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Into the sands: Villeneuve’s Dune, Part the Second

This is actually a two-part blog; read the first part, an intro to the Dune world and its franchise and some refelctions thereon,  here

 

Okay. Just home from seeing Dune Part Two.

I’d got my ticket for the opening weekend a fairly long time ago (as soon as they became avaialble fo rsale) because, as I might have mentioned in that first part of this two-part blog post, I was practically frothing at the mouth to see this movie and I wanted to see it as soon as I could. But come the day the weather SET IN – it was raining/sleeting/snowing outside, and the temperatures were dropping like a stone thrown into the ocean which meant that all that lovely moisture was on the way to freezing right up…. but it is times like these that I wanted my AWD drive vehicle for, after all. So, mouthing to myself that “fear is the mindkiller”, I got into the car and sallied forth for my plunge into the desert.

You REALLY have to see movies like these on a big screen. There is no two ways about it.

The theatre was not overflowing but it was comfortably full (which makes me believe those massive opening weekend box office numbers that I’ve heard bruited about so far). And let me just say right from the word go that I did think that it ran just a little LONG (there really were moments where things could have been judiciously shaved off…) but at the same time it is so complex, and so much more complex than Part One, that it often gave precisely the opposite effect, that of things having been telescoped and shorthand-relegated with a reliance on an audience who already knew the backstory. On the whole, Villeneuve did do a decent job of threading that needle – too much information, not enough information – although I suspect that you WOULD have to have a basic grasp of the storyline for all of this to make sense.

Like I said, in that first blog post, Dune Part One was definitely a movie about a boy, someone who was thrown into some fairly serious and shattering events but nevertheless a boy. That boy no longer exists in this second part of Dune. There is a wariness and a weariness and a hardness in Paul Atreides that simply wasn’t there before, in Part One. He was vulnerable back then. He is still vulnerable in the second movie, but those are moments when his guard slips. For the most part, he’s crawled in behind a suit of armor, of being heir to Duke Leto – being an adopted Fremen – seeing the future and knowing it was awful whatever he did – knowing that he would have to do the unspeakable and become exactly that which he did not want to be. And Chalamet does a beautiful job with this. So does Zendaya’s Chani, and the emotions that flow through her eyes and across her face during Paul’s confrontation with the EMperor are almost worth the price of admission by themselfes. Stilgar is a character meticulouisly carved – alive, and full of humor, wisdom, and finally fanatical faith, and all of those Stilgars (and the character’s journey through these facets) are beautifully done – and the expression on his face while watching Paul ride his first sandworm almost made me weep. There are heartstopping moments that are almost beyond description, mostly involving Shai Hulud – Paul’s calling, and then riding, the Grandfather Worm had me holding my breath, and the depiction of how the Water of Life was gathered practically had me in tears. I might have done with a little less active warfare which sometimes began to border on the gratuitious – but having said that I have to admit that the shots of serried ranks of Fremen rising from concealing sands where absolutely nothing showed a moment before were stirring stuff. But some of the stuff that was left out was kind of important – the word “Abomination” was heard to be uttered but not enough substance was given for it to achieve its full weight in the story and in any event it was misdirected – from the way I understood it the epithet was flung at Paul, in this movie, and not where Herbert’s Bene Gesserit bestowed it, on Paul’s pre-born sister Alia, gifted or cursed with generational memories while still in the womb.

I suspect I will be buying this movie when it becomes available on DVD. But I’m just as glad I first saw the Grandfather Worm in his FULL glory on a larger-than-life movie theatre screen.

 

Recommended viewing.

 

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