A modern classic or just another Star Wars? – The Appalachians
November 21, 2021167 views
A desert planet thousands of years in the future. A mysterious spice that alters the mind. Space witches and human computers. Great houses fighting for political power in a great intergalactic empire. The world of “Dune” is… a lot. The novel, written by Frank Herbert in 1965, is hailed as a science fiction masterpiece. So how does the new film adaptation portray this captivating and extraordinary universe?
A film version of “Dune” is a monumental project. As much as fans of the novel and the 1985 film would like to keep the story, myself included, there’s no denying that director Denis Villeneuve nailed it. Villeneuve was definitely the right person to take on Herbert’s classic sci-fi creation.
Tangled politics and a spatial economic system can be overwhelming if you are new to the world of “Dune”. A word of advice if you haven’t read the novel: do yourself a favor and browse the Wikipedia page before seeing the film. Believe me. You will be grateful for having some background.
“Dune” (2021) masterfully tweaked the plot just enough to make the story palatable while still respecting Herbert’s original vision. Some changes, such as Dr Liet Kynes, who lean towards the genre, worked well to adapt the novel to the big screen and the modern viewer. One of the best dynamics in book and film is the portrayal of women in an extremely patriarchal society. The emphasis on male lineage and dominance within royal houses stands in stark contrast to the egalitarian society of the Fremen, the indigenous people of Arrakis. Male leadership seems rather insignificant compared to the pure power of the Bene Gesserit. The Bene Gesserit, a class of highly skilled women with psychic powers, are really responsible. There really was no better actress to embody Lady Jessica’s balance between Bene Gesserit power, motherly instinct, and behind-the-scenes leadership than Rebecca Ferguson. His portrait was impeccable.
It’s obvious how much work and attention the entire cast has put into perfecting their characters. Timothée Chalamet was an excellent choice to play Paul Atréides. He accurately captured Paul’s character development, from childish defiance to… well, you’ll see. But the Paul de Chalamet was almost too sympathetic. It would have been nice to put more emphasis on Herbert’s original view of “Dune”: a critique of white saviorism and colonialism. Paul is the center of criticism, and he’s not meant to be a character the viewer is necessarily attached to. Chalamet’s interpretation of Paul was good, given the script and direction given to him.
One of the more memorable casting choices was Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho. Duncan has a much bigger role in the movie than in the book, but it was a change that I preferred. Duncan is a brother figure to Paul, and he’s more of a family figure than Paul’s actual family. Both have an interesting dynamic but one that the audience will appreciate. One character deserving more screen time was Stephen McKinley Henderson’s Thufir Hawat. Thufir is such an important figure, and he certainly needed more attention.
If I had to talk about everything I liked about this movie, this article would never end. To save you all that reading, here are the first three. First of all, sand worms. The film succeeded in showing the critical importance of sandworms for the Fremen and for Arrakis while keeping them a sort of enigma. Hiding them from the viewer for most of the film captured the mystery, respect, and power of the creatures. Second, the lack of ultra-advanced technology was the best part of the film’s book, as computers were banished from the known universe after a deadly war with human-like robots. Humans themselves have become computers and technology. Lack of technology is a big factor, and the hyper-intelligence of humans is very much in evidence. Finally, the Hans Zimmer soundtrack. Zimmer isn’t Toto, who wrote the music for “Dune” (1984), but its soundtrack is phenomenal and epic nonetheless.
There are a few things that were sorely lacking in “Dune” (2021). First of all, the color! Villeneuve is known for his muted, monochrome palettes, but it just didn’t work in “Dune”. More color would have made the film more appealing and only added to the beautiful and captivating camera work. Arrakis is a desert planet that has never seen a drop of rain. Naturally, there aren’t many colors that can be added on the landscape level, but this should have been the time for the costume and makeup department to shine. Unfortunately, they fell short. The stunning costumes are without a doubt the best part of David Lynch’s “Dune” (1984). I was looking forward to the wardrobes of the characters in the Villeneuve adaptation, but I was disappointed. “Dune” would have been the perfect opportunity to create futuristic, creative and vibrant designs that added the necessary splash of color to the film. Instead, viewers ended up with less “cutting edge fashion” and more of a combination of Spirit Halloween and Old Navy. The costumes were incomparably better in Lynch’s version, but “Dune” (2021) did something pretty interesting with the costumes. The dress of the Bene Gesserit and members of the Spacing Guild is reminiscent of Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism. The people of Arrakis are clearly dressed with the Islamic fashion of the Middle East and North Africa in mind. The cabinets reflect the many religious themes of the scenario. In the world of “Dune”, knowledge is power and is revered as a religious expression. The symbolism of the costumes was appreciated, but overall made me want more.
As visually stunning as the movie is, “Dune” sadly missed the point of the story. In the book, Paul is not a hero or a protagonist. He’s an opportunist. The film does not capture the original intent of the book. Since it is not easy to portray the nuances of the film book, “Dune” lacks the dimension of Herbert’s satire on colonialism.
“Dune” has a beautifully complex and incredible universe, and it is criminally underrated. After this movie, which is already turn out to be a success, “Dune” will hopefully get the recognition it deserves. Granted, I was skeptical as the film approached and thought the plot was too long to fit into a single movie. A “Game of Thrones” style series would work better than a movie franchise, but the film was nevertheless created in a masterly manner. Villeneuve definitely made the right decision to split the story into multiple films. You will not hear any complaints from me. The more Villeneuve “Dune” films, the better. “Dune” deserves what other sci-fi and fantasy hits like “Star Wars” have. Hopefully, this film version of the cult novel will give Herbert’s amazing world the recognition and praise it deserves. Overall, “Dune” (2021) is a visually stunning film and an instant classic. It deserves a top spot on everyone’s must-see list.