Rated: 2 / 5
It was bound to happen sooner or later. As much as I knew I was going to be in for disappointment with the 2021 Dune film, despite what others have said (I stopped trusting them a while ago), I knew I was eventually going to break down and watch this 2+ hour fucking thing. Fuck anyone who says my preconceived notions ruined my enjoyment of the film, this movie (and just about anything released in theaters for the past 7 years) deserves a large dose of skepticism when it comes to its potential.
The one thing I can say about Dune 2021, it’s the biggest waste of potential I’ve ever seen in my life. So much good shit was in it, but it was executed so poorly that I just felt dead inside. Let me start off with a bullet list of the positives this film provides.
- The special effects are pretty damn good.
- Had decent usage of Paul Atreides’ Kwizatz Haderach stuff, at least at certain times. Also pretty cool that it made usage of the connection between the spice in the air and how it began to instigate his spiral.
- Baron Harkonnen is great. One of the best things about this movie, if not the best. Great portrayal, and I wanted to see more of him.
- The body shields are probably as good as they’re ever going to get in any past/present/future film adaptation.
- That dragonfly aircraft.
- Had a decent portrayal of mentats. First time in any of the movies where some kind of indication was shown that they are human computers.
- A white guy kills a black guy, and isn’t portrayed as villainous for doing so. You have any idea how rare that is in films in general, let alone for the last decade?
And now, for the negatives:
- That prophetic stuff was misguided, primarily used to show that Chani is in his future more than anything else.
- The Guild isn’t really shown. Neither are some important figures in the Harkonnen faction, including Feyd.
- Poorly paced, strangely edited with scene placement at times. It’s difficult to get sucked in to any sequence.
- Virtually none of the actors fit their roles, or at least not as well as in the original movie (though the actor playing Baron Harkonnen had a lot of potential that this film squandered).
- Music wasn’t all that interesting.
- No development to Dr. Yueh (or most characters for that matter beyond Paul and Jessica) whatsoever so that his betrayal comes completely out of the blue. At least the first film managed to do that, and it covered the entire book in less time than this movie covers half of it!
- Too much with Fremen bitching about “muh land, muh tribe, you darn colonizers.” Laying that allegory on way too thick and heavy (the book, and all prior adaptations, were a lot more subtle about it).
- Everything is either grey, or some other color that’s tinted towards grey.
- Duncan Idaho is overpowered, to the point where it takes away from how much of a threat the Sardaukar are supposed to be.
- Couldn’t get into this movie. Just wasn’t feeling it. It tried to be atmospheric more than anything else, but its all flash and little substance. Doesn’t have much soul to it.
- Doesn’t get into the political/philosophical stuff the book does, and that’s inexcusable given the runtime for the portion of the story it does cover.
- They take the “fear is the mind killer” speech away from Paul and give it to Jessica (who is too much of a crybaby in this). In fact, they take quotes away from several figures and give them to different people, including in books that are sequels to Dune (such as Children of Dune, with the “Life isn’t a puzzle to solve, but a reality to experience,” speech). Highly irritating, but not as irritating as…
- Diversity quotas, especially with who they had playing as Liet Kynes. Not just changing his race (in terms of physical appearance), but also his gender. Fuck that, and fuck the shitty actress playing that role. I was mostly indifferent to everything else in the film emotionally-speaking, but this irritated the fuck out of me.
What would even be the point of going into further detail with this thing? It goes through the first half of the book in such a bullet-point wikipedia fashion that makes me hesitant to want to delve deeper into the fucking thing than I already have. Despite some perfectly avoidable liberties that were taken, despite the miscasting, despite the underutilization of various characters, this film does a good job at sticking close to the source material. But they said the same thing about the 2000 sci-fi miniseries. Both 2021 and 2000 adaptations have many differences, aside from budget, and set/costume design. But both are also similar in certain ways. The biggest similarity between the two is how much they fail in their execution. Sure they may technically be closer to the book than the Lynch film, but they are both poor films in comparison.
Tempted as I am to get into more details regarding the comparisons between this film with the prior two adaptations, and the novel itself, I just don’t feel like it. This film came off as a bullet-point checkmark adaptation with a director (and whoever was in charge of casting) who didn’t really give a shit, with at least one person working behind the scenes in the film who did care considerably as clearly shown with the visual representation of the technology from the novel (among a few other things). For the most part, this film didn’t seem to have a heart in it. So I don’t see why I should have one for this review. Yes, this is just a copout of writing an in-depth review. But tough shit.
PS: Well ok, I’ll leave off on something that really did piss me off. It wasn’t bad enough that this film made me hate how they did the “fear is the mind killer” speech. It wasn’t enough how they botched the “life isn’t a puzzle to solve, but a reality to experience” line. They also throw this line in at the very end of the movie for pure sequel bait: “This is only the beginning.” Fuck you, and the sandworm you rode in on.