Dune

Dune ★★★★

Between the geometric aesthetics and Villeneuve’s preferred chilly tone, this felt like experiencing a grand brutalist building — both stirring and hollow, a vision of greatness yet plainly lacking in human warmth. That alienation is part of the interest I get out of brutalism though, and in the end I felt similarly about this take on Dune (or at least provisionally, since knowing this is just part one doesn’t protect it from the major pitfalls of only being half a movie).

It did take a stretch before I felt truly swept up by anything, though a big part of that is a “me” issue. I revisited the novel & its adaptations a lot in high school and college, so for a while it felt like seeing a very handsomely-mounted production of a very familiar play. (It also didn’t help that some bozo in front of me kept pulling their phone out until I had to shame ‘em into keeping it pocketed.) But I got over the hurdle of compare & contrast mode eventually, & let myself sink into the sensory feast.

I squeaked into the last IMAX screening in town too — before Marvel shoved out literally everything else — and oh man, if for no other reason than the Voice, I’m glad I did. The sensation of those imperious rippling blasts washing over me was amazing; the way it came together in the “escape from the Harkonnen ship” sequence gave me a big fat Grima Wormtongue-style single tear for F/X excellence. Loved everything about the Harkonnens in fact; loved the Sardaukar’s stoner-metal chant big time (even if most of the film’s hand-to-hand fight scenes with ‘em are lackluster and don’t do much to show anybody having the next-level scariness that matches their reputation). It’s cool that the Fremen’s handheld sand compactors visually and functionally echo the mouth of a sandworm, & that the movie doesn’t spell it all the way out, letting the theme of symbiosis & nature-derived tech speak for itself.

Some of Paul’s future visions seemed to incorporate extreme long-distance zoom shots, to the point of very visible noise in the picture, which is a pretty clever “in-camera” method to evoke a hazy precognition. I wish there was more of it (or other visual flair for the melange head trips; no formal restraint needed to feed me!) but I figure either I’m either overreading into those shots, or that they were used sparingly out of worry that audiences would just take them as looking “bad”.

This could’ve & should’ve gone for an extra half-hour imo, & I honestly thought it was a 3-hour affair before it ended so abruptly at such an odd point. Invest it all in more time fleshing out characters & relationships, which absolutely got the shortest shrift. But as “half a thing” as this really is, & on the strength of everything I liked, I’m keeping a wait-and-see attitude for all the things part two might be able to bring home.

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