Dune: Part Two 2023 (Denis Villeneuve)

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I mean, I understand that you’re more interested in what happens to the Fremen and that’s valid (I’m someone who usually wonders what will happen to such-and-such villain’s kids, we all have our own stuff that we focus on), but I was much more interested in the ‘higher’ politics and the Bene Gesserit. Ultimately Villeneuve himself is probably more interested in Paul than the Fremen, and I think that’s also valid. It seems a bit odd to require any science-fiction/high-concept speculative storyline to pay attention to the disadvantaged communities.

I felt a lot of attention was paid to the Fremen, personally. If anything, I got a very clear sense from Part 2 (more so than Part 1) that whoever ventures into the desert uninvited won’t fare well, no matter what heavy artillery they bring; that the Fremen are actually really powerful and bloody spectacular at self-defence. As such, I didn’t feel that I needed any more on them.
I don't think you understood what I was saying at all... I didn't come to the movie being "more interested in what happens to the Freman", or "less interested" in the higher politics. Quite the contrary, I would have like a movie that was equally compelling in developing all the characters and all the aspects of the story.

It's usually best for a movie to have characters you can either care for, root for, or become invested in their plight. Sometimes a good movie can even be centered around a character who's not particularly sympathetic, but you are still drawn to what makes them tick - Citizen Kane is a great example.

This particular movie doesn't really work for me because it's hard to feel invested in the fate of any of the major characters, although I still feel pretty sympathetic for the Freman because they're clearly the underdogs of the story. But even then, do I care about them as much as I cared about the Rebel Alliance in the original SW trilogy, or about Starfleet in the ST movies? Not even remotely, really. They seem to be a sturdy bunch. But the whole galactic intrigue stuff is even harder to care about - what reason does the movie give me to care one way or another about which House is triumphant?



A system of cells interlinked
Absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. I approached this movie as I do with every film, with a completely open mind. (In hindsight, I do suppose it may have been a bit naive to buy into the hype, which imho this movie absolutely doesn't deserve).

The movie almost had me going well into the first hour; I think it would have been perfectly fine entertainment if we'd just gotten to know the local inhabitants of the planet even better, and shared more of their struggles. That stuff seemed pretty compelling, at least up until it dove headfirst into a lot of poorly explained and half-baked hocus focus.

But the more the movie went on, the more boring and aloof it seemed to me; there's probably a lot more to the backstory of some of the characters in the books, but in the movies, it's hard to find anyone to really care for very much, at least for me. Even at this point, I am a lot less interested in what happens to Paul Atreides than in what happens to the average Fremen, how their culture and their society is going to be affected by the ongoing galactic turmoil.

Believe me, nobody would have been happier than me if the movie had been worth the hype. I absolutely love it when a movie really delivers.
OK fair points.

I went back and read the rest of your review. I think this post you just put it is a much better review, really. Your actual review comes across as just a bunch of bashing and sort of silly comments about the source material, especially when you admit you haven't read it.

By hocus focus, I assume you mean hocus pocus, and by that I am thinking you mean the more supernatural aspects of the water of life etc. I am surprised you call it this, especially after listing Star Wars as clearly superior, which contains quite a bit of arguably silly hocus pocus, even if the philosophy behind the force, at least in the earlier films, has some interesting and thoughtful viewpoint on life type stuff.

With Dune, I think it's important to really try to understand the source material as iconic to the time it was written, and just take whatever stuff that seems outdated by today's standards as signs of the times.

Your other point about character development is actual also accurate to the books, even if they do get more development there. Characters like Irulan and The Emperor are barely in Dune, and are more political pieces on the chessboard that actual characters. I think this is why Dune is so hard to put to screen - it's much more about the larger picture, the bigger game from a zoomed out perspective, than the character minutiae. The book is really about Paul and Jessica, with even Chani being sort of a side player. All the other characters are satellites that orbit around them - satellites caught in their inescapable binary gravity wells.

Dune is a seminal work, a tremendous achievement. For many, it is the best of the best ever written in the genre of sci-fi. Me? I just really like the book. It's not my favorite, because I think it is a cold book, a clinical book, a book to behold from a distance with an icy disregard for the players. I respect it more for the giant leap it was in world building, detail, and the epic scope of its universe. Herbert's genius was his blending of the completely bizarre with the mundane and the familiar while incisively commenting on the geopolitics of the day - his day.

Again, I can't comment on how well Villeneuve translated Herbert's material to the screen, but if the film came across as cold and distant in ways, and didn't focus on a ton of character development and dialogue, it sounds like a pretty faithful adaptation to me.

Sadly, I won't be seeing it until March 10th, which seems ever so far away, especially since I am excited to participate in these conversations on the site. But as I said, I can't really argue on the final details of the film without a referent.

In summary - I think your issues with the film in the post above are pretty accurate, but those issues are all present in the book. Still worth a read, IMO. Just adjust expectations for the kind of story it is and was meant to be.
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Saw it today. Not quite as fantastic as the first one, which I loved, but still very well directed with some strong performances and excellent production design and cinematography. 8/10 would be my rating. Dune Part Two is the best film of 2024 so far out of what I have seen.
It took the crown from This is Me Now!?!



Quite the contrary, I would have like a movie that was equally compelling in developing all the characters and all the aspects of the story.

It's usually best for a movie to have characters you can either care for, root for, or become invested in their plight…. …But the whole galactic intrigue stuff is even harder to care about - what reason does the movie give me to care one way or another about which House is triumphant?
I suppose that’s fair, but as far as I’m concerned, that applies to most such storylines with multiple houses/dynasties/tribes — when it comes to The Game of Thrones, Dune, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, even, I don’t tend to care ‘who wins’ as much as about the ‘journey’ (awful corporate speak alert). That said, I personally don’t see why one should automatically care for the ‘underdogs’, I think that’s exactly the kind of thing that begets lazy writing. But though Dune isn’t particularly nuanced, I think the fact that we can’t easily pick who to root for isn’t a bad thing, it seems to show that every perspective is inherently in the eye of the beholder, especially in politics.

Either way, I’ll need to rewatch it.



OK fair points.
I am surprised you call it this, especially after listing Star Wars as clearly superior, which contains quite a bit of arguably silly hocus pocus
Star Wars is a movie that pokes fun at its own hocus pocus. In a movie like DP2, the hocus pocus is taken as something deadly serious, all-important, and definitely too complicated to attempt any kind of straightforward explanation, imho.

With Dune, I think it's important to really try to understand the source material as iconic to the time it was written
I don't think anyone has questioned that. What I do believe is fair to ask, as with the source material for every movie, is whether or not it remains relevant today. I'm not at all against an argument that it does; but it is something I would like to scrutinize a bit further, if anything.



I suppose that’s fair, but as far as I’m concerned, that applies to most such storylines with multiple houses/dynasties/tribes — when it comes to The Game of Thrones, Dune, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, even, I don’t tend to care ‘who wins’ as much as about the ‘journey’ (awful corporate speak alert). That said, I personally don’t see why one should automatically care for the ‘underdogs’, I think that’s exactly the kind of thing that begets lazy writing. But though Dune isn’t particularly nuanced, I think the fact that we can’t easily pick who to root for isn’t a bad thing, it seems to show that every perspective is inherently in the eye of the beholder, especially in politics.

Either way, I’ll need to rewatch it.
I don't doubt that 'the journey' is sometimes more than enough to make something worthwhile, but it is also hard to counter the idea that at its core, Dune wants to be some kind of... allegory? Or some such thing. Or - maybe it isn't meant to be so allegoric after all, but the whole "who wins" thing wouldn't be nearly as important if the movie gave you someone you truly cared about. Which, imho, it doesn't, really. It doesn't seem (at least from what's been shown so far) that the overall outcome is going to be all that different one way or another. So, why should I care about the conflict at all, or how it turns out?

Also, I don't know why the phrase "why one should automatically care for the 'underdogs'" is even in that post. I don't know where it suddenly became something that would just happen "automatically".



A system of cells interlinked
What I do believe is fair to ask, as with the source material for every movie, is whether or not it remains relevant today. I'm not at all against an argument that it does; but it is something I would like to scrutinize a bit further, if anything.
As far as the lessons on putting too much faith in charismatic hero figures, and the concept of the cult of personality, I think it is a resounding yes. Still 100% relevant.

The geopolitical stuff? Still at least partially relevant today, also.

Does the film take itself too seriously? Perhaps. Will comment more when I see it.



I don't doubt that 'the journey' is sometimes more than enough to make something worthwhile, but it is also hard to counter the idea that at its core, Dune wants to be some kind of... allegory? Or some such thing. Or - maybe it isn't meant to be so allegoric after all, but the whole "who wins" thing wouldn't be nearly as important if the movie gave you someone you truly cared about. Which, imho, it doesn't, really. It doesn't seem (at least from what's been shown so far) that the overall outcome is going to be all that different one way or another. So, why should I care about the conflict at all, or how it turns out?

Also, I don't know why the phrase "why one should automatically care for the 'underdogs'" is even in that post. I don't know where it suddenly became something that would just happen "automatically".
Well, I’m not just addressing your post, I’m also addressing the idea that a group being ‘underdogs’ is reason enough to care about this group over other groups, a pretty common idea, so I felt that part was self-explanatory. However, if you feel it’s entirely irrelevant, so be it.

I think you’re right that the outcome won’t be altogether that different regardless of who wins, but to me that’s a pretty realistic take on politics in general, especially today (to Sedai’s point above). I’m not saying that Dune suggesting it doesn’t entirely matter who wins is deliberate or some kind of broader philosophical point, god forbid, but I think it works because, well, that’s how it usually goes in politics. I find it refreshing that Dune doesn’t give you anyone to care about.

Which, I appreciate the obvious rebuttal that films follow different ‘rules’ than ‘life’. But to me personally many of the things you’re alluding to above are points in the film’s favour.



A system of cells interlinked
The 1984 version leaned pretty hard into the hero's journey stuff, with Paul being the clear and unambiguous good guy and hero of the proceedings. His character, and especially on into the next book, is not drawn that way in the books. A lot more grey area there. I am hoping these films portray him more along those lines.



As far as the lessons on putting too much faith in charismatic hero figures, and the concept of the cult of personality, I think it is a resounding yes. Still 100% relevant.
Well, fair enough that it's a relevant point. But is it even something that Herbert managed to articulate clearly - even for his intended audience?

According to DV, it isn't.

“When Frank Herbert wrote Dune, he was disappointed at how people perceived Paul,” Villeneuve says. “In his mind, Dune was a cautionary tale — a warning against charismatic figures. He felt that Paul was perceived as a hero, when he wanted to do the opposite. So in order to correct that, he wrote Dune Messiah, a kind of epilogue that makes it very clear this story is not a victory, it’s a tragedy.”
https://ew.com/dune-2-ending-explain...essiah-8601661
So, while I haven't read the books, DV is himself openly saying that Herbert's readers came away from the original novel perceiving Paul as a hero.

The whole "putting too much faith in charismatic hero figures" is something that has been explored in cinema before - and, as it happens, it was explored with exquisite nuance in another movie that has a lot of sand in it (but no worms): Lawrence of Arabia.

And that's a movie that, imho, does a better job in giving you a protagonist that you can care about, while not necessarily agreeing with what he has done. But at least with Lawrence, there isn't the question of whether or not he was being deliberately and maliciously duplicitous when he sought to gain the confidence of the Arabs. No, he was far too idealistic for that, obviously, and yet he played right into the hands of the colonial powers.



A system of cells interlinked
Ok well...I guess my counter would be that if you are pulling Lawrence of Arabia out as an example of a film that does it better, which I of course agree that it most likely does, I mean...is Dune 2 really deserving of your low rating if it's at least valid as a comparative to one of the best films ever made? Obviously it's not on a level with Lawrence, but... isn't your rating a tad harsh in retrospect?

I've read Dune Messiah, so not sure I can give an unbiased view on whether Dune itself portrays Paul with enough ambiguity. My view it colored by the other books. Villeneuve's comments above give me hope that he tried to portray Paul properly, though. Film looking even better now!



Ok well...I guess my counter would be that if you are pulling Lawrence of Arabia out as an example of a film that does it better, which I of course agree that it most likely does, I mean...is Dune 2 really deserving of your low rating if it's at least valid as a comparative to one of the best films ever made? Obviously it's not on a level with Lawrence, but... isn't your rating a tad harsh in retrospect?

I've read Dune Messiah, so not sure I can give an unbiased view on whether Dune itself portrays Paul with enough ambiguity. My view it colored by the other books. Villeneuve's comments above give me hope that he tried to portray Paul properly, though. Film looking even better now!
I don't think you understood what I was getting at. I was simply pointing out how badly DP2 fails to do something as simple as conveying an essentially anti-colonialist message, something that a movie like LoA does, beautifully - but that movie does so much more than just that!

LoA also shows how the real power-brokers skillfully manipulate someone like Lawrence, to their advantage - and to the detriment of the people Lawrence believed he was actually helping. Allenby's comment, "And I thought I was a hard man" and Prince Feisal's priceless retort by themselves represent a master class in how to eloquently communicate sophisticated ideas in the simplest possible terms.

The biggest problem (imho) with the Dune movies is that, frankly, it's hard for a newcomer to really get a sense of what the big picture is, or why exactly they should be rooting for anyone in particular. Or, if the point is that it doesn't matter whether or not you root for anyone, well, that clearly may have been lost on many viewers, as well, in no small part because the marketing for the movie, from what I have seen, is more intent on selling the franchise as one that is led by a sympathetic hero figure, à la Luke Skywalker or Captain Kirk, and not by someone who may either be trying to play his followers for fools, or perhaps has himself been conditioned to act in the way that he does, à la The Manchurian Candidate, by someone far shrewder than him.



The trick is not minding
Herbert actually insisted Paul was a hero, but becomes a flawed one, and even had made direct comparisons to Lawrence in interviews. He was bit of a cautionary tale, of how a hero can make mistakes.
I’ve seen him referred to an anti hero more often.

DV goes further and compares him to Michael Corleone.



Herbert actually insisted Paul was a hero, but becomes a flawed one, and even had made direct comparisons to Lawrence in interviews. He was bit of a cautionary tale, of how a hero can make mistakes.
I’ve seen him referred to an anti hero more often.

DV goes further and compares him to Michael Corleone.
Michael Corleone at least elicits some kind of emotional response from the viewer, imho, but with Paul Atreides... I really couldn't say the same.

Michael Corleone is one of the greatest tragic figures in American cinema - and his story is a powerful indictment of the destructive forces of capitalism. To paraphrase what he said to his mother in Part II, in trying to keep his family together, he only managed to destroy his family.

It's easy to feel pathos when watching the story of the Corleone family. Because the first movie shows you how a family can stick together to face capitalistic forces, and the second is nearly perfect counter-argument, that capitalism in the long run will undermine the strength of the American family.



The trick is not minding
Michael Corleone at least elicits some kind of emotional response from the viewer, imho, but with Paul Atreides... I really couldn't say the same.

Michael Corleone is one of the greatest tragic figures in American cinema - and his story is a powerful indictment of the destructive forces of capitalism. To paraphrase what he said to his mother in Part II, in trying to keep his family together, he only managed to destroy his family.

It's easy to feel pathos when watching the story of the Corleone family. Because the first movie shows you how a family can stick together to face capitalistic forces, and the second is nearly perfect counter-argument, that capitalism in the long run will undermine the strength of the American family.
I haven’t seen the second part yet, but I did feel Chalamet did well enough in the first film, although no where near the same level as Pacino portraying Corleone, of course.

Corleone was more Shakespearean in his tragedy, while Paul was more mythical which makes more sense considering he was based off of a mythical figure.



A system of cells interlinked
Michael Corleone at least elicits some kind of emotional response from the viewer, imho, but with Paul Atreides... I really couldn't say the same.

Michael Corleone is one of the greatest tragic figures in American cinema - and his story is a powerful indictment of the destructive forces of capitalism. To paraphrase what he said to his mother in Part II, in trying to keep his family together, he only managed to destroy his family.

It's easy to feel pathos when watching the story of the Corleone family. Because the first movie shows you how a family can stick together to face capitalistic forces, and the second is nearly perfect counter-argument, that capitalism in the long run will undermine the strength of the American family.

Claims like these really warrant a response, but instead of derailing the thread with what will probably devolve into something way off-topic, let's get back on Dune 2. Thanks!



For those who missed DV's appearance on the Colbert show:




I'm glad to see DV acknowledging the influence of LoA - it wasn't just by coincidence that memories of Lean's masterpiece kept popping up in my mind during and after DP2.

If there was a North Star film Villeneuve aspired to when making Dune: Part Two, it would be Lawrence of Arabia, David Lean’s sandy saga that — Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey excepted – seems the high bar many great filmmakers say they aspire to. “The thing is that [Frank Herbert’s] book was inspired by Lawrence of Arabia, and the idea of someone who falls in love with the foreign culture, tries to immerse himself in that culture, embraces it and then betrays that culture, is very close to what we were doing,” Villeneuve said. “I would say that Lawrence of Arabia is definitely a movie that was beside me the whole time I was doing this movie.” Protagonist Paul Atreides wins his way into the Fremen, a clan that survives in the inhospitable desert and battles those ravaging the planet for spices.
https://deadline.com/2024/03/dune-pa...ya-1235843507/
What really hadn't occurred to me until I read this is the influence that Lean's movie had on Herbert.

Did Frank Herbert ever publicly comment about watching LoA?