News and random musings from the Sculptdude.

Friday, October 22, 2021

DUNE (2021) - Review

remake : to make a new or different version of (something, such as a movie, song, etc.) : to make (something) into something else. remake. noun.

DUNE is not a "remake".

Granted there were previous versions adapted from the first novel. The '70s attempt by Jodorowsky, 1984's version by David Lynch, and the Sci-Fi Channel mini series from 2000. But in order to be any kind of a "remake", there would have to be significant nods, acknowledgment, or transplants of the previous versions ingrained in the new adaptation, and that is simply not the case here.

Like with Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings and subsequent Hobbit films, this adaptation of Dune mines the original source material for a wealth of textures, emotions, and story that the previous versions lacked. It has crafted it's world-building from the ground up, and updated everything necessary for modern audience sensibilities.

I read the first Dune novel in the mid-'80s before seeing the Lynch version on opening day. I recall at the time leaving the theater with a profound sense of disappointment. Even though a lot of the designs have become ingrained in the genre, the delivery was below expectations in such a fresh post-Star Wars era. Even the mini-series suffered from production restrictions.

In the Denis Villeneuve version, is seems as if WB let him off the chain and he ran with it. As with some of his previous films Sicario (2015), Arrival (2016), Blade Runner: 2049 (2017), Villeneuve has a clear visual idea of exactly what he wants to see on screen and knows what to do and who to work with to get it. This puts him in a similar category to other auteur directors such as Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Guillermo del Toro, Ridley Scott, and Peter Jackson.

The cast was on point. Granted this is the first thing I have seen Timothée Chalamet in. He was serious but without brooding or angst typically associated with actors of this rank. I kind of put him on par with Mark Hamill the first time I saw Luke. He has a fresh face and inhabits the character so well you forget the idea of anyone else playing Paul Atreides. Zendaya would probably have stood out a little more if she had more to do in this part. The rest of the cast held their ground and gave convincing performances as if they were authentically a part of the world they were creating.

Costume Design was stellar. The detail and textures rooted the characters in the setting. There were only a few tiny instances where anachronisms from ten thousand years prior crept in. Otherwise the armor, stillsuits, and flowing fabrics, lent an air of familiar yet futuristic style.

Production Design was off the charts. It's as if the production team went shopping for the absolute best concept artists on ArtStation and then just dumped a pile of cash on them, wound them up and turned them loose. There is a distinct style and culture visible to all the various houses and people represented. The settings and vistas are epic and thick with atmosphere. The various ship and vehicle designs are understated and convincing. Not much screen time is given to them and they are not the focus of the film. However, the Ornithopters are completely convincing and lots of care was clearly given to their function and purpose. If this is the direction Blackhawk Helicopters are going, I'm going to need one.

The Visual Effects are without a doubt seamless. While the settings and creatures are clearly fantastical, it is blended with the live action in such a way that, like any good effects, they melt into the scene and never call attention to themselves. It all flows together to create a completely immersive experience.

Hans Zimmer's score is tribal, forceful, and completely suitable to create the right mood for the setting. While similar scores like McCreery's music for Battlestar Galactica and Horner's work on Avatar utilize a variety of exotic instruments and rhythms, this score is in the same category. It is clear that Zimmer put in just as much attention to the sound, texture, and themes, for Dune as Villeneuve brought to the visuals.

Be prepared for the fact this this adaptation only gives us the first half of the first book. I'm not going to cover the politics of why WB refused to allow the production to shoot the whole thing at once (like similar classic epics). Nor will I go into detail about the decision to release it simultaneously to theaters and streaming. That is well documented all over the internet. But I will say that WB should pony up and greenlight part 2 immediately.

Super Dune fans may be disappointed with the inevitable changes that always happen with book adaptations, but hopefully the beautiful package the story is delivered in will more than make up for that. It seems like the most faithful adaptation yet. I loved all of it and look forward to the next one.

 I give it five Shai-Huluds and am already in line for tickets.