Dune ★★★★½

I was worried that Dune would have the John Carter of Mars problem, which is to say, become trapped by the fact that it is the template for large swaths of modern science fiction.

I am pleased to say that Denis Villeneuve and company avoided this. It’s not that they did not produce a fairly literal adaptation of the (first half) of the novel, but that they were less concerned with plot and story than they were with feeling and character. This adaptation of Dune wants you to know that you are entering a truly foreign world — brutalist dreamscape of immense scale, imposing shape, and terrifying violence. It looks like nothing you’ve seen, it sounds like nothing you’ve heard.

And while this is a hero’s journey (or at least the beginning of one), it’s not a triumphant one. Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides seems to know that, if he takes the path before him, it will end in pain and bloodshed.

Put a little differently, the movie seems less concerned with what Atreides will do once he claims his birthright, and more concerned with what it must feel like to know you have a destiny that you do not want but cannot reject.

I’ll admit that here, I thought a lot about Alan Rickman’s scene with Linda Fiorentino in Dogma about the young Jesus. Here’s Rickman as Metatron responding to Fiorentino as Bethany when she tells him she does not want the responsibility that God has foisted upon her.

That’s what Jesus said. Yes, I had to tell him. And you can imagine how that hurt the Father - not to be able to tell the Son Himself because one word from His lips would destroy the boy’s frail human form? So I was forced to deliver the news to a scared child who wanted nothing more than to play with other children. I had to tell this little boy that He was God’s only Son, and that it meant a life of persecution and eventual crucifixion at the hands of the very people He came to enlighten and redeem. He begged me to take it back, as if I could. He begged me to make it all not true. And I’ll let you in on something, Bethany, this is something I’ve never told anyone before…If I had the power, I would have.

That’s what I think this Dune is about.

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