So the Dune Movie Kind of Rules

dune zendaya

So Dune rules.

As I said in a previous post regarding reading the books, I watched Dune awhile ago. I shared that I thought it was good then but I re-watched it again last night on HBO Max and I think I like it even more.

In fact, I think I kind of love it.

I want to start at the end which I’m sure will be talked about because to many people it will feel like an incomplete film and obviously nothing gets really concluded but I found I appreciated the ending so much because it was this relatively quiet one-on-one, a personal conflict, it was a knife fight, and the weight was in the eyes of Jessica, Stilgar, and Chani, and the sounds were not big explosions or spaceships but of two people trying not to die while fighting each other in no air condition. While we know Chalamet is the star of the film and isn’t going to lose there are stakes and lessons.

Paul isn’t going to be able to simply be better and force a bloodless accord. He has had visions of universe spanning conquering and the blood that will have to be on his hands.

Usually what happens in this era of superhero and non-superhero movies is we get to the third act where the big loud dumb thing happens which is often CGI-laden and will look terrible in a few years. It just happened with Shang-Chi, a movie I really liked, and still do like, despite the third act which is just everything I said above. It’s almost all big budget movies. This was quiet, it was a knife fight, and the weight was in the eyes of Jessica, Stilgar, and Chani, and the sounds were not big explosions and spaceships but of two guys trying not to die while fighting in no air condition.

Whether its Star Wars or The Fellowship of the Ring we get that classic trope of getting the band together. Paul earns the new gang after losing everything.

We saw many members of the old gang pass, among them a really game Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, and this last scenes set Jessica and Paul up with Stilgar and Chani, both of whom, with not that much screen time deliver big for me. Javier Bardem and Zendaya – both visions in real life – are buying in, and this is a type of movie where you go in wondering if the cast, especially one as loaded as this, are going to take the material seriously. They absolutely are. They are not embarrassed of the movie.

Dune is also basic.

If you watch this movie it’s these upsettingly ugly people, the Harkonnens, versus these even more upsettingly ridiculously good looking people with even better hair. Timmy, Jason Mamoa, Oscar Issaac, Rebecca Ferguson, being helped later by Zendaya and Javier Bardem versus basically a humanoid Jabba the Hutt, uglier Drax, and tall bald skinny pedo looking guy. The Atreides come from a beautiful home world of Caladan with serene coastal landscapes and when you shift to Giedi Prime it’s dark, gloomy, and looks like every ’80s cartoon villain lair. The Harkonnens are rich beyond belief due to their previous Arrakis fiefdom yet you can tell they are bad guy because they won’t even spring for good lighting in their seat of power.

Speaking of Zendaya, I think the film nailed something very subtle. We don’t get a lot of Chani in this movie. She is seeded via Paul’s visions which could be somewhat unfulfilling but I think the film uses Liet Kynes, and her inherent goodness and what she does for Paul and the choices she makes, to inform us a bit about her daughter. This is someone of substance, and we see that Leto saw as much in the brief time they knew each other as well. It also gives Paul and Chani a shared enemy, the Harkonnens and the Emperor killed their family.

I also found the ending to be a fairly powerful statement. So much of the last decade of IP blockbusters, and to be honest blockbuster before that before we had so many of them, for me almost undo a lot of the actual good work by actors, writers, and set designers, and numerous other people by giving us the perfunctory big loud dumb thing with some huge equally dumb thing in the balance at the end and Dune instead does two things, giving us one of the great examples of such a thing earlier in the movie and choosing to end the film in a quiet, visceral, one one-on-one fight that has meaning on top of individual survival.

He wasn’t saving the day, he was saving himself and moms, plus, he just met possibly the cutest person in the universe, and when you meet one of those you risk it all.

Maybe I will blog more thoughts after a rewatch.

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