Not Another Dune Take!

But yes. Another Dune take. I watched the movie over the weekend. Here are some unfocused thoughts. They are not particularly organized or polished. If you are not interested in Dune or the Dune movie you can safely skip this.

Overall, I thought this was about as good a Dune movie as you can make in a standard movie runtime. The challenge (and temptation) facing anyone adapting Dune to the screen is that it lies partway between space opera/fantasy (Star Wars) and what I will call “concept sci-fi” (The Three Body Problem; Solaris). Space opera films quite well. Concept sci-fi is trickier. It can involve action, but is typically more about ideas than characters. The things that make Dune uniquely Dune do not necessarily film well. They are more conceptual than operatic.

Villeneuve’s film uses production design and cinematography to pull some of the conceptual weight. It all “feels right” relative to the book. It leaves you feeling that the production team “did their homework.” Some of it may have been lifted directly from the thwarted Jodorowsky Dune adaptation (the Giedi Prime establishing shots come to mind). The “weight” of the novel’s worldbuilding comes through on the screen.

Problems? Conceptual issues aside, even in superficial plot and character terms there is a lot of stuff to jam into a Dune movie’s runtime. Inevitably, and even split into multiple parts, things end up feeling rushed. To a fan of the book, the first third of the movie feels extremely rushed. Borderline disjointed. (spoiler) As a result the downfall of House Atreides doesn’t quite feel “earned.”

To me the most natural form for any Dune adaptation is television mini-series. Perhaps this was considered and abandoned (I don’t know all the backstory). I suspect there are at least two seasons’ worth of material in the portion of the story covered in this first Villeneuve adaptation. This would allow the audience some time to marinate in the ambience. It would also reduce the need for clunky expository dialogue. These info-dumps are expedient but jarring, in contrast to the novel’s show-don’t-tell style of exposition.

Leave a Reply