Tuesday 12 March 2024

Dune II review: epically awesome and awesomely epic

"Hey you guys, I found my knife!"

This is one of those rare films that simply must be seen in IMAX.

It's a breathtaking, epic spectacle. 

The art direction alone is worth the price of admission, IMHO.

Visually on par with Lawrence of Arabia and other classics, this is a hyper-serious take on the ttale of a messiah created by a bunch of space nuns, trapped in a neo-feudal nightmare galaxy of murder, intrigue, betrayal and fanaticism. 

If anyone was going to make gigantic mile long sand worms believable, it's Denis Villeneuve. 

Run away!

Dune II is faster paced and more of a roller coaster than the first installment (which proceeded at a rather stately pace) and it kept me hooked from beginning to end, despite being familiar with the books. 

It's a stunning triumph, a visual feast, and the most impressive film I think I've seen in a very long time. In terms of visual impact, it's up there with the original Star Wars, 2001: A Space OdysseyThe Matrix, or The Lord of the Rings. It's a little less emotionally affecting than the modern classic LOTR, but still highly enjoyable, immersive, and easily the visual equal. 

Herbert was concerned with how people can be manipulated to believe collective myths (such as ideologies). Ideologies are enormously powerful, capable of uniting millions of separate individuals into a gestalt organism that can accomplish great, or terrible, things. Nation states, empires, religions, political ideologies are essentially collective organisms, and human history is littered with their deeds. 

Dune I and II effectively convey the wastefulness and paranoia of a feudal universe, where every royal is constantly on guard, wary of assassins, while the masses are little more than cannon fodder. Chaff for the gestalt grinders. 

Tinfoil is back in, boys!

The Bene Gesserit genetic experiment to create the ultimate human leader is a crucible through which the Atreides, Harkonen and Corrino must pass. These machinations drive the entire plot, and most of the foreground players are merely pawns of it, causing untold bloodshed and suffering while they play their parts. Why exactly are they trying to create this ultimate ruler? I don’t remember the book providing an answer, but it might be to escape the feudal trap. 

Paul is initially sympathetic, but as he grows in power he finds his actions constrained by the role he must play. The film also states flat out that horrible crimes lie in his future, and the death of billions. 

The script is smart and faithfully brings to screen Frank Herbert's sci-fi classic. There are a few on the nose lines, which might have been mandated (it's a complicated scenario Denis Villeneuve has to set up, executives might have insisted on more clarification); the only other quibble I have is that there were some changes to the story, additions and omissions, that I didn't really understand the reason for, and after awhile the sheer weight and scale of the film can feel a little crushing. Everything here is BIG; even door openings are epic. 

"I hate sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets in everything!"

The acting is top notch. It's not a character film, it's an epic, and it doesn't delve as much into Paul's inner world (for example) as it might, but you'd need 9 hours to bring all the inner life from the books to film. As it is, you get all the information and character context you need to understand what's going on. 

The music is immersive, powerful and compelling; as usual from Hans Zimmer, it also made me wonder if I came out with hearing damage. 

Dave Bautista gets to yell a lot in Dune. And I mean A LOT.

Denis Villeneuve has crafted an epic sci-fi art film in a class of its own. He has an undeniable eye for scale, like Gareth Edwards, and he merges that with top tier material; the production design here–the ships, the costumes, the sets—are as close to perfect as fallible humanity is likely to get. I can't find anything to criticize. They're unique, unlike anything else in sci-fi. 

I can't recommend this film highly enough. Don't wait for it on streaming, see this in the theatre, in IMAX if possible. Take ear plugs as a precaution, it will be LOUD.

Read my face
I can't wait for Dune: Messiah. 

Oh yes: the movie is too long. But all movies these days feel too long to me. 

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