relationship with the Fremen – all come into play during this gargantuan story of science fiction (over 400 pages).

    Villeneuve sets us up with a different “true focus” for the story. That the story’s main focus should be how Paul survives his trials in the desert (starting with a duel). Everything else in the film is just a setup leading to this moment. Dune becomes an epic film – like Ben Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, and even LOTR – told by a masterful filmmaker in a modern sense. He isn’t concerned with the color of the Baron’s palace on Geidi Prime or style of robe Emperor Shaddam the IV is wearing. His focus is Paul and the gritty life he must live in the real world of Arakis. This is a contemporary film told by a contemporary filmmaker using contemporary methods for a contemporary audience. Forget 1984. It’s passe.
    Colige suspectos semper habitos

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    14,508
    A very convincing and clear change of heart re-review. It helps me understand and I'm still slowly rewatching the new Dune on HBO. I don't understand very well - I'm nearly through and haven't grasped much - but had I read your discussion, above, I'd have grasped the overall idea of Villeneuve's version much better, or I hope so! However, I enjoy looking at the nice images. Also despite the loss of vastness moving from a big IMAX screen to a small laptop, the HBO "standard" format is more widescreen than the boxier IMAX format designed to make you feel like you're looking "down' into the film's world. My only disappointment is that you don't say very much about David Lynch's film. Aren't you being a bit unkind and dismissive? After all, even if Lynch's Dune is a colossal flop, he's a great filmmaker. I've never seen it. Glad you went back and rewatched and reassessed. The other question is: what do you think about your initial review now?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    1,625
    Hastily written... film styles and techniques have changed. I didn't take into account those cultural and societal changes. Plus, I wasn't familiar with the actors' work. I actually regret my first review because I went through with a messy divorce from Lynch's work (to make a weak analogy). It took me years to grow accustomed to what he (they) did to the novel's interpretation. Looking back, I wish he'd never made it. So many of the performances were too "over the top." It was the only thing we Dune fans had. Now we have a film made with fresh eyes, fresh perspectives, and I'm learning to make the adjustment. In my rush to record my feelings, I believe I also rushed to judgment, never a good thing.
    Colige suspectos semper habitos

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    14,508
    I hope you and David Lynch hare reconciled since, for his later work. Evidently doing Dune was a mistake for him to take on as a project. Still have not seen it, and have no plans to read the Dune book.

    It's good to hold one's review for a couple hours but that's all you can do in movie reviewing, if you want to be part of the hot debate when it's new. I hedge my bets by being moderate in my comments, but that's only because it's my nature.

    I am on to see and comment on the new releases. My priority was to be The Eternals, but now Passing and Spencer take precedence.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 11-07-2021 at 02:42 PM.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    1,625
    No regerts? (misspelled on purpose, as in the commercial) I have many. I suppose that's why I wouldn't make a good professional film critic. Too many regerts (he said with a wink and a smile).
    Colige suspectos semper habitos

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •