By Connor Keating / Staff Writer
If you don’t know, I’m somewhat of an expert in giant monster worms.
So, when it comes to “Dune”, I know a bit more than your average Joe who hasn’t picked up a book since seventh grade and has never seen a movie older than themself. I’ve seen the 1984 adaptation of “Dune”, the mini series, and I’ve recently started the book, and so I’m familiar with the story. However that does come at the cost of me comparing the new “Dune” film to the others.
If you’re someone who’s been living under a rock made of Disney movies, allow me to explain the plot. Oh, and I’ll be spoiling this story, from 1965, at some point in this review.
The story follows Paul Atreides, the son of Duke Leto, as his family is sent by the Emperor to the planet Arrakis, an extremely hostile planet, but the most important in the universe, as it’s the only place spice, a substance used for space travel and to enhance human capabilities, can be found. However, it’s all a trap set up by the Emperor, and the Harkonnen Baron, to get rid of the Atreides.
I should say right now, the new “Dune” movie, despite being a whopping 155 minutes, it’s only half the story. Basically two and a half hours of set up, but honestly that’s for the best. The pacing has always been a big problem with screen adaptations of “Dune”. The 80s version takes its time around the beginning, then speeds through the middle to get to the final battle, while the mini series is super slow and boring. However, with the new “Dune”, it takes its time, but never really drags. Let’s hope the next part can do the same.
The most important part of any story is without a doubt the characters, and the characters of this new “Dune” movie are a bit of a mixed bag. Some of them feel like the definitive screen versions of their characters like Duke Leto, Duncan, and Gurney, and with Gurney that’s saying something since he was portrayed by the legendary Patrick Stewart in the 80s version.
The main antagonist, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, I initially didn’t care for in this version, but over time, he’s grown on me, as he’s far more calculated and threatening, especially compared to the 80s version.
However, when it comes to some of the bigger players, I wasn’t too impressed. Starting with Paul, from what I’ve heard, his actor is some new young pretty boy, but I felt he was very lifeless and flat throughout the film. It doesn’t help that the Paul from the 80s movie had so much more charisma and style. New Paul just kind of, flatly delivers his lines. I will however acknowledge that this is all before Paul becomes this super cool savior for the desert people, the Fremen, so here’s hoping he’s better in the next film.
Then there’s Chani played by Zendaya, and I saw too much “Shake It Up” as a kid to take her seriously. To be fair, she’s hardly in this film, mostly appearing to Paul through dreams and visions, and then finally at the end. Chani has never really been portrayed well in any of these adaptations though, barely being in the 80s movie, and just being boring in the mini series.
Then we get to the real meat of my problems with this film, the side characters. Now some side characters got more spotlight than ever like Duncan Idaho (the most sci-fi of names, I know) but some like Hawat, and most specifically Dr. Yueh, got absolutely sidelined. If you don’t know, spoilers, Dr. Yueh betrays the Atreides to the Harkonnens in order to get his wife back, it’s kind of the most important thing about this half of the story, but it’s completely forgotten about, until it finally happens. The book sets this all up very early, and runs with it, and the 80s movie also does a very good job with it, but here, Dr. Yueh gets only two scenes prior, neither of which hint at this betrayal, and then he just does it out of left field.
I think the best way to show why Dr. Yueh was poorly handled, is with some help from the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock explains the difference between shock and suspense with a scene. Some people are sitting at a table, talking about something very mundane for five boring minutes, then suddenly a bomb goes off, and the audience is shocked for maybe ten seconds, but if you tell the audience there’s a bomb under the table, then they’ll be sitting on the edge of their seat for five minutes, waiting for the bomb to go off and wondering if the characters will find the bomb. The new Dune handles Dr. Yueh’s betrayal like the first scene, not telling us that one of the Duke’s most trusted subjects will betray him. Literally all they needed was a quick line from the Baron saying there’s a traitor. Take out all that useless crap about Paul’s grandfather fighting bulls and flesh out Dr. Yueh, one of the main causes of the entire story.
Anyways, the film looks great. I’m normally a sucker for practical effects, being an old school Godzilla fan and all, but I hardly even cared that half, maybe more, of what I was looking at wasn’t there. I really like how they handled things like the ships, the combat, and of course the worms. It does a great job of world building in a natural manner that feels real, and the cinematography is gorgeous. So the overall look of the whole movie is top notch
While “Dune” isn’t a big dumb action movie like everything else that’s come out in the past decade, it does have some great action sequences, and all those talky parts in between are interesting enough that you aren’t just sitting there bored, waiting for the next stabbing.
So yeah, “Dune” 2021 is pretty good. Heck, the only movies that have come out of America in the last ten years that are better than this, are “1917”, “Pacific Rim”, and “Lake Michigan Monster”, but honestly that isn’t saying much. So far it’s the best screen adaptation of Dune, however its buturing of Dr. Yueh really hurts the film. Still though, one of the smartest and most beautiful films to come out in a long time. Hope the sequel is good, and that these films will cause Hollywood to realize there are more genres than just superheroes.
I give “Dune” 2021 three and a half Shai-Huluds out of five.
Keating is a Halstead freshman studying General Studies. He is a Collegian staff writer.