Saturday, November 13, 2021

Dune (2021)

While I can’t give this film a glowing recommendation, it’s interesting. Take a piss before you watch it; this is a long one.


A well-marketed film is like an exciting hook-up; the first thing you want to do afterwards is tell your friends. This is one of those. It’s not an amazing film, but the last time American cinemas got a Dune adaptation, David Lynch was at the helm. An interesting choice, to say the least. The new adaptation is at about the same level.

The scenery is breathtaking. The conversations run too long. The violence is a PG-13 popcorn fest, and there were younglings in the theater. On a surface level, the source material is a space opera like Star Wars, but said source material is more philosophical and intricate in its galactic politics. The 2021 version dumbs it down a bit, which was probably a marketing necessity considering the arthouse audience the franchise has historically gotten.

This version moves at a brisk jog and gives the audience many chances to catch up, but if you don’t care, all the space politics will blow past you. It’s about a dude who looks like Anakin Skywalker, and his supermodel mother. They live in space with the rest of their space tribe, the second most powerful house in “the known universe”. There is a planet called Dune, whose sand contains a drug called Spice, which starship pilots use to plot courses through space. The Dune planet is full of space Arabs, who have an uneasy truce with Anakin’s tribe and absolutely hate the #1 most powerful house: Harkonnen.

The Harkonnen in this film share some similarities with David Lynch’s version, but without the gorgeous designs of H.R. Giger. Instead, they wear white motocross suits and feed the film’s anti-capitalism fetish. What could have been an interesting portrayal of Romanesque excess is simplified to a race that represents any perceived white oppressor, which makes sense in today’s political and marketing climate. I miss the original Harkonnen.

The Arab stand-ins act like Arabs, and there is some sword fighting at the end. The symbolism is pretty blunt all around, reaching parity with many familiar Earth concepts. This is to be expected in a film that literally cannot afford to fail or lose any of its audience. It’s the first installment in a big ol’ studio trilogy.

There is some irony in the film advocating a naturalist lifestyle, being a massive industrial product that cost $150 million to produce and market. They’ve more than made their money back after shelving it for a year because a splashy theatrical release wasn’t convenient in 2020. Eventually people will realize that this budget is not easy to recoup, and I certainly did not see every dollar on screen. It’s no masterpiece, but as I said, it’s interesting, and I hope the sequels continue to be interesting.