Dune ★★½

Well, that wasn't very good.

Dune collapses under its gargantuan ambition. Denis Villeneuve builds a world so stupendously large in every frame, and yet he spectacularly fails at creating space for his characters to exist in. There isn't a single character that has more to offer than mere surface level traits. Without proper introduction it feels like we are thrown right into an ongoing story. Despite being littered with clunky exposition - and dialogue so wooden it would give Christopher Nolan the boner of a lifetime - the film does a very poor job of conveying who is doing what and why.

I rewatched David Lynch's version recently, so I was aware what was going on, but without that crutch (never read the book), I believe I would've been utterly lost. I'm not a fan of Lynch's film, but unlike this one, it has a sense of rhythm, at least in the first half, before it turns into an overhasty mess. Villeneuve and his frequent collaborator, editor Joe Walker, did a lousy job assembling this. Dune has no flow, it's just scene after scene with neither rhyme nor reason. I truly don't understand what motivated certain cuts or how some scenes are arranged. The first half hour of Rogue One is a master class in coherence compared to Dune. In spite of the 2½ hour runtime, scenes are barely given room to breathe. Too much plot, not enough substance.

On the plus side there's everything visual, obviously. This clusterfuck looks beautiful and the score/sound design nearly ripped my balls off. But that's about it. Acting-wise Timothée Chalamet missed the opportunity to rise above the mediocrity of the writing. Why is co-author Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Passengers) still getting jobs? Though, nobody delivered a noteworthy performance, actually. Also, I'd like to know what moron told Jason Momoa to shave? Fucking hell!

And if it wasn't all disappointing enough, Dune ends with the precious white boy killing a black man in a ritual fight and it's treated like a rite of passage moment for the protagonist. I'm honestly shocked that the filmmakers didn't realize - notwithstanding that the man's skin color wasn't why they fought - how fucking wretched that impression is in 2021.

Unlike many others I wasn't particularly excited about Villeneuve adapting Dune, but despite my underwhelming theatrical experience with Blade Runner 2049, I didn't expect his passion project to turn out this … lifeless.

PS: Is #releasethevilleneuvecut already trending? Because I can't imagine that this is exactly the vision Villeneuve had in mind, when he committed to the project in the first place.

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