**SPOILERS** My initial notes, first viewing. **SPOILERS**
Seriously, it’s a movie review. Means I discuss specifics of the movie.
Fan Profile: This review is upon my first viewing, on the television at home. No surround sound. I have read Dune twice, but not recently. I am familiar with yet not a true Sci-fi/Fantasy nerd. I am, however, sci-fi curious.
One of the first scenes in the movie, introducing the Harkonnen and the fremen. The fremen at one with the sand as they attack. You wonder if at first if the attacker a baby worm, as the movement references an emergence of the worm seen in previews and is initially cloaked. Yet it’s human. Was it Jamis? If so, I like how the movie began and ended with a Jamis scene. It helps show, not tell, how Jamis at his core was a fighter without devoting more time to the character. If that was him*
I expected the Voice to be the same as Lynch’s dune. It was very similar yet I appreciated Villanueve’s version. I rather liked Lynch’s version of the voice. And Villeneuve’s tactic of adding instruction from Jessica to Paul on how to hone his voice for maximum effect was a worthy addition to the film and added a bit of distance from the Lynch version. Well done!
Set and costume design? Is there any competition from other films that will take that Oscar from Villeneuve’s Dune? There was art or literature reference in almost every room. The set design was meant to capture the imagination of the viewer who can see our human history reflected through centuries of creative expression. I have seen critiques that the set designs were too austere. Take another look. Every pause is a work of art. People reflect in their environment their version of power. The Harkonnen do not view humanity, art, literature as a reflection of wealth. Wealth is war and death and power. That “wealth” IS reflected in the environment of Giedi Prime. I am unsure why one would expect sculpture or opulence in the Harkonnen world, where they clearly do not value it.
I loved how the flow of the water matched the flow of the sand. The movement of the worm mimics the movement of a humpbacked whale through water.
The last part of the Caladan scenes, as he says goodbye to his homeworld, Paul touches the sand. Putting his hand through water to run the sand of Caladan through his fingers. I loved that detail. Sand is the base of our oceans, our rivers and streams. In the natural world, sand and water are often the ying and yang of natural features. Water molds sand as Paul will mold Arrakis.
Communication through eyes. Speech is used sparingly and verbal communication is intentionally secondary to body language, sign language when communication is critical, and the looks that pass between characters that say more than the following words can. I appreciated the use of cloaks to mask the eyes and scarves to accentuate them. The Bene Gesserit in particular, do much with eye communication. The mentat Thufir, his eyes rolling back when making a calculation, was a brilliant touch. Sight runs through all, as it was a primary theme in the book by Herbert.
The imagery of Caladan references the masculinity of old southern Europe. Grandfather died fighting the bulls and the bull iconography is referenced throughout the movie. Very Spain. In the Atreides graveyard there was a southern European feel. Duke Leto brushes off a relief that reveals Romanesque imagery. The coast of Caladan evokes the Amalfi coast of Italy. The reliefs, Roman to my eye, repeat in the war room. Bulls head – male. Death of the patriarchy/traditional Atreides power through the introduction of female Bene Gesserit interference? I am still deciding if this is too woke, processing my feelings about it. Hold this thought…
Giedi Prime , the imagery is a repeat of blades as doors open. I wonder if that motif will be continued as we see more of the Harkonnen world in the second installment. Remember in Lynch’s Dune, how the blade emerges from Sting’s suit? The blade-like opening of the Giedi Prime door reminded me of that scene.
Bene Gesserit foreshadowing introduces round elements. Transports resemble eggs. A round door opens for the Bene Gesserit when it is often closed to others. Costuming emphasizes the round feminine face of the Bene Gesserit while other elements are cloaked. Eggs are an obvious choice to indicate a female influence or presence, in shape and in their strength and weakness and of course, reproductive purpose. Jessica’s arrival on Arrakis, she looked like a Faberge egg, gilded, protected and displayed for beauty.
I am fairly confident that the inference that the fremen represented the Middle East is obvious and caught by all who viewed the film. The pyramid structure on the shield wall, the references to the Messiah, the desert garb of the fremen, the town next to the shield wall resembling Cappadocia, the city in Turkey. The sand. An easy theme in Herbert’s book for any director to replicate.
It seems that the humans in Herbert and Villeneuve’s world want to move about like animals do. The Thopters = dragonflies. The harvester lifters/balloon ships = jellyfish. The transport ships at the very beginning of the movie reminded me of coconut crabs. Coconut crabs Giger would create.
The Imperial world was introduced quickly but distinctly. The references were very North Europe Christian. The red blood to mark the warriors on bended knee, as in the Crusades. A man who reminded me of a religious figure issuing orders from a tower. It all felt starkly referenced, to my eye.
I liked very much the character of Dr. Liet Kynes. The book gave her a bigger role than we saw in Lynch’s Dune, I an glad Villeneuve gave time and attention to that character. I love that the stabbing that maimed her spilled water, not blood. She was given an honorable death.
Baron bathing in literal oil, the evil of hoarding and worshipping a resource. A nod to a primary theme in Herbert’s DUNE.
Chani calls Paul a boy. He takes a life, becomes a man. Walks away from his mother, though a path of men’s hands on his person in solemn congratulations and acceptance. I have always wished there were modern rites of passage.
I was most excited about the references to art scatter throughout the film. Some of the transports were reminiscent of Giger, including the dark world of Giedi Prime. The body of Duke Leto, reclining in that chair reminded me immediately of the painting The Death of Marat by artist Jacques-Louis David. The French Revolution transitioned royalty to commoner…if you survived. Well, it seemed an obvious reference imo. I loved it. Considering immediately afterward, there was a vision of Paul fighting in a fremen suit of armor that resembled armor of the Sun King King Louis XIV period.
Another reference to art was the scene where Dr. Liet Kynes is escaping. Right before her death she encounters the walls of sandstone. Right away, something about the walls gave me the vision of the Buddha of Bamiyan, destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. I wonder if that reference was intentional or just me looking for the symbolism I enjoy so much. The relief behind Paul in the palace on Arrakis brings to mind the innumerable paintings of koi fish.
The vision of The Baron rising in his gray cloak seemed much like the art of a particular Dune cover artist who created artwork of Leto Atreides II for God Emperor of Dune. Considering the bloodline between Leto II and The Baron, I like the reference.
Each second of the film is a painting.
Each viewing, I will find more.
Critiques? Not many. The references of the fremen to the middle east were a bit obvious to me, but they were obvious in the book as well. I think I really appreciate symbolism and subtlety, which for a long saga any film maker is required to condense within a budget, isn’t the easiest task.
I wanted orange sand. Fremen blue contrasted with a true deep orange would have been stunning visually. Even Jessica wasn’t as obvious a redhead as I expected. The red hair of the Harkonnen line is meant to be vivid and memorable. Then entire Villeneuve world is muted. Including the blue-in-blue eyes.
The soundtrack was good. But it should have been Lorn!!! His music is so dark, so alien…it was made for this film.
https://youtu.be/CqaAs_3azSs or https://youtu.be/nxg4C365LbQ
His shit makes me feel very uncomfortable.
Excited for Part II!
You may have noticed a lot of comparison to the Lynch version of the movie. Note to the gatekeepers- I *love* Lynch’s Dune. I saw the movie before I read the books. I was a little girl when I first watched the movie with my dad. I had no interest in science fiction prior. I am still mad at Lynch that he doesn’t like to claim the movie. What a way to shit on the actors who performed superbly and those of us who love the Dune universe he expressed on screen. So yeah, hate the Lynch version all you want, I have an emotional attachment to the work. *steps off soapbox*
NOTES: Will need to watch again to confirm a few details and look for more art references. And because I like the movie. A-