Into the sands, part 1: Dune, redux…

So. I had a hot ticket in hand for Dune #2 this afternoon at 2 pm but by barely past noon the weather was DOING THINGS. Doing things I did not like. At all. It was raining/sleeting/snowing and the temperatures were dropping and because it was WET outside things were likely to get iced up fast if I got really unlucky. However, armed with my new all wheel drive car (this was exactly what I wanted the damn car FOR, so I could maybe do days like this without shaking with terror), I decided I was going to brave the elements, and mouthing to myself “Fear is the mindkiller…” I sallied forth into the storm.


My full thoughts on Part The Second in the next blogpost, which is going to pop on the 20th both here and on the Book View Cafe blog, but before we get there, let’s just look over our shoulder a little bit – at the Dune adaptations that came before, and at Villeneuve’s Dune (Part the First).


Appaarently there was a TV series adaptation but I never saw that version so we shall leave it aside. The first adapatation that I did see was the somewhat larger-than-life Lynch version. It had both absolute beauty (Francesca Annis made a fitting Jessica, being one of the most beautiful women of her age…) and the ick factor by the bucketload (this version’s Baron Harkonnen was one enormous oozing pustule, you kind of wanted to back away right away from the screen you were watching this on, lest some of it splash on you by accident and burn a hole through you like a drop of distilled acid might). Its protagonist and antagonist were just plain pretty (Kyle McLachlan’s Paul and Sting’s Feyd Rautha). It was a vivid and visual experience, and it eventually ended up  coming across like a glorious graphic novel, full of colour and texture, but even while it made stabs at the depth of the subject matter that’s what they were, stabs, and you knew that there was depth there but you also knew that you were trying to get at a planet’s core while digging with a spork. Still. Francesca Annis. I’ll forgive a lot for that.


When Villeneuve took it on, back in the beginning, there was a lot of chatter about it, and a whole heap of anticipation… but I don’t know that any of us fully expected that first movie to end on the kind of cliffhanger that it did and that it would be “Part One”. Anticipation for Part Two immediately went into overdrive… and then all kinds of things happened… including an industry strike that paralysed Hollywood… and Part 2 got pushed from November of 2023 into March of 2024, and I only just got home from seeing that… but before we go there, let’s just glance back at Part 1.


Given the Lynch vaccination, as it were, I was almost wary when I went to see that first Villeneuve Dune in the cinemas – but it was also one of the few, the VERY few, movies that I braved going into the cinema for in the Age of Covid. This was quite simply not one of those movies that you could get away with seeing on the small screen, not for the first time, anyway. THis was the deep desert and for the full impact it needed to be splashed across a two-storey-high movie scree, dammit. Shai Hulud deserved nothing less.


That first movie left me shattered and exhilarated and gasping for more. It was a tour de force, even though I did not completely agree with all of its choices (WHY make Liet Kynes a woman..?) Villeneeuve nailed it visually – with thoughtfully chosen colour palettes and beautifully (if sometimes brutally) appropriate architecture situated in breathlessly filmed scenery. And the worm encounter – especially when experienced for the first time on that big screen – was simply everything that it could be. But the director deliberately leaned a little on the innocence in the first segment of the saga, when it came to Paul Atreides – Timothee Chalamet portrayed an intelligent and fairly mature and well taught boy, but he was definitely a boy in Part 1. That… stayed back there. I mean, Dune One was the harrowing one where the Atreides were annihilated and yes, you’re right, there was precious little “innocence” in that – but somehow most of that first movie was a depiction of a coming of age. That “Age” has arrived in part 2 (more of that in the second blog post).


This was a wonderful example of what it is possible to do when you set out to transfer a beloved printed novel into a different format and turn it into a visual immersion piece while still keeping true to the story you set out to adapt. Beautifully done, with sensitivity and (dare I say it) love. This clearly had a guiding hand that cared deeply about the source material and wanted more than to just do it justice, it wanted to do it proud. And it succeeded.


It left us teetering on a (surprise) precipice that took more than a year to fulfil its promise; and I’ve heard rumours that Villeneuve wants to make a third movie and thus accomplish a (gasp) trilogy work on the subject of Dune but nothing firm is avaialble yet in terms of greenlighting that although I do suspect that the box office receipts of the opening weekend of part the second of Dune might give that third movie a solid shove in the right direction (and if it does, hallelujah, I for one can’t wait). If Part One was a loving introduction, Part Two sails into the teeth of the winds of prophecy and fate, and Part Three is sorely needed to bring it all into harbor safely. I do hope it happens.

On my thoughts on Part Two, watch this space on March 20…