I know I haven’t posted since May but since I do have this space where I can rant about things I’m here to rant about Dune. Yes, I rarely watch movies and I wasted my precious time watching this one. I know I should be banned from going to the cinema after that.
Almost three hours (
although I left after two, partly because I refused to endure any more of it) of my time I won’t get back. Not only was this boring, which is a crime in itself for me, because I have the attention span of a goldfish, it was also a movie centering a white savior narrative approved for screenings in 2021—and getting good reviews.
I know little to none about the original books other than they’re classic sci-fi and that I decided to stay away from them because I heard they were kind of problematic and because I want to focus on reading other sci-fi books written by anyone but cis-straight men in the 40-90s. Canon this, canon that… I don’t care.
Oh men. I wish someone had warned us. Our poor innocent souls walked into the cinema thinking how amazing it was tickets were 3€. I feel like I would have enjoyed After 3 more.
This review might contain spoilers. But I don’t think anything relevant happened, so who cares. Also, I’m the whitest shade of white, so I encourage you to look for reviews written by poc for a more insightful view on some of the topics mentioned here.
I will start with the positives. The acting, the camera, the scenography, and the overall aesthetic of it were wasted on this. I’ll admit to being a fan of futuristic, neon lights, on-your-face designs when I’m thinking sci-fi, or even rundown, more steampunk takes on that, but this movie did an amazing job with magnificent never-ending dunes (duh) and that dessert-space opera look you can tell it’s set in the future but has a lot of natural elements and big open spaces. I really liked the spaceships and I’m obsessed with those insect-looking helicopters. Simple but effective. There were a few movement shots that also impressed me a lot. Ferguson did an amazing job.
Other than that, hmm. The soundtrack wasn’t bad either?
Now for the bad. Oh, boy. Now is when you start to ask yourself how long this review is going to be exactly. Too long for any sane person standards, probably.
So. Let’s start with the basics. The racisms. The protagonist is a white boy who’s both the heir of a duke that becomes the new regent of a planet whose resources they’re exploiting while fighting the natives and the breeded messiah of the people they’re colonizing, apparently.
So, uh. If you’re wondering how can it get worse than that… some of the aesthetic choices point to an Arabic/Islamic inspiration (although it doesn’t get more Christian than a white boy who’s supposed to get the people of color from a planet his family is colonizing to fight a holy war in his name) but there’re no Arabian actors portraying any of the few characters of color with importance in the movie. As a matter of fact, one of their leaders is portrayed by Javier Bardem. And they’re not only presented as barbaric or savage they’re actually called that plenty of times by the dialogue of the movie. Oh, and the only black character with speaking lines in all the movie dies while protecting the white boy and his mother (Dr. Liet Kynes, I’m going to give her some spotlight).
The people from that planet have evolved to resist the heat so their eyes are, logically, blue (I know this has to do with the power or the religion, I don’t care which one, I just think that giving clear eyes to dark-skinned characters just to show they’re powerful or different is tiring).
In the story, or at least what we can see on the first movie, they’re given roles of: the help, the ones that do the hard work of extracting the resource they’re colonizing the planet for, or some rebel threat that’s only a background threat because the real threat comes from another colonial power. They also die in high numbers when the empire decides that planet is a good place to kill the duke and all his family (why that couldn’t be done on their own planet is not discussed).
Now, the mother. She’s not even the duke’s wife, she’s a concubine. And she’s part of the Bene Gesserit, a group of weird nuns that are, apparently, immensely powerful, but only depicted as oracles who are breeding a chosen one (eugenics, yay! One more for bingo!) who obviously needs to be a man because it doesn’t matter what they’re capable of since they’re all… you know, women. Other than the aforementioned scientific, women in this movie are depicted as, well, that, either concubines or oracles or the help (that’s reserved for natives, who are also devoted religious people waiting for their white savior) and not a single one is involved in the fighting for any fraction (once again, at least not in this movie).
The main character, Paul, comes from a lineage of bullfighters, for some reason. And he’s the chosen one, according to his mom who made sure that he was the chosen one. He has visions that aren’t quite visions, and they all revolve around this girl from the planet his dad has to colonize, which he’s okay with in a broad sense like he knows there’s something kinda wrong maybe but it’s alright because someone has to colonize the savages before they can fight a holy war for him. Zendaya is in the poster, yes, but she’s barely in the movie other than to be part of Paul’s visions.
The only thing that could have saved this movie would have been if the POVs were switched. If they had taken some elements from the original books and had developed a better story from there. This was clearly a fanboy work, and not in a good way.