Dune 2

When the first part of Dune came out I was still very much avoiding movie theatres. This time I was able to see the film in the beautiful little cinema at Brynamman, which is very much how it was supposed to be viewed. I even got an ice cream in the intermission between the tailers and the main feature.

I mention that piece of cinema tradition because the thing that came to mind most after seeing Dune 2 is the work of Cecil B DeMille. This was movie-making on a grand scale. It was what movies were made for. The canvas was vast, the stakes epic, the visuals stunning, and the soundtrack arresting. I expect the film to feature heavily in next year’s Oscars.

I’m also planning to buy the film on BluRay so that I can watch both films back-to-back when I get the chance (probably next Yule).

And yet, and yet, I worry.

Some people, I am sure, will object to changes made to the plot of the book. Some of these were done to avoid having a “ten years later” interlude, but I think maybe the story works better with Paul becoming a dangerous demagogue with him being still a teenager and having so little life experience to temper his behaviour.

Other changes are perhaps more fundamental. Paul’s sister, Alia, has not yet been born. There is no sign yet of his son with Chani. Chani herself has undergone a major change in character. Some of these, I think, will make it easier for Denis Villeneuve to pitch a third film to the studio. Others, particularly the Chani one, are for the better. It is a long time since I read the books, but I do remember them devolving into an unfocussed mess. And also, if you have Zendaya in your movie, you’d be an idiot not to give her a bigger and more important role.

My main concern about the film, however, is that, despite its length, it tries to fit too much in. The characters aren’t given enough time to develop naturally, and instead have to rely on brief staged scenes to convey their changes in view. Consequently Stilgar ends up seeming like a bit of an idiot, and the Harkonnens are way too cartoonish in their villainy.

I also worry that anyone who isn’t familiar with the book will be completely lost as to what is going on. Personally I had some difficultly spotting the difference between Princess Irulan and Lady Margot. And if I’m confused, heaven help anyone who hasn’t read the books.

So where did all the time go? Dune 2 is 11 minutes longer than the first movie, giving a combined total of 321 minutes. That’s still almost 100 minutes short of the running time of the John Harrison TV series, which I thought did a decent job with the plot. You can fit a lot of plot into 100 minutes. Also Villeneuve spends a lot of time giving us amazing visuals, which is great, but doesn’t advance the plot.

Of course there is probably no way Villeneuve could have got permission to make 3 extra-long films to get this far. Especially as he clearly wants to make at least one more film. So we have to be grateful for the stunning movie experience that he has given us. I’m not going to complain. Much.

I will, however, complain bitterly if we don’t get a third film, because we are yet to see a Guild Steersman, or a Face Dancer.