I’m very much a newb, a neophyte when it comes to Dune ( Warner Bros, 2021). Meaning, I have not watched any previous onscreen adaptations nor have I read the 1965 Frank Herbert novel they were based on. And you may say that I’ve neglected my Blerd duties which is not true. It’s just that Dune has never been on my radar in a big way and, amazingly enough, nobody cares.
But I am an avid fan of science fiction movies. There’s nothing like an entertaining epic sci-fi saga of good versus evil teeming with thrill seeking action and adventure and lightsabers with dope sound effects and likable, humble characters answering a higher call and a motley of creatures from distant planets all uniting for a common cause against a villain voiced by the great James Earl Jones.
George Lucas’ first Star Wars trilogy (20th Century Fox, 1977-83) remains the gold standard for epic sci-fi storytelling in my humble opinion. And is there any weapon in the entire sci-fi cinematic universe more bad ass than a lightsaber? I. Think. Not. (An argument can be made for blasters or phasers but who are we kidding? They’re basically point and shoot and require a lot less skill to operate. Plus, lightsabers are a welcome addition to any cinematic universe and greatly increases one’s chances of defeating any number of foes. But I digress.)
In other words, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is not Star Wars. Nor does it have to be but it should have at least checked off more of the boxes that makes a sci-fi saga an entertaining epic (especially with a $168 million price tag).
Aside from the all too familiar overarching theme of white patriarchal saviorism or what I like to refer to as nauseating, Dune part 1 felt like a dull, uneventful promo trailer for the inevitable sequel, lasting a little over two and a half hours, resulting in something that I refuse to call a cliffhanger. Which is a shame because the world-building is superb, as is the cinematography accompanied by a stirring musical score from Academy award winning composer Hans Zimmer. There’s even a really cool looking CGI sandworm that doesn’t get nearly enough screen time (if you ask me).
Part of the problem with Dune is that Villeneuve’s version doesn’t allow viewers to fully invest in the lives of the film’s characters. And they don’t have lightsabers. But Dune does have the equivalent of a Jedi mind trick technique which is some type of weird flex move called the Voice except it’s a lot less Yoda and a lot more loud, angry, and violent, y’know, like white parents performing their outrage at public schoolboard meetings. They also have a Crysknife (still not a lightsaber) made from the tooth of a dead sandworm which is still not enough to save this movie from the tepid doldrums of mediocrity. #teamsandworm