November 29, 2021

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Things I did not like about the DUNE movie

I created a new YouTube movie for the DUNE movie directed by Denis Villeneuve. The script in full is printed below. If you enjoy the video then please click the like button. That will improve its visibility on YouTube immeasurably. And if you enjoy the content feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Introduction

This DUNE movie, as directed by Denis Villeneuve is amongst the best sci-fi movies ever made, perhaps amongst the best movies ever – period. For me it ranks among Blade Runner, its own sequel directed by Denis, Star Wars and The Matrix. I have seen Dune 3 times and I remain amazed just at how accessible it is. Denis Villeneuve and fellow writer Eric Roth took into account lessons learned from Blade Runner 2049 and have created an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s multi-layered story that retains its essence without confusing the audience with too much detail.

Yet, as a die-hard Dune fan for over 20 years I see where the director has paired the story down. In this video I will be discussing some of those choices and how they make me feel negative while knowing – intellectually – that such cuts were the right choice. I will also be discussing what the consequences are of these cuts for Dune: Part 2.

Faithful adaptation

First off, at 155 minutes Dune remains generally faithful to the novel. At the beginning Denis added a scene that shows Duke Leto and his family accepting the emperor’s command to occupy the fiefdom of Arrakis. This scene is to show those not familiar with the franchise what is at stake. It is when the story reaches Arrakis that sections of the novel are omitted. The grand banquet hosted by the Duke and Lady Jessica is completely gone, because of this the first culmination of the smuggler sub-plot is also excised from the movie – there is no character named Esmar Tuek in the movie. Immediately as a result the show-down between Lady Jessica and Hawat is also removed.

Dune 2021 - Baron Harkonnen played by Stellan Skarsgard

In this discussion Hawat accuses Jessica of being a Harkonnen spy and Jessica more than hints at her incredible powers. However, with Hawat’s role diminished and Lady Jessica powers established earlier on there was no need for this scene, this also means the spy / saboteur sub-plot could be removed. Or maybe the scene was cut because the spy / saboteur sub-plot was removed. We know parts of it were filmed as there is a promotional still showing dr. Yueh talking with Lady Jessica.

However, the results are the removal of some of my favorite scenes from the book. Both set during the evening and night before the destruction of House Atreides – the calm before the storm as it were. In the movie, the attack by the Harkonnen’s and Sardaukar now comes off more of surprise and sooner than most fans would anticipate, but it does make it feel more impactful as a result. Had the scenes remained the assault would have felt stilted.

Reduced roles

However, it means that several characters see much of their role reduced – especially Thufir Hawat. I hope Dune: Part 2 will remedy that, the plot of Baron Harkonnen to make himself a target for the emperor – goaded on by Thufir – is critical to the complete Dune story.

For that matter I was sad to see the much-reduced role of House Harkonnen in this movie. The lengthy conversation between the Baron and Piter is now less than a minute and I feel lacks the gravitas – though Stellan Skarsgard does an excellent attempt at implicating the emperor in the fall of House Atreides. Overall, the role of Piter de Vries was much reduced. Considering he is the direct opponent of Hawat it is understandable that of one role is reduced so is the other, but as a fan of the novel I can say Piter always stood out as a villain with complex emotions and motives. His reduced role removes most of that. However, the baron, Rabban and of course Feyd-Rautha should make reappearances in Dune: Part 2.

Dune 2021 - Duke Leto played by Oscar Isaac

Reduced scope of this DUNE movie

Finally, the thing I did not like about the movie for which I can find no explanation was the reduction of its scope. House Atreides is by no means among the richest or most powerful houses of the Landsraad, but I felt disappointed by the power they displayed on Arrakis. We got a cool scene at Arrakeen but Atreides troops were deployed throughout the northern hemisphere of the planet with a significant contingent at Carthage plus outlying garrisons. As such I miss the space opera feeling the original brought in abundance.

I would have preferred the fight between Atreides against the Sardaukar and Harkonnen to have lasted longer and stayed closer to the events of the book.

We may yet see more combat in the opening scenes of Dune: Part 2. The capture of Thufir Hawat and the early battles between Fremen and Sardaukar are an important catalyst for the plot, though I suspect the movie will move straight on to show Thufir Hawat being a captive of the Harkonnen. Meanwhile the actor that plays Hawat, Stephen McKinley Henderson, believes we need to see more of him to understand him more. The character has to deal throughout his capture by the Harkonnen’s with his failure to save his Duke, all the while he is plotting revenge against the Baron and the Emperor.

Dune 2021 - Paul inspects the date palms

Conclusion

As I said in the beginning, director Denis Villeneuve had the unenviable task of what to retain with this adaptation. I think he has done a superb job. Now with Dune: Part 2 confirmed to go into production for an October 2023 release we are well underway to see the adaptation completed. I think Part 2 will have more opportunity to show deeper character motivation. Scenes such as the conversation between Count Fenring and Baron Harkonnen as well that between Thufir Hawat and the Baron are on the top of my list of scenes I do not want to see cut.

How about you guys, now that Dune has been out for a while what are your thoughts on it and what do you want to see form Dune: Part 2?

Please like this video so the YouTube algorithm will act favorable, also subscribe if you want to see more Dune content.

That was it for the script for this DUNE movie