andrew burke





Dune 2!

Posted on: 2024-03-11

As a literature nerd married to a film studies professor, I find myself experiencing most media while having to keep aware of its historical context. What were the technological limits of the film-making and visual effects? What are the cultural differences between when it was made and now? What other equally old and possibly more obscure media and texts are being referenced? This is even for fun stuff: we're currently working our way through the early seasons of "30 Rock" (from 2007 or so) and it's weird to notice that nobody has iPhones yet, and they can breezily reference Donald Trump and Bill Cosby for light laughs.

There's always more old media than new media, so I still find it special to experience something while it's still new and au courant. Yesterday I watched 'Dune: Part 2" on the big screen (though not the REALLY big screen - it was already overwhelming enough), and it was such a treat to engage with what's clearly a high quality piece of work from very talented people given plenty of resources and the latest in technology, but isn't entirely 100% successful.

The film is visually breath-taking, sounds literally earth-shaking, and manages to convey some extremely arch space opera concepts and plot points with flair and a human touch. Space operas have a tendency towards awkward stilted dialogue, especially when trying to be romantic, and Denis Villeneuve has found a cast of solid actors, given them good (if generally humourless) writing to work with, and knows how to direct them well. It makes the big moments feel much more like Shakespeare than a soap opera.

That said, the last third or so of the film makes some weird decisions, and shows signs of late-in-the-game edits and elisions. There's a great deal made about Paul staying in the North while everybody else goes South, but then the next thing you see he's also in the South. There are references to The Great Houses massing in orbit, but they're explained with a brief flash in the sky and some third-hand reporting from a random person in the crowd.

It looks like they're going to get the chance to do a third film, probably covering "Dune Messiah", which is likely to get extremely weird. I'm looking forward to how they handle that.

There are now three major adaptations of Dune, the current Villeneuve two-parter, David Lynch's wild-looking but very uneven misfire from 1984, and the lower-budget TV miniseries from 2000. It's rare that our popular culture gets to see multiple versions of the same story. This is something I enjoy about stage plays and opera productions, where the same basic story beats can be expressed very differently by each creative team of directors, designers, and cast.

Paul and Feyd duel in the 2024 production of Dune

I'm eager to go back and watch the Lynch Dune again soon, to see the different choices they made, and what worked and what didn't.

Paul and Feyd duel in the 1984 production of Dune

I've been super busy lately so blogging has taken a bit of a back seat in the last while. I was inspired to write this by Read Max's epic and entertaining post: Dune: Part 2 Annotated".

(I think I've finally gotten over my recent confusion between Paris Marx and Read Max. Now I just need to get Ben Thompson and Ben Evans straightened out.)

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