‘Dune ending gets a frustrating thing about the books

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Although the most nuanced and patient blockbuster in recent memory, that of Denis Villeneuve Dune: part one likely won’t elicit a nuanced or patient response from the mainstream moviegoer. For all the Dune hot takes and deep dives in the sand, the dominant and inescapable truth of this version of Dune it is that it is fundamentally incomplete.

Some might say that the running time of Dune It sounds like a long time, but when you consider how abruptly it ends, the story is actually cut short. Until the existence of Dune: part two becomes clear, the prevailing feeling about the new movie is that it leaves us hanging. While this is quite frustrating, it is also, eerily perfect. The whole story of all things Dune is the story of free ends. The most true Dune is unfinished Dune. Here’s why.

Light spoilers ahead for Dune: part one.

The terrible truth of Dune‘s end

Paul (Timothée Chalamet) in Dune: part oneWarner bros

It’s no secret that Dune: part one ends approximately 500 pages in the 794 pages (excluding appendices) that make up the bulk of the story of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune. It’s also not a spoiler to reveal that towards the end of the film, Chani (Zendaya) tells Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet), “This is just the beginning.”

Specifically, Chani could have said, “It’s about two-thirds from the start, but it also depends on how far we’re going to go in the series.”

Villeneuve made it clear that he wanted to make a trilogy of films from of them novels – Dune and Messiah of the dunes – and the end of Dune: part one is the setting up of the events of the rest of the proposed trilogy. If you just watch Dune: part one on HBO Max, this could make the film appear to be too long a pilot episode for a TV series that may or may not be picked up again.

To say Dune: part one is a masterpiece is not fake, but it is also a bit like one of those incomplete Van Gogh paintings. It’s not that it’s not great – it is – but its basic incompleteness, the missing pieces of the narrative puzzle are, bizarrely, its defining characteristic.

What Dune: part one abandoned

Zendaya towards the end of Dune: part one.Warner Bros.

Apart from the fact that Dune: part one stops before the start of the third part of the book, there are also a plethora of other details of the novel that the film omits. Non-librarians probably have no idea what Dr Yueh (Chang Chen) is motivated by, nor is it made clear that Thufir Hawat (Stephen McKinley Henderson) is a “Mentate” (a sort of traveling computer that has served in the Atreides House for generations). The relationship between Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) and his “concubine” Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) is unclear in the film, and we also don’t learn why the Duke gives Lady Jessica the cold shoulder in. that part of the story. (In the book, there is a whole subplot about Leto that must publicly be to pretend like he’s mad at Jessica for cheating on his political rivals.)

In short, the novel Dune, despite its epic reputation, focuses on the inner life of its characters. This is why the incessant voiceover of David Lynch 1984 Dune is both a curse, but oddly, closer to the feeling of reading the book.

Villeneuve’s version approaches the representation of events of the book correctly but seems strangely removed from its characters. Certainly, we find a lot of Paul Atréides in this film, but do we really understand his journey? Throughout most of the film, he is bewildered and reluctant to take on the role of leader. Then when he has no choice, we just have to accept that he has changed.

It works in the novel in a way that barely works in the movie. As Paul rants at Liet-Kynes (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) about how he will make Arrakis a “paradise” with a “wave of my fortune” when he becomes emperor, it’s like we have an Anakin entire Arc Skywalker in about 20 minutes.

Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) and Gurney (Josh Brolin) in Dune.Warner Bros.

In Dune: part one, Paul’s journey should be central, but because the film must so slavishly depict every step of the Harkonnen invasion, we don’t really see Paul changing. Leto is murdered and Paul is suddenly a bigger jerk.

These flaws also exist in the novel. The difference is, the book is designed to make you uncomfortable on all of these themes in ways that the movie doesn’t really do. Instead, the movie leaves you confused as to what you think of Paul and his Messianic ascendant. He doesn’t have one of those over-the-top Anakin Skywalker “uh-oh” moments, but sort of what he would.

The only things Dune: part one leaves Paul’s future visions to interpretation, while the rest of the film is relentlessly literal. But oddly enough, some of these counterintuitive dream sequences are actually the ones where we feel closest to Paul. In these moments, the plot counts less, that’s when the story of Dune is actually at its best.

The curse of trying to “finish” Dune

Frank Herbert wrote six novels in the Dune saga, and in the last volume, Chapter room: Dune (1985), the events of history too ends on a cliffhanger. To be clear, Chapter takes place approximately 17,000 years after the events of Dune and Dune: Messiah, which means that other than a cloned version of Duncan Idaho, you’re not really dealing with any of the original characters at this point.

Herbert died before writing the seventh book, but his son Brian Herbert and novelist Kevin J. Anderson “ended” the saga with Dune hunters and Towards the sands of the dunes. Reactions to these books have been decidedly mixed, with many fans calling it “one of the worst books” of all time. Whether the claims are objectively true is not really the issue. The point is, in all mediums, Dune is always unfinished, and no one is ever entirely happy.

Jodorowsky’s failed attempt to make Dune in the 1970s is perhaps the best example. Pundits liked to call it “the greatest science fiction film ever made.” The sci-fi channel managed to adapt the entire first book into an early 2000s miniseries, but was only able to cover Messiah of the dunes and Children of Dune by combining them into a single follow-up mini-series.

In terms of film and television, there has been no attempt to adapt the series beyond the third book. When you thought about how many successful sci-fi / fantasy book series have been adapted into TV shows and movie franchises, it’s a little shocking. Harry Potter got eight films for seven pounds. Foundation fits seven books at the same time. Same The vampire diary adapted several novels. Why adapt Dune very difficult?

Why Dune can never be finished

Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica in Dune.Warner bros

Despite all the praise Dune receives for its impressive world build, its reputation is principally depends on its ideas and themes, not on its story. It might sound hyperbolic, but try to find someone who tells you Heretics of Dune (1984) or Chapter room: Dune (1985) are their favorite in the series. You won’t. Maybe you will find those who claim Messiah of the dunes Where Children of Dune are just as good as the original, but even that is a minority opinion.

At least one opinion on Dune: part one claims that “the next Lord of the Rings and Star Wars is here”. It’s wrong. The three books of the Lord of the Rings are loved as well, and the story told in these three books is cohesive and satisfying.

This is simply not true of the Dune pounds beyond the first. Now i don’t say the Lord of the Rings is better than Dune, in fact, in some respects it is not. Because the route of Dune is so unwieldy, it could actually be a better art than the Lord of the Rings. There is no clear hero. Bad guys are bad guys, but good guys are worse sometimes. The main characters come and go. With these novels, Frank Herbert did something that wasn’t populist: Paul doesn’t have a hero trip, because Herbert’s message was to “beware of heroes.” As literature, it’s daring and fascinating.

However, that kind of thinking doesn’t necessarily work for big blockbusters. Subtlety is difficult. Although Villeneuve says Dune is the “opposite” of a white savior movie and rejects the “traditional” hero narratives, his movie doesn’t always make it clear. Instead of, Dune: part one try to have it both ways. He wants to be the start of a big, epic and exciting franchise, but he also wants to stay true to the obscure, less definable and ruminative aspects of the books.

Dune: part one makes building blockbuster franchises better than the winding vibe of the sci-fi novel. But, because the film seems unfinished – and may very well remain so – it ends up being true to the vision of the Dune pounds after all.

It may not be satisfying to experience the non-end of this book. But the experience of reading all the books is not satisfying either. And maybe it’s okay. Maybe the metatextual message of Dune is not about the geopolitics of sandworms, but rather what we expect from our stories. In a world where books, TV shows, and movies follow a formula of climaxes, endings, and resolutions, Dune dares to let all his sons hang.

Chani is right, after all. This is only the beginning, because in life, it always is.

Dune: part one airs on HBO Max and in theaters on October 22, 2021.


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