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Dune (2021) -

For starters, I love the flawed gem that is David Lynch's version and couldn’t help but compare this adaptation to it in this review. Is it confusing at times and perhaps too strange? Maybe, but the movie inspired me to read the novel and led me to being a lifelong Lynch fan, so it must have done something right. If I was forced to keep only one of these two adaptations on DVD, it would be the Lynch one and not just for sentimental reasons, but I still think the 2021 movie is a very strong adaptation of Frank Herbert's novel (the first half of it, anyway) that I do not love like Lynch's, but that I really, really like.

Dune (2021) continues director Villeneuve's tradition of having captivating visuals and ends up being one of the most incredible looking movies I've ever seen. This applies to the breathtaking vistas with the gargantuan spaceships and hundreds of troops to the intricacies of the hunter seeker dart. Best of all, there is a pleasant physicality to the look and feel in that it's hard to tell where what's real ends and what's CGI begins. While I watched it on HBO Max, I wish I had seen it in a theater instead. The casting and performances are better all-around in this version, especially Chalamet as Paul. While I like MacLachlan's performance just fine, Chalamet bests it, especially since he comes across as much closer to the character's age. I also enjoyed Jason Momoa's work as good friend and loyal soldier Duncan Idaho and Javier Bardem's as Fremen leader Stilgar, especially since we get to see more of his skepticism towards his planet's occupiers. I would have liked for characters like Brolin's Gurney, Bautista's Raban and Skarsgård’s Baron to have done more, but this is not so much a fault of the movie as it is the material it covers. Other touches I appreciate are how the movie depicts Paul's visions and how they're integrated into the story and the fight scenes, which are more traditional and not just because there are no weirding modules (well, I like them) but they make up for it with their expert choreography and those cool shield effects.

Since I've said that this version does things better or just as well as the 1984 one, why do I prefer the latter? Well, it's mostly for a reason why so many people dislike it: Villeneuve's could stand to be stranger. From the 1984 version’s weirding modules to unexplained flourishes like Piter De Vries's hand language and Gurney bringing a pug into battle, Villeneuve's is more workmanlike in comparison. It could be due to it trying harder to keep the audience in the loop at all times, which has the unfortunate side effects of not leaving quite enough up to the audience's imagination and limiting the character's personalities due to the additional exposition. Speaking of exposition, this is something the 1984 version also isn't great at, but it could explain why the book has been such a bear to adapt: how the movie handles world building and explaining all of those weird terms. Despite some improvements - I don't miss the awkward voiceovers - there are still moments that are clunky or that slacken the pace. Again, I like it a lot: it exceeded my expectations, I approve of how it reintroduced this story to another generation and it continues my estimation of Denis Villeneuve being the most exciting feature director working today. I just wish it was weird enough for me to love. To be fair, this is coming from a guy who once had Piter's "mind in motion" speech memorized.