Revisiting an old book but a very new film.
Dreams Are Messages From The Deep
Ah Dune, that mess of ecology, feudalism, violence, mysticism, and Oedipal tendencies. The movie was actually decent and very pretty, albeit gloomy. There was definitely the aesthetic mark of the recent Denis Villeneuve. The Nighttime scenes gave off Bladerunner and Children of Men vibes. Visually it was beautiful, Arrakis which was filmed in Africa and Southwest Asia gave off sandy desert vibes. Caladan gave me vibes of Scotland. I even thought it was filmed there with the bagpipes and all, however it was actually filmed in Norway.
The spaceships were massive and reminded me of the spacecraft from arrival. Almost stone-like, perfectly smooth, no rivets or signs of mechanization. They look similar to the Heighliners from the original Dune movie but larger, the originals were already several kilometers in length and these look larger. I never liked the exhaust or propulsion systems in lots of science fiction. Most UFOs don’t have any such exhaust. I liked that about Villeneuve’s movies, it seems more likely that crafts using anti-gravitic propulsion would look like that. Humans build creations of metal and aerodynamic material because we need to, but when you can attach an anti-gravity field to it you can basically make it look like whatever you want. Look at the Borg cube for example, perfect example of cybernetic efficiency.
The planet of Arrakis is small enough that spacecraft and distances from place to place don’t seem that small anymore.
A lot of the movie was taken up by sword-fights, which while I didn’t love, it was a different take from the standard shoot-up up Star Wars type fights. It reminded me a lot of the Samurai type films I’ve seen, reinforcing the medieval kind of mindset that pervades the Dune universe. Considering the planet’s small size and subsequent low gravity, I was hoping for some low gravity Dragonball Z-like flying fights. The Sardaukar seem to be wearing outfits more practical than aesthetic. Most of the outfits seem to be more about conserving water than looking pretty. The director really took the Ecological part serious, taking hints from the book, recycling tears and sweat, and water seemingly more valuable than gold on Arrakis.
I’m going to sum up what I thought I liked and didn’t like. My opinion of Dune is similar to Ben Shapiro but a bit more in depth.
- Very aesthetically pleasing
- Arrakis looked like Arrakis, Caladan looked like Caladan, and Geidi Prime looked like what I think Geidi Prime would look like.
- They got most of the Bene Gesserit and Paul stuff right.
- Sword fights looked pretty cool.
- The Harkonnens looked like how I expected them, like miniature Dr. Evils, I like how they chose to make them all bald.
- The Sardaukar were menacing and had their own culture and language reminiscent of Mongolian throat singing.
- The struggle Paul went through and his feeling of losing his mind is relatable and made mental illness visceral. Prescience seems to have a positive but also negative effect, especially when you know those closest to you might die.
- I wanted to see more of Caladan.
- They left out some of the non-PG stuff but I understand the need to appeal to large audiences.
- Dune was never an action book, yet it felt like Star Wars with constant fight scenes.
- Why did House Harkonnen and the Sardaukar destroy most of Arrakeen in the movie? I know it looks cool, but don’t they need the spice production facilities intact. In the novel I remember it being much more of a quiet takeover with the assassination of Leto and the elimination of the leaders.
- The novel was much more political than the films seemed. We barely saw anything about the Landsraad. Never really saw any of the great houses other than Atreides or Harkonnen.
- We never learned much about the Butlerian Jihad, Spacing Guild, or the Mentats, I would have liked to see them Guild Navigators.
- As per the above point, the Dune universe in the film felt a little dry, like we only explored Arrakis and not the greater imperium.
All in all it was a good movie with Freudian overtones and a focus on Paul’s deteriorating mental state. I found the fight scene that Paul had with the Freman in the desert kind of weird, I don’t remember that from the novel. It’s kind of weird to have a fight to the death in the desert when you’re being hunted by Sardaukar. I found movie Paul relatable even more so than book Paul, he took a psychedelic drug, his mind started going crazy, and he wondered what the fuck was happening and got angry because of it. In the book all I remember was him being this Messianic figure and not really human, but in the film he was relatable, he was an anti-hero of sorts. He didn’t want to deal with what was happening but he had to anyways.
One final point of interest was the focus on dreams. The dreams Paul had were precognitive. I remember Edgar Cayce is quoted as saying “Dreams are today’s answers to tomorrow’s questions.” My dreams often don’t make sense but I’d like to believe that through understanding them I can help solve the problems I face in my life. I think Paul faces the same struggle, understanding what is happening to him. His unconscious nearly consuming him, and only gaining control of it with his Gesserit training and help of his mother. I’m interested how this will be explored in the second part.
I’m anxiously awaiting part two, it definitely needs to be a several part film. It’s just too expansive to fit into three hours, and I hope we get to see more. Dune definitely is different than the Jodorowsky movie and from the novel as well. It’s deviated quite a lot, like Foundation has in the TV series. Overall I think they did a good job, and gave me the impression I really was on Arrakis. Props to all the actors, stuntmen, costumers, artists, animators who made it a reality. I think I will also write a followup to my old Foundation review and the season winds down, and talk more about the dream interpretation in Dune in other posts. Stay tuned.