"Dune" (2021, 1984 films based on Frank Herbert's 1965 book)

“Dune” (This time, a “Part 1”)

I sinned yesterday and watched “Dune” on HBOMAX. (Since then, I have walked into a wrong auditorium once and caught a glimpse of one of the desert scenes for real.)

The new version by Denis Villeneuve (written with Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth) is a Part 1, ending after Paul Atreides (a charismatic Timothée Chalamet) wins a small duel in the Arrakis desert.  He has yet to become the Smallville-like savior to save his tribe in this interplanetary Game of Thrones. Villeneuve will do a Part 2 before taking on Clarke's "Rendezvous with Rama".

I read Frank Herbert’s 1965 book in 1969 while in the Army. (I also read "Atlas Shrugged" about that time, and the trio of Atlas movies is not all that convincing.) There are many planets in the Dune system around several stars, but the three most important seem to be in one solar system, with the Scotland-like Caladan the home field.

The inhabitants seem to be descendent from Earth (AD 10191), and are carefully bred.  The Altreides house wanted a daughter but got a studious articulate young man instead as a prince  He must prove himself, as when Lady  Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) tests his body integrity with the gom jabbar.

So, the political culture is royal and authoritarian, but with no AI.

Most indoor scenes have few people and seem to be inside spacious darkly lit castles.  We see little real, ordinary life of the people.

The plot, as is well known, centers around control if the spice, analogous to oil on Earth in the 1970s; but spice has properties enabling affordable space travel . The desert planet Arrakis looks like the setting of “Lawrence of Arabia” – but there is a spectacular view of a capital city, ancient and low rise with pyramids and step-ups.  Paul gets OJT from the ornocopter above a spice harvester (looks like mad max)  He witnesses a sandworm eat up a carelessly deployed harvester. He is not pleased to get high accidentally from spice exposure.

I miss the craziness of David Lynch’s 1984 film.  There we saw the Guild as floating jelly Donovan-brains (like in the 50s horror movie where the immersed brain manipulated the stock market) and watched the Harkonnen baron (here, in the new film, Stellan Skarsgård) float to a ceiling , and an entire Geidi planet surface black with fossil fuels – a climate warning at the time.

The volume level in the HBO was too soft.

Name: Dune (Part 1)

Director, writer:          Denis Villeneuve et al

Released: 2021/10/21

Format:            2.39:1, Imax

When and how viewed:   HBO Max subsc. 2021/0/22

Length:            155

Rating: PG-13

Companies: Legendary, Warner Brothers

Link: official WB

Stars: ****_

(Posted on Sat. Oct 23, 2021 at 10 AM EDT)