"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Friday, October 22, 2021

Dune, Part One: Half the Movie, Twice the Power of Most Other Complete Films

The first half of Dune -- over two-and-a-half hours of almost a six hour movie -- came up on HBO Max late yesterday.  It's also in theaters, and an expert critic or two proclaimed that it can't be fully or really appreciated unless you see it on the big screen.  Maybe my mind is prone to see in cinematic vistas, but I liked the movie just fine on my Mac Airbook.

In fact, I thought this first half of a movie was superb, far better than most other complete films, including David Lynch's 1984 brave attempt to do Dune (the only thing I remember about that movie was Sting).  The new 2021 first half of the movie was true in all important respects to the original Frank Herbert novel, very well acted and staged, with desert scenes that made me thirsty.  The sandworm and the Fremen were especially effective, and all the major characters shined (well, I guess you can't say that about the Harkonnen, who were nauseating, but that's exactly what they're supposed to be).

I've told people over the years who are thinking of starting the Dune book series -- I first read the novel in the mid-1970s, about ten years after Frank Herbert's masterpiece was finally published -- that they just need to suspend their judgement for the first third or more of the book, which is dense and often boring, and hold out for the tour-de-force it becomes as the story progresses.  That origin of Dune, that template that director Denis Villeneuve had to work with, makes his accomplishment even more impressive.  And in addition to the movie narrative, the battle scenes and the music are powerful, too.

Jason Momoa was outstanding -- he should talk in his roles in plain English more often.  His character Duncan Idaho has a great future ahead, and Momoa got him off to a good start.  I also liked Jason Bardem as Stilgar, and Zendaya was stirring as Chani the short time she was on the screen.  Oscar Isaac, who was powerful in Scenes of a Marriage, delivered the same as Duke Leto in Dune.

I first saw Rebecca Ferguson in Reminiscence earlier this year, and was struck by her performance.  She was fine in the crucial role of Lady Jessica in Dune.  I thought I saw some cheap shot at Timothée Chalamet in some review I glanced at and didn't read.  He was fine in the even more important, pivotal role of Paul.  I'm looking forward to seeing him with blue eyes.

That will happen in Part Two, when with any luck we'll also meet Alia, (maybe) see what happened to Duncan Idaho, see more of the Bene Gesserit, meet the Emperor, and who knows what else.  And I'll be back here when that movie is released with another review.

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