The past week I have been visiting the cinema twice to see the new Dune movie. I’ve been asked to write down my thoughts about the movie. Which I agreed to do.
I am not a movie expert nor a Dune expert. I read the first three books (Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune), saw the Dune 1984 version. (from Lynch as well as the “Redux” version). I have seen – and liked – the miniseries. (both Dune and Children of Dune). So I am quite aware of the story and different versions (on screen) of it.
As a Dune fan (you think so?) I was looking forward to this movie.
And… It did not disappoint at all!
Dune 2021 is an amazing and grand experience. You should definitely watch this movie in theaters. The primary reason being that its scale is so huge that seeing it on the big screen is really worth it. Even if you haven’t read the books the movie will keep it lightweight and clear what the objectives are, who our ‘hero’ is and who the enemies are. The ending is quite sudden (sharp) though and takes getting used to.
The longer version (may contain some slight spoilers)
All I can say is that everybody played a convincing role. I never had the feeling something was out of place or that I could not connect with the characters. To me that means mission accomplished & well done.
Visuals & Music
Throughout the entire movie it is a visual spectacle. Although some compare with “Star Wars” I would say it is less ‘cartoony’ (more serious) which I liked. The colors are not saturated (could feel a little ‘greyish’) at all. In my opinion the right choice considering the books description of Arrakis. However, I was hoping to see a bit more color at Caladan or other planets. Regardless of personal taste, it looks stunning.
Visually it is hard to pick a favorite scene. It was all that good and consistent. To me, the scenes that stood out where with the sandworm.
Music is composed by Hans Zimmer, so you know you get some good stuff. And he certainly delivers.
Music wise: My favorite was the Gom Jabbar scene where the intimacy and the rawness (and progression of the test Paul undergoes) is complemented by the music.
The way the voice is portrayed in the movie deserves a special mention. It is persuasive and aggressive and dangerous. And all that coming from sound alone! It really made an impression on me.
Denis Villeneuve makes it very clear that the Duniverse is huge. The ships. Arrakeen. The armies. The dunes on Arrakis.
Ah and then the highliners!… If you watch closely you can see how the highliners (which are insanely huge if you think about the large ships they help travel – which look like dots when you see the highliner in full-view) – are “connecting” the planets so to speak. Which I thought was a nice touch to the whole “fast travel” thing…
Most scenes emphasize the scale and grandness. It doesn’t matter if you are on Arrakis, watching the dunes. See a sandworm or if you watch the Baron floating majestically (and menacing).
The movie alternates this with smaller and intimate scenes. It is not bombarding you and is keeping things focused.
Alternating between big and small also helps with the pacing.
Pacing & Depth
The movie is two and a half hours long. If you have never read the book you will be filled in about all the important details in a specific order. The information is dosed in such a way you can take in the information and process it. The movie follows the same storyline as the book. I like how Villeneuve is making good use of the visuals to emphasize some things that don’t need to be told. If you are a book reader you can find hints in there. There is a ‘second layer’ so to speak if you know where to look for. Especially watching it the second time gave me more glimpses of this second layer. I will surely watch it again to find more of these details.
It is clear that Denis chose to focus on Paul’s journey mostly. This means if you don’t get to see much about the political danger and how that was played out. Paul and Jessica get the most attention, the other characters are more to the side. You will know what the motives are, but the deeper layers from the book are missing. It is clear a lot has been cut here to keep the pacing steady.
Even though the movie takes 2,5 hours it didn’t feel to me that long. In fact I was surprised by the ending, even though I could have seen it coming…
The movie begins with “Dune – Part One”. So obviously it will not cover the entire story. If we define “story” by keeping it to “the first book” (since Dune spans multiple books), we get roughly half I think.
This leaves the question, how does the movie end?
It ends at a moment where Paul decides where his path lies. Will he try to go back to his home planet? Or try to live with the Fremen?
It ends with Chani saying “this is just the beginning”.
I really hope so!
Can’t wait for Part Two!