I am a huge fan of the books, and have been since I first read it at 10 years old. As such, I’ve been desperate to see the new film since it was announced. Don’t get me wrong, as a series they can be extremely hard work, the first book is arguably the best and I wouldn’t fault you for reading it and stopping there.
Visually this is a stunning movie. Based on the mental imagery of the story that I’ve developed over the last 37 years this movie is about as close as I think I’ll ever get to the world in my head. The score is absolutely beautiful, I loved everything about it. However story wise, there are some significant changes/omissions that I’m not sure I’m comfortable with.
The role of the Bene Gesserit is marginalised, and for the most part left unexplained, which makes a large chunk of what’s happening to Paul hard to understand if you’re not familiar with the story. They also missed out a huge chunk between the Atreides’ arriving on Arakkis and the trap being sprung, which means we lose a lot of the scheming and plots that are a big part of the story and serve as the motivation for pretty much every character. We also lose a lot of the secondary characters that become important if they develop the series past the first book.
As a result of this, Doctor Uwe is poorly developed and you have no sympathy for him in the denouement of his great betrayal. We also lose the accusations levelled against Lady Jessica which basically trashed the motivations of Gurney Halleck and Thufir Hawat for the second half of the book.
Baron Harkonnen is suitably unpalatable and grotesque but sadly this isn’t Stellan Skarsgard’s finest performance. The whole time I could only think of Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now.
I was a bit disappointed with how they handled Dr. Kynes. I have no issue that they made Kynes a woman. It doesn’t change anything important about the character, and I liked Sharon Duncan-Brewster’s performance. I do however have issue that they took a central character and stripped out 90% of the character’s story and motivations.
Oh, and while we’re at it, where the hell was Piter De Vries??? In case you missed it, David Dastmalchian was playing him, which you’d never know if you hadn’t spotted the black mark on his lip…
Also, where is Feyd Rautha??? Arguably a far more important character than Beast Rabban and unlike Rabban, he actually has dialogue…
Lady Jessica is weak, and she really shouldn’t be. I love Rebecca Ferguson but they really need to up their game with her character in the next part. At the beginning of the story, it’s her strength that keeps Paul alive through their initial trials, and later it’s that same strength that results in her becoming a reverend mother and mother to Saint Alia. There is none of this so far.
Josh Brolin is actually a really good Gurney Halleck but they’ve kind of lost the fact that apart from being a greatly feared fighter he’s best known as a balladeer and ladies man.
I hated… absolutely hated Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho. He is absolutely the worst thing about this film, particularly as Idaho is probably the single most important character in the entire series.
Dave Bautista is playing Dave Bautista again, and he’s really good at playing Dave Bautista. I’m not sure what the process was here, though. Rabban is a bit part in the book, and actually has no dialogue. He’s used pretty much as a scapegoat by his uncle and as a blunt object to wield against the Arrakeen population.
Timothee Chalamet is a damned good Paul Atreides. Can’t fault him one bit in this film, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they develop him in the next part.
Javier Bardem is Stilgar. He’s not merely great at playing Stilgar, he is exactly everything I envisioned when I read the books. Do not fucking fuck up his part in the next part of the film! There’s a reason the audiobook production is over 21 hours long, it’s a lot of story to tell.
I think if they’d spent an extra half hour wisely and made this film 3 hours long they would have knocked it out of the park. Five minutes longer dealing with Mohaim and the Gom Jabbar scene, five minutes of interaction with Jessica and Wellington, cut half of Rabban’s screen time and give it to De Vries to develop that relationship with Baron Harkonnen, 10 minutes expanding the internal accusations about Jessica and 10 minutes expanding Kynes’ role.
Overall though, this is exactly the Dune I wanted. Style, pacing, acting, score, it’s all pretty much as good as I could ask for as a fan of the books. If however you haven’t read the books… well… good luck. I think that without knowing the motivations and subtext of the characters, this could potentially be a hard two and a half hours.
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek