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Dune (2021)

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    Dune (2021)

    Just finished watching it. As I expected, a sopping pile of doodoo (IMO). Literally no surprises of any kind. Off for a few beers, and then I’ll do a longer review over the next few days. I wonder how it’ll do at the box office - I think foreign is OKish, domestic something to wait for. I’m sure there will be many dvxuser fans of this considering how many fans of the director there are around here, but every opinion is of interest and the more the merrier!

    Wife and I saw it and loved it.

    Can't wait for 2nd part.
    Matt Gottshalk
    Director of Production


      Hollywood’s obsession with IP strikes again. Just because a novel is iconic and a long standing bestseller, like Dune, does not mean it’s therefore suited for being adapted to the screen. But Hollywood sees “bestseller” and immediately dollar signs are dancing in their eyes. And in the case of Dune, why bother referring to the source material in any case, since whatever the complex appeal of that novel is, you can’t really replicate that in a movie, even multiple parts - maybe you stand a chance if you make it a series or mini-series for TV. It’s a novel that appeals to the intellect, not to the eye - there are plenty of novels that appeal to the eye, so why focus on Dune? And so you end up with an abysmal screenplay like what we have in this case. You are much better off starting fresh writing material that’s meant for the screen to begin with. Either pick IP that’s suitable for adaptation (and Dune is NOT), or write something original.

      And that’s how we get to the first problem with this film. The screenplay is trash. How many people do you expect to have read the novel and based on that, to be eager to see the film, considering that the demographic for this genre is llikely to be the 25 and under, and you need this demographic because it’s a big budget production that needs to return the investment. For old school fans of sci-fi, maybe you got a demographic that has read it, but I wager most of them are going to be way past 40, so not prime movie going market segment - so maybe a small production like The Moon, but a big budget tent pole? The biggest movie goers for this genre are the 25-unders, and I bet 90% have not heard of Frank Herbert; they don’t read, period, and certainly not something from 1965. So why base a film on such a feeble IP name recognition? At least with most of the superhero IP, not only do you get a lot of comics read, but you get very broad recognition - everyone has heard of superman, batman and so on. Who heard of Frank Herbert and Dune - old people who don’t go to movies.

      Star Wars created its own universe without reference to feeble IP that nobody but old people recognize - and that worked pretty well, designed as it was, for the screen. The followup trash to Star Wars (and I’m not even a fan of the original Star Wars!) was of course garbage IP exploitation. But starting right out of the gate with nonsense IP like Dune?? SMH.

      MORE pt2


        For many years now, big budget tent pole movies have evolved to rely exclusively on the “spectacle” aspect of appeal. And so we have an extravaganza of effects, and nobody is worried about plot, characters or anything else, really, other than spectacle. The foremost practitioner of this, I suppose, is Michael Bay with the Transformers franchise.

        That works passably, if the spectacle delivers. Also, many of these have a bit more buy-in and recognition, because we are already familiar with the characters or premise on some level - nobody needs to introduce us to the character of Superman, or Batman, or Spiderman, or James Bond for that matter. That’s already “pre-sold” - we already have the bones of the characters and so need less in the way of character development or introduction - and even the schematics might be familiar in the case of Transformers, because everyone is familiar with the TV shows or toys.

        But what about Dune? Who - other than a small number of old sci-fi fans - is familiar with the characters or the premise of this film? Nobody, that’s who. In this case, you need to introduce them and develop them… see Star Wars, which whatever you may say about it (and I’m not a fan), at least is a richly developed story with characters and plot that makes sense and works on the screen. Dune, by contrast is a complete hodgepodge of undeveloped opaque characters and muddy uninvolving plot.

        If you are going to abandon an involving plot and characters, as most modern spectacle films do, then you have to at least deliver on spectacle. And that means more than amazing sets and a few gadgets. You have to have actual action sequences. Because it’s not like you can simply plop cardboard characters into a set and spend 3 hours filming the sets with nothing else going on - this is what happened with Blade Runner 2049… all we had was sets and more sets with passive characters. Villeneuve loves big sets and that’s what he films, ignoring everything else, like a story.

        And films that have disposable characters and no real plot have plenty of fireworks and action sequences, sometimes to parody levels like Starship Troopers… you’ll get plenty of shoot/bang/bomb non-stop action. By contrast, Dune delivers few and far between feeble action sequences in a long bog down snoozefest lame talking heads spouting nonsense at interminable length. So, you got a film that has poor uncharismatic characters (contrast with the characters from Star Wars! Where’s Darth Vader? Where’s Han Solo? Leia? Yoda? Obi? Where’s even Chewbacca??? R2-D2??? LOL!) with a muddy plot, that’s not compensated for by bang-on relentless action. That’s a recipe for boredom in large sets, a la Blade Runner 2049.

        Btw., Villeneuve is such an abysmal director that he managed to take a pre-buy like the original Blade Runner and do absolutely nothing with it. The original BR had a big task in that it had to create characters, a world and a plot from scratch and fit within a runtime of a movie - and they did it spectacularly. In the sequel, you already have the premise worked out for you - sentient androids - and so should have used all that saved time on some amazing developments. Instead, Villeneuve took MORE time and still managed to deliver not 1% of the plotting or action of the original. What a monumental failure.

        And that failure is mirrored - exactly as I predicted, see other threads where I predicted both the massive failure of BR2049 and the calamity that will be Dune. Dune shares all the failures of BR2049, and makes even less sense - meandering, uninvolving plot and thin characters.

        MORE pt3


          What immediately kills the movie (for me) is that it doesn’t engage. I find zero interest in these characters of no charisma - the best that I can say, is that at least Timothee Chalamet manages to carry the role, he has enough screen presence and minimum acting skill to pull it off. And that’s about it. The rest are completely forgettable. Josh Brolin is subdued, Momoa is less than 25% of Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Zendaya is an interchangeable broad among a million, Rebecca Ferguson is sh|t, Oscar Issac has a beard and?, we have the obligatory diversity cast of your AA, Asians, and so on, but it’s all by the numbers tokenism and the whole cast doesn’t gell. Where are the great pairings or actors, the great rivalries like Christian Bale’s Batman vs Heath Ledger’s Joker? Harrison Ford Deckard vs Rutger Hauer, vs Sean Young vs Edward Olmos vs Daryl Hannah? Ripley vs Ash? Swartzenegger and the cast from Predator? The cast doesn’t come together here - there is no chemistry and interplay.

          But then again, like I already pointed out in BR2049, Villaneuve can’t bring actors together to create any interplay. His casting choices are the same as in Dune - one actor who can carry his role (Ryan Gosling, Timothee Chalamet) and then a collection of nonentities and miscast insanities (Jared Leto in BR2049, LOL!).

          OK, the characters are garbage. So maybe the plot should pull us in? What are we seeing here that’s not been done as early as Star Wars? Only done here a million times worse? What theme, evil empire, plucky young Chosen One with powers, wise councillor, father figures, blah, blah. Limp warmed over barfed out and pooped out dog breakfast. We’ve been over this territory, only done a billion times better. Why is there not a scintilla of innovation, new ideas and imagination? Look at the sci-fi landscape and how the films that stand out bring something new to the table: Blade Runner - sentient androids and slavery, Alien - monster in space corporate greed, The Thing - novel life form threatens all of humanity, The Terminator AI robot sent back in time to hunt down an human and change history; Predator, an alient hunter collecting his bones and so on. Planet of the Apes, The Matrix, 2001, Contact, District 9, and on and on and on - all extremely distinct and bringing something radically new and fresh. Even Star Wars with its quest and journey - and Dune brings WHAT?? It seems to me some lame ripoffs from Star Wars and that’s it. Zero innovation. Even the sand worms made me laugh as I thought of Tremors (1990). Dune has no reason to exist and it brings nothing new to the table.

          As I was watching this uninvolving mess, I kept looking for something - anything - that I have not seen before in theme or approach, and all I saw were poor copies and unflattering comparisons. Even the fighting sequences with swords - done so much better in Star Wars with their distinct look, and mode of operation and sound - Lightsabers… WTF was that mess in Dune with the electric razzle-dazzle on the bodies that for some reason comes and goes and how do the swords work or not work exactly - who knows and who cares. Look at the Lightsaber contest between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker - and compare that to whatever it was that Chalamet was doing with the black dude in the desert or Momoa jumping around. What a disgrace. One is clear, fresh, new, charasmatic and distinct, the other is a hot mess of lame laughable unintelligeble pretends.

          MORE pt.4


            Casting failure, plotting failure, what more do you want? Well, how about the signature Villaneuve inability to pace and modulate anything whatsoever - either individual scenes, sequences or indeed the entirety of the movie.

            Look at the emotional graphs within scenes, the dramatic arc. The scenes in general feel very samey - all done at the same emotional pitch, same delivery from actors and the same effects, such as music. And so you’ll have Chalamet moping about some 99% of the time (most of the remaining 1% is for some of his interactions with Momoa), delivering his lines in the same mumble+vocal fry cadence almost all of the time. The other characters too display a range from - I’d say A to B and back again, but really it’s a monotony of A-A-A-A. Contrast that with other sci-fi movies and range of emotions characters display - including Star Wars from which Dune cribbed so much. As a result, all scenes have a very pedestrian structure, and quite frankly coupled with the uninvolving plot, I had the feeling that you could throw all the scenes into a jumble in a hat and then pull them out in random order and the resulting film would be equally involving and make about as much sense. Both the pacing and the content suffer from the same issues - you have the obligatory scenes you know are coming (like the “training the Shao Lin monk” sequences with Josh Brolin), which don’t do anything with any imagination and don’t feel fresh, the endless expository conversations that make one’s eyes glaze over and attention focus slip and move on to something else (what’s for dinner?).

            This is a good place to discuss the music as it illustrates these problems in multiple ways. First, again as in BR2049, Villaneuve has the impeccably bad taste to pick the absolute zero talent hack of Hans Zimmer. That man’s approach to music is to throw the kitchen sink in and hope that something sticks. Dense torrents of instrumentation sludge trying to cover for a complete lack of musical ideas, the same overused effects of choruses and somber dirges - this is a man who is so utterly talentless that he cannot muster a single musical theme if his life depended on it. We can all hum themes from Jaws or The Thing, or stuff by Rota, or Morricone, or Chinatown, or Taxi Driver, or Psycho, or Rosemary’s Baby or *hundreds* of movies where a theme elevates the movie (even Spielberg with John Williams), but you’ll never hum a theme from Hans Zimmer, because Hans Zimmer has literally zero composing ability. Talent in music is the ability to strip the music down to just a couple of instruments and still be able to express a theme - that’s how you can HUM the music as a single human with just your mouth! But throwing dozens or hundreds of instruments (in Zimmer’s computerized version) merely covers the lack of a theme under a wall of noise and generic sound “SOMBER CHORUS” - “FOREBODING” - “MASSIVE ARMY OF ZOMBIES” and so on. Really generic and ultimately empty.

            So having displayed his utter lack judgment in picking Zimmer, Villenaneuve who lacks an ear for music - he may as well be deaf - is of course comprehensively unable to evaluate the music in the film or modulate it. Ordinarily - if you have even a modicum of understanding of how music works, you understand that you BUILD your effects. So you are usually lower key and amp up as the film’s arcs amp up in emotion, pacing and tempo until you reach a crescendo at your peaks. That is not what happens here. All the music has the same level of intensity in every part of the movie. You have the same droning dirge underlying most sequences, then a hysterical chorus in an action sequence, back to droning, then hysterical chorus, rinse and repeat. The music is the same at the beginning, the middle and the end of the movie. There is zero evolution, zero building, zero escalation, zero modulation. JUST LIKE HIS SCENES. The movie doesn’t build and go places. It’s essentially static and monotonous.

            And of course, the bankruptcy of the whole endeavor is underlined by the classic tell of bad filmmaking in use of music. This is when music is used under scenes to give them the ONLY emotional impact and dramatic tension in the scene. The scene is boring as f***, so how about we throw some music at it. Ofen filmmakers will use music selectively under “boring” sequences such as montages of equipment being put together or whatnot - you need the sequence to inform the viewer for expository reason, but it’s boring (just try it without sound to see how lame it is!), so they cover it with a thick slop of music to distract us. That’s just mediocre films that use music in select “boring sequences” - but what can you do when ALL the sequences are boring?? You get the Dune effect - music is present relentlessly under virtually every single scene, because otherwise it would be so painful to wade through that sludge of tedious footage. Terrible music, with zero modulation oppresively present almost all of the time - The Aristocrats of filmmaking, aka Dune. Whew!

            What of the special effects? What does Dune have that a million other films haven’t done before and better? Is there any Hobbit or Ring type innovation, how about unusual CGI, or models or even much more than Star Wars from 1977, or over 50 years ago? Sadly nope. And what effects there are, are frankly shockingly bad - when you finally get a load of the sand worm, it’s a dark jumble of hard to see “meh”, like something you might have trapped under your sink when you garbage disposal broke. To be fair, the only OK gadget were those flying copters that looked like giant dragonflies - fair is fair. Everything else was sh|t. Gigantic slabs of concrete everywhere for both vessels and architecture - wow, how inspiring. Costumes - again zero new ideas, the soldiers costumes owed a lot to imperial forces in Star Wars, the humans meanwhile had generic rags, some with faux Bedouine desert themes, all sloppy and lacking in interest or any display of imagination and creativity.

            MORE pt 5


              Nothing about this movie was surprising to me. From the very start it struck me as a very, very bad idea, with about zero chance of being successfull, just as I predicted with BR2049.

              The reasons were clear as day. First, source material. In the case of BR2049, I thought there’s about a snowball’s chance in he|| you’d be able to make a sequel to an acknowledged masterpiece like BR and have it compare favorably or even anywhere within a mile or a galaxy. Same with Dune insofar as a starting point. This is a very poor source for adaption to the screen - the novel just doesn’t operate on a cinematic level. It’s been tried before - many times - and failed. At best, given the intellectual nature of that novel, you might stand a chance in a TV series, but a 2-3 part motion picture at a huge budget for general audiences? Nope. Doomed from the start.

              Then you have the director, and that seals it. It’s already an almost impossible task, and then give it to a no-talent like Villeneuve? The chances of success here are between zero and nothing. So it wasn’t a hard call to make that this enterprise was doomed, both in the case of BR2049 and Dune.

              Villaneuve needs to get lucky to push out a tolerable product. His best is Sicario, and because the idea is very strong, and some of the actors are very good, he can skate by with an OK film - and that’s Sicario, an OK movie (I even enjoyed it!). Of course, it has a lot of the signature Villaneuve failings, which I explored at length in the thread on Sicario, from poor understading of framing and camera placement and generally blocking and staging to casting choices (Emily Blunt, completely miscast as an FBI agent!), but there’s enough good to make it work.

              But counting on luck is not a plan and not ability. Lacking in actual ability, DV collapses spectacularly when a great deal of ability is required and you are not going to get lucky because you’d have to win the lottery not once but a dozen times in a row - ain’t gonna happen. Unless you are super talented, you are not going to pull off a sequel to BR or a screen version of Dune. And DV is a very, very poor director.

              DV apparently doesn’t have the ability to evaluate material, or he’d never agree to do BR2049 or Dune as those are doomed to fail - but at least part of the responsibilty is on the braindead executives who greenlit those projects in the first place and then put DV in charge… facepalm.

              Now that he was put in charge, he has no idea how to evaluate a screenplay - already on paper both those films were sh|tshows - utter trash. Instead of trying to work on those scripts and get other writers and guide them, DV can’t tell. It’s like asking a color blind person to match tiles. He can’t tell what makes a good script or how to develop a script to make it good… he needs to get lucky, and if he doesn’t he’ll fail. BR2049 and Dune were therefore doomed from the first page of the script. It is a director’s responsibility to pick a project and supervise a script - both of which DV fails, as he doesn’t seem to have that basic ability.

              DV also doesn’t know how to cast. He can get lucky with a star - Gosling, Chalamet, Gyllenhaal, Adams, del Toro, probably because the studio has input there and there aren’t as many choices for who can open/carry a movie. As soon as options open up into the 100’s and 1000’s, and it’s his pick - he’s immediately lost, and comes up with insane choices and super weak actors. The result is that it’s usually a random collection of actors, and not a coherent performace with chemistry on screen.

              DV also doesn’t appear to know how to work with actors (in addition to not knowing how to work with writers), because all those actors really can’t deliver apart from being miscast - you get super limited and listless performances (or outright bad - Jared Leto, ugh!). You may as well work with hand puppets, you’d have more success.

              He has no ear for music, doesn’t understand pacing or modulation of scenes and therefore cannot edit, is lost without someone taking charge of camera placement and so on. His staging is a joke (as I remarked before, it’s like placing toy soldiers on the kindergarten floor).

              All those are the responsibilities of the director and he’s unequal to the task in all of them. He is good at one thing - and I guess that’s the ultimate 100% necessary talent in Hollywood, and that’s he can get execs to greenlight his projects and put him in charge - that he is undeniably good at. If only the results were better - I’d sooner put a random PA on the set to replace DV and the result would probably be better.

              What can we say about Dune at this point? Just as I said about BR2049, it will never be held up as something that stands the test of time, like the original BR - the original will be rewatched for decades to come, BR2049 will rot on some server somewhere, and the same for Dune. Dune will not ever have the status of a great sci-fi movie, to stand alongside BR, The Thing, The Terminator, Predator, Alien and dozens and dozens of other films.

              An incredible amount of money is spent, for embarrasing results - what a waste. Too bad it didn’t go to more worthy projects with actually talented people. Maybe it can do OK at the boxoffice if the stars align and there is no competition while it’s shown, the numbers may be fine. But as a work of filmmaking - it’s clearly a failure. Which is not to say that you won’t have fans - there’s hardly a movie anywhere that doesn’t have SOME fans, and especially here on dvxuser, where there are special interests like cinematography or sets, and with a giant budget you can get a DP and super sets, so at least you’ll have that (the sets on BR2049 were very nice - no such luck on Dune though!).

              Oh, and spoiler alert - part 2 of Dune will be a giant failure too… predicting this is about as hard as predicting that sunset will be followed by a sunrise the following day. All IMHO, and YMMV, of course, other opinions always welcome and appreciated, this is just my one man opinion .


                I'm just gonna say that my wife and I liked offset the Wall of Text ® above. ;)
                Matt Gottshalk
                Director of Production


                  Yeah, I really enjoyed it. There were parts that I found incredibly satisfying. For example, how the visions play against what happens when he fights Jarris. It was simple enough for me to get it when I thought about it, but complex enough that it was not fully understandable without engaging. I appreciate that.

                  I actually thought the casting was amazing. I loved everyone. Even small characters like David Dastmalchian or Stephen McKinley Henderson felt full of personality in no small measure due to the interesting casting.

                  Then again, I have watched BR2049 and liked it greatly each time. Could use with getting rid of Jared Leto's character, but I am used to it and happy to give the film a pass for that nonsense.


                    Has a book converted to a movie ever really worked for the people that read the book? I'm struggling in any genre? Perhaps one made it to TV in a way that I suspect the writer, long gone, would have liked. Sherlock Holmes - as in the Jeremy Brett TV version. I read the Herbert novels, and oddly quite liked the first movie - kind of complimentary and much unexplained, but that got panned at the time. Casting in my book comes before anything with a book as source. Readers can adapt their mental pictures if the casting is positive. You can easily adapt to old/young/fat/thin if their character matches. Remakes, especially sci-fi - often sit badly. I couldn't get into the Batman franchise at all, having read the comic books and watched the 60s TV version. The darker Batman just made it not right for me - the First Reeve superman movies worked for me - casting again. Lost in Space - another remake mess. Not even a modern thing. The 39 Steps - one book, lots of attempts. Some couldn't even get it right on the first go, never to rise again - Clive Custler's Sahara novel - brilliant. Made into a light and try to be comic movie. Characters mangled badly, buy people who missed the point in the novels. even regarded directors like Jonathan Frakes who totally misread the history of the Thunderbirds story, and wrecked that one! We even do it with historical source material - things we all know were true and factual. The English/Scots story with Braveheart - what a mess and oddly the Highlander movie got the historical aspects pretty right even with Sean Connery's delivery - we all know his acting style was er, unusual, but everyone overlooked his accent and accepted the character. This never happens with the remakes does it?

                    Why do studios never spot they are about to make a lemon? The fans would surely be the ones to talk to before signing contracts, but it doesn't happen.


                      I remember going to see Dune 1984 on opening night as a college student. You know you're in trouble when they hand out printed one-sheets from the studio with names and various definitions to things!

                      I still prefer some of the original casting and set/art design from the Lynch version to this this. Francesca Annis was a better Jessica for instance, more assured, powerful and less anxious seeming. Which is sad, as I like Rebecca Ferguson, and can only fault her performance to the direction. The original Reverend Mother was imposing and scary... the Gom Jabbar scene was more suspenseful, IMO in the Lynch version. For gosh sake, the needle didn't even look sharp.

                      I hate murky dark night scenes with little contrast (it's a movie, not reality, darn it), and both versions shared this problem on the big screen. I was never a fan of the raised shadows and lowered contrast created by Freddie Francis' Lightflex system on Dune 84, which flashed the negative with a low level wash of light during photography.
                      Jim Arthurs


                        My Wife and I watched it yesterday, and we enjoyed it. I'm a big fan of the book, and while the film doesn't portray even half of the depth of the universe described in the book, I liked the film a lot. It takes a somewhat minimalist approach to exposition and world-building, but it clearly and accurately follows all of the major beats of the book. My wife enjoyed it, and she hasn't read the book. I'm just annoyed that they haven't already started production on the 2nd part....


                          Originally posted by paulears View Post
                          Has a book converted to a movie ever really worked for the people that read the book? .
                          Absolutely. I've seen many movies that were better than the book they were adapted from. Just to name a few: Godfather, Jaws, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Shining, Silence of the Lambs, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Roots, True Grit (remake or original), Shawshank Redemption. I'm sure there are many more examples of movies being better than the book, but I'm just listing a few that I actually read myself so can speak from first-hand experience.

                          I agree with you, however, that usually it is just the opposite and the movie is usually worse than the book. But not always.

                          I have not seen either version of Dune, nor did I make it through the book.
                          Doug Jensen, Sony camcorder instructor
                          HOW TO MAKE MONEY SHOOTING STOCK


                            Saw an afternoon matinee showing on Sunday and absolutely loved it. I felt they hit all the right notes. Information about the various cultures and political intrigues was gently doled out during exchanges between characters that helped build their relationships. The over all scope was up there in the best tradition of David Lean. Music helped convey some of the mythical, spiritual aspects of the story with it's chorus of singing voices. Yes, the performances were subdued, but I have grown tired of bombastic portrayals that sink into melodrama as the actors shout and gesture broadly, playing to the back of the house. Think J.J.Abrams Captain Kirk - "Fire! FIRE EVERYTHING!" Just an amazing motion picture. A very successful adaptation of a richly detailed and somewhat difficult novel.
                            Buy a Tripod, Use the Tripod.


                              Originally posted by paulears View Post
                              Has a book converted to a movie ever really worked for the people that read the book?
                              I thought that the 1935 movie adaptation of Captain Blood was very good, and in some ways preferred it to the book. SPOILER ALERT, the movie eliminated a couple subplots of a pirate campaign and love triangle to reduce the cast, whittle down the run time, and keep the budget reined in. The pirate campaign would have been cool, but I'm glad that the love triangle was mostly eliminated, as I consider it a lame plot trope. I watched the movie as a kid before reading the book, so perhaps that affected my perspective.

                              The Lord of the Rings movies were an acceptable adaptations, but the Hobbit movies were all terrible.

                              Evaluating The Chronicles of Narnia, the Disney adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was acceptable. I don't think that the books were particularly well written, so in some ways the movie improved things. The other Disney adaptations of the series were terrible, deviating from the books, and not in an improved way. The BBC mini-series was much more faithful to the books. I wish that Disney had made a faithful adaptation of the Silver Chair, as that was one of the better written books in the series.