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The Antelope

Dune: Phenomenal film, adaptation questions aside

IMDb Dune

I struggled to start on this review for several reasons.

First, I only got to see the film once before starting this draft. “Dune” is the type of movie that almost demands multiple viewings – and though I’m sure I’ll see this film again in the near future (hopefully on a larger screen than the ones in the mall’s quadplex), for now I’ll be working off of the memory of my first viewing.

Second, the movie offers much to write about and also very little. I could write a very long review about what I think the film’s themes are: ecology, colonialism, capitalism, etc. I’m sure that if I read the book I could stretch such a piece into an entire series. 

On the other hand, a review of the film based on its technical merit would offer so little. The cinematography is gorgeous, the landscapes and architecture breathtaking, the cast charming and the score (by Hans Zimmer) grand and imposing and rousing and spectacular. But what more is there to say beyond that? These are things we probably already expect going into a film by the director of “Blade Runner 2049.”

Of the group that I went with to see “Dune,” two had read the book and five of us – including me – had not. Post-film, we gathered in the cold outside of the theater and discussed what we had seen. Those who had read the book were able to answer questions. I thought many of the points we discussed were relatively clear.

As a science fiction work, “Dune” is heavy. There are so many concepts in play, each with its own backstory and importance to the narrative. The Bene Gesserit, for example, get played up as a very important group in the movie. Still, so little is known about them that one might almost mistakenly believe that they are not so important. But the machinations of the group seem to be one of the biggest motivators in the film thus far, and I’m sure their sway in the books is also massive.

Surprisingly, even the sequence of events that moved the story along needed to be elaborated upon post-viewing. I thought the plot was one of the more straightforward parts of “Dune”. Everything is explained – even if only briefly – but the political motivations for the emperor sending House Atreides to Arrakis are not so difficult to grasp.

Paying attention to the minute clues and details in the dialogue are so vital in this adaptation. I avoided missing key conversation points by booking my ticket for a seat in the row in front of my friends. Seeing this movie was important to me. It’s one of the films I’ve been most excited for.

Finally, one cannot talk about Villeneuve’s “Dune” without addressing pacing and length. I knew the film would be long. I hadn’t bothered to check the run time until I got to my seat. At two hours and thirty-five minutes, it is only eight minutes shorter than “Blade Runner 2049”. 

Still, I never once felt that      “Blade Runner 2049” dragged its feet or felt too slow. Even the sweeping landscape shots were too gorgeous to feel boring. I felt that “Dune,” on the other hand, just barely started to overstay its welcome. I completely understand the need to set up the many different story elements that will be important in the sequel, but it felt as though we were under the sand tent for much longer than we probably were. 

I think that “Dune” is a film that demands full attention, and either an understanding of the source material or a repeat viewing.

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