I grew up on reading Frank Herbert’s Dune series as a young child, so naturally, I looked forward to a movie rendition. Maybe it won’t be as bad, or rather as silly as the David Lynch one. Thankfully it’s not. But it has a worse cardinal sin when it comes to telling a story… It needs to tell a story. Denis Villeneuve clearly forgot about that aspect when making this movie. It’s nearly three hours long, and in that time, the main character only goes from his home world, to landing in Arrakis, to meeting up with the Fremen people and then it ends. The character development along the way only exists for the main character, Paul Atreides, and everyone else merely exists at a superficial and severely underdeveloped level. His father is a two dimensional character, as is his weapons master, and his friend Duncan, and his mother is a witch and that’s about it. Oh, and the family doctor who has some sort of connection to them but it’s not really clear or developed, and the gender-switched Fremen character. It seems that in Denis’ own words, “My team and I devoted more than three years of our lives to make it a unique big screen experience.” that he had forgotten to develop the story! Instead he focused on worldbuilding visuals, so many visuals.
The first 2 hours feels like, “here’s some visuals, enjoy! Oh, and listen to this sweet soundtrack! Oh and look at this world that I’ve envisioned! Just look at it all! Isn’t it so pretty?” And the whole time you’re left thinking, “is the story gonna go somewhere?” And just as it finally starts to get interesting, oops, it’s the end. As a character says, “it’s just the beginning.” Sorry to be frank here, but screw you for blue balling the hell out of me with that cliffhanger. Maybe if you made the two movies back to back, and weren’t contingent on making profit on this movie before making the second, I’d have a different opinion. As it stands, this movie on its own, is a testament to not putting visuals before story. First, have a strong and satisfying ending, then focus on what visuals you want to show. And the teasing! About to show a cool reference that’s in the book, a really sweet worm riding experience? Nope, blue balls! That’s not happening, but you thought it was gonna happen, and so now you have an idea what’ll happen in the next movie. Seems Denis Villeneuve just wants to fucking tease the hell out of everyone.
The only two that stand out for acting were Rebecca Ferguson, and Stellan Skarsgard as Paul’s mother and the Baron Harkonnen respectively. Stellan under all that make-up and effects was truly a horrific person and monstrous. Rebecca did a great job as a woman dealing with being both mother to the supposed chosen one, and trying to be a witch for her religion/beliefs. I severely disliked Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides, all I could see was a bourgeoisie rich prick, and not a boy struggling with the idea of being years of careful cultivated breeding and religious propaganda resulting in a Jesus like figure. Yes, let us continue the practice of hiring wealthy and rich well-connected actors instead of those that brought themselves up to a higher degree by their own bootstraps.
The rest of the cast, without me being attacked by the culturally over-sensitive crowd, the Fremen people should have been cast with Arabic actors in the roles. I’ve always felt that Frank Herbert was clearly inspired by Islamic culture and Arabic culture with those characters that he wrote. But Hollywood sees them as the bad guys so they probably thought that it would hurt their profits to do so. And what is really woke and hip to that culturally over-sensitive crowd? Yup, casting black actors wherever they can. That sells.
In closing, I really hope that a second movie is indeed made as then I will gladly change my review to accommodate the fact that the story has an actual ending. And maybe character development. It honestly reminded me of the recent Final Fantasy 7 remake game in which they took roughly 30 minutes of the original game and stretched it out into a full 40 hour game. In which that Denis Villeneuve took what should take 40 minutes plot-wise and stretched it out into nearly 3 hours of visuals. I would have preferred details like that the family doctor cannot hurt his patients because of mental conditioning but due to mental and psychological torture by the Harkonnens, that is why he can. Maybe a bit more on Duncan instead of him being simply a warrior figure. Maybe a bit more than just flashes to his desert life period as one of the Fremen. And lastly, maybe not using these giant – clearly looking like they were 3D printed – costumes of armor for everyone. Why not go the route of simple military fatigues and ceremonial dressing?
Overall, I only recommend it so I can cure my blue balls. By which I mean that they get a profit large enough to warrant a second movie to help alleviate that problem.