Dune: Why oh why?
I don’t remember what got me to want to watch Dune. Was it the nostalgia of the previous Dune version with Sting? Was it the gorgeous ensemble led by Thimothée Chalamet and Zendaya.? These leading actors are supported by a star cast including the likes of Oscar Isaac, Aquaman (ok Jason Momoa then) and Thanos (bite me… Josh Brolin), Dave Bautista, Javier Bardem… Maybe it was the anticipation of another Hans Zimmer musical demonstration. Maybe it is the COVID-19 lockdown lift that required me to make up for all the cinema I have missed. Maybe it is the over 8 out of that the Internet has given across the board to the movie. Or maybe it is just the free ticket I got to see it (thank you again).
I want to love it
I really, really, really do want to love it. It is grandiose, from ceremonial to epic roots sounds, especially in IMAX. It is beautiful and rich. It is star-studded and as almost fully diverse as they come. Thimothée Chalamet is a truly beautiful man, very easy on the eye and that kiss with Zendaya was charged… But then I thought, she is betraying Spiderman! And the film, although teasing her image in visions from time to time, waited until the end to Zendaya! On top of it, having another “The One” movie, full of prophecy and ceremony is brain tiring. So many crimes! Or should I say sins? Have I been cinemasins-brainwashed?
Maybe. But that does not change the feeling that lingered at the end of the movie. The predominant feeling was that the whole film was a narrative exposition of contextualisation teasing the real movie to be expected as a sequel. I had been waiting for something to happen all throughout the film. Even the filling music, the fights, the tactical and still lame jump scares, the presence of beautiful people did not make up for it. 1 minute from the credits rolling was the first moment when I felt like “Ah finally something is happening, the film has finally begun”. And then it was over! Seriously! That was it!
This is all I got to see. The protagonists were the beautiful and mainly recognisable stars including the One, the fighters, the father, the mother and concubine. They were emotional, understanding, protective, expositional, recognisable and beautiful, or have I already said those two. The antagonists were the ugly and fat people, the bald, the priest-like, the caniving, the self-important, the eurghh, the eww (there is cinemasins again, in a very different way this time)… Talk about prejudice-studded.
There is all the chance in the world that everyone who saw this is going to see the next one. Well, it scratches the itch of incompleteness that Dune (or unofficially Dune I) has left us all with. The mystic and the voice of some the characters in the movie has leaked unto the whole film. It is like a spell on the viewer. Thimothée Chalamet is fragile and strong. The little we saw of Zendaya shows a defiant but flexible, convincible, girl.
But most of all, no matter how much the movie tried to make up for it throughout, I felt highly uncomfortable. It was a story of colonisation disguised as protectorate (the story of Cameroon really). It was the story of people who call themselves masters who soften the blow of the implied relationships by hugging their servants. It is a story of hierarchy, where the higher ranked are portrayed as good because there is worse.
It is the story of power at its pettiest. It relates to the feuds that plague the so-called Great Houses as the struggle to establish sub-empires for themselves in the greater interstellar empire they are part of. It shows how power is about the amount of places you own, the number of people you master, by fear or kindness alike. It attempt to show that power through kindness is better by comparison, not of course addressing why it should be in the first place. In this showdown, it is House Atreides versus House Harkonnen, both of the great empire known as the Imperium. It is respectively the good versus the bad or as I see it, the lesser evil versus the evil.
The American movie Dune is a paradox. There is something about this film that makes it all at once a heavy sigh and a lifeline to normality even as some favourite faces die one after the other. It so well captures the infinity, magnificence and danger of the desert. It showcases intricate architecture and art as one. It has beauty and the effects are solid. But I couldn’t help feeling boredom and discomfort. It was a weird bored though because I did not mind staying because everything that was set motivated me to wait for something to happen. And that was the problem. I was motivated to stay and I was fed nothing but a tasty promise. Even the music had the presence of Hans Zimmer but an unconnected spirit…
American author Frank Herbert wrote the 1965 science fiction novel Dune. Denis Villeneuve directs the 2021 American science-fiction adaptation and co-scripted it with Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth. Dune is the beautiful and tasty narrated and exposited promise that something will happen and the revelation that this probably won’t be until the sequel. No matter how much I understand that it takes a few episodes to capture a story, there has to be more in the first one than exposition. On top of that, it has the discomfort of watching a diverse enough cast playing masters and servants.