Long-time readers of this site know that the mythology and cultural detritus of the Dune novels have littered my writing for the best part of two decades now. Unfortunately some of my favorite Dune-related content had to be deleted from Riverside Green during the Time Of The Great Whining To My Employer About Mean Website Articles last year. That’s okay because you can find much of it told somewhat more coherently on Scott Locklin’s site.
There is something about Dune and its sequels that has proven magnetic to the disaffected-individualist-intellectual typa dude again and again since 1965. We called President Trump the “God Emperor” in ironic homage to Leto II, the tragic hero of the fourth book in the series. (In hindsight, we can see that Trump was more like Paul Atreides, who unleashed a jihad then ran into the desert rather than live with the consequences of his actions, but no matter.) During my two decades in tech contracting, I often referred to some enthusiastic but misguided colleague as having “put himself in the way of the Harkonnen fist” and this phrasing never failed to elicit a knowing smile in the nerds around me.
Recently I compelled my twelve-year-old son to put his metaphorical hand in the metaphorical gom-jabbar painbox by making the completion of Dune a condition for the arrival of a new airsoft gun. He’s cheating my directive a bit by listening to the audiobook more than reading the actual pages, but it’s still been tough going for him. So I took him to the theater to see the new Dune movie, figuring it would whet his appetite to pick up the book and see how it all ends. In this attempt, I was successful, much like Miles Teg negotiating the Bene Gesserit forces out of yet another deadly confrontation, or perhaps the Grand Honored Matre forcing a Futar to do her bidding. (You haven’t read Chapterhouse:DUNE? Shame on you!)
My hopes were fairly low, as Dune is one of those books that seems designed to elude a competent film adaptation. This 2021 release, which covers the first half of the first book, is the third complete attempt to tell at least some of Frank Herbert’s story, following the infamous 1984 David Lynch film and the Sci-Fi mini-series. (A moment of silence for Alejandro Jodorowsky and his attempt to make a 14-hour Dune movie.) It’s received generally positive reviews, but that means very little in a world where most film critics are motivated almost entirely by considerations of culture and politics. What follows is a brief review from the perspective of a lifelong Dune fan and compulsive re-reader of the series.
Obviously, there are spoilers ahead, for a 1965 book and its kinda-sorta-faithful adaptation.