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Dune (2021)

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  • Dune (2021)

    Dune is absolutely awe inspiring, while also being incredibly frustrating, often at the same time.

    The first thing to naturally do is compare it to David Lynch's 1984 version. While that version was messy from a script standpoint, it did have a unique and unmatched visual look that hasn't really been surpassed since, with all of it's baroque set design and costumes. The 2021 version also has a unique design, but it's cloaked in a drab, almost black and white color palette and frequent darkness that makes a lot of detail simply impossible to see. It's just too dark in places, end of story.

    Acting wise, the movies are more or less on equal footing, although this version doesn't have stunt casting like Sting, so maybe that means it loses?

    Music score is another wash. While Toto's score from '84 is okay and even interesting in spots, Hans Zimmer is simply a better composer. Unfortunately, that being said all the irritating 'Zimmer-isms' are present here: choirs, pounding percussion, an immense, bloated low end, and all of it played at max volume far, far too often. I was hopeful he'd grown up a bit after his authentic (and very good) score for "No Time to Die" but Dune proved me wrong. The rest of the sound is good, if not quite exceptional. As expected, it's extremely dynamic and really pounds the LFE in places, but sounds effect frequently get buried under oppressive music, and that just irritates me.

    Script wise, this movie is much more coherent and focused than the '84 edition, but it still leaves out tons of information that could help explain this intricate world and how it works. I get that it had to be done to get the running time manageable, but I still found myself filling in the gaps with my own knowledge of the Dune-iverse a bit too often.

    This movie is also frustratingly incomplete. To it's credit it doesn't hide the fact that it's "Part 1", but it also puts a lot of faith in Warner Brothers approving a second film (which isn't a given). The story ends at an appropriate place (such as it is) but it's clear that the meat of the story is still untold. An unfortunate consequence of this split is the ineffectiveness of the Baron Harkonnen and his nephew Rabban as villains, as they barely appear in this film.

    At this point it's hard to really evaluate Dune (Part 1) since there is so much missing from the final picture. What we do have is a visually impressive (when you can see it) spectacle with good visual effects that really does need to be seen on a huge screen with a powerful sound system. It has three standout sequences: an attack by a sandworm on a spice harvester, the Harkonnen assault on the planet, and the final Sardukar/Duncan Idaho battle. At these points the movie is firing on all cylinders: visually, editorially, and aurally, and it's all very impressive. Too bad it's only halfway done with no guarantee that it'll be finished.

  • #2
    I saw Dune yesterday in Auditorium 5 at the Regal Continental in Denver.

    Auditorium 5 is the Continental's original auditorium, which once housed a magnificent deeply-curved 78-foot-wide D-150 screen, but was remodeled with a smaller screen, ostensibly because digital projection couldn't hold up on a screen that large, at least in the early 2k days. The vast, traditionally-sloped auditorium was also remodeled with a stadium configuration, where the front rows are flat-ish, the prime real-estate in the center is replaced by a walk-through row, and the back half slopes up steeply.

    I went to the Continental because A) the larger screen at the Cine-Capri at Harkins Northfield is currently closed for renovations; and B) I wanted to see if the changes to auditorium 5 were as bad as I remembered, prompted in part by a discussion with William Kucharski in the What's the latest theatre to close or open you have heard about? thread.

    I'm happy to report that, while it's still terrible that the original screen and configuration are gone, the presentation was pretty good. The screen isn't as big as it used to be, but it's decently large. The seats that are close enough for the screen to fill your field of vision do require you to look up a little more than I prefer, but it isn't uncomfortable. The Northfield Cine-Capri still wins on both counts here, but again, Auditorium 5 at the Continental is a perfectly decent alternative. The audio was strong, with an enveloping Atmos soundfield and a wide dynamic range. Without more A/B comparisons, I'd put the audio on the same level as the Cine-Capri.

    I did have two complaints about the audio, but I suspect these may be due to the mix rather than the theater. Mild Spoiler in bullet 2.
    1. Some of the dialog was difficult to understand.
    2. When Baron Harkonnen was found high on the ceiling, audio from him came from the ceiling speakers behind me, despite the fact that he was on-screen, in front of me.

    I should also mention that the trailer audio played without any picture at first. Several people left the auditorium and it was fixed before the feature started, so it didn't actually impact the presentation... but sheesh.

    Also, Auditorium 5 (aka RPX) is the only auditorium I can recommend at Regal's Continental theater. I haven't been in all of the others, but the ones I have been in should be avoided.

    More Spoilers

    As for the movie itself... yeah, it was spectacular, but I found it to be emotionless and dull. I was glad I saw it, but I didn't come away with any desire to see it again. As for the "three standout sequences" Jon mentioned above, one was spoiled by the trailers and another was spoiled by the movie itself (via Paul's visions). The climactic sequence involved Paul and a random guy we just met, which left zero doubt about the outcome, and zero tension.

    End Spoilers

    Villeneuve has commented that he couldn't imagine shooting Dune 1 and 2 back-to-back like Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films, saying: "Frankly I don't know how Peter Jackson did it."

    Having recently watched all three LotR:EE films in the theaters, I noticed that a lot of the effects don't hold up perfectly if you look closely. Jackson got the story (and more importantly, the emotions) onto the screen without worrying about making sure everything looked photorealistic. Villeneueve appears to have done the opposite.

    Ultimately, however, I fear that it may be more appropriate to compare Dune to Bakshi's 1978 version of The Lord of the Rings... an incomplete story that never got its conclusion.


    • #3
      I was going to watch the 2021 version of Dune on the AMC Patriot 13 IMAX-branded screen here in Lawton yesterday afternoon. When I arrived at the theater yesterday afternoon a bunch of customers were standing around in the parking lot. Some electricians were working on a utility box outside. I walked up to the theater entrance to ask staffers what was happening. They said a water pipe broke in the theater and flooded one or more auditoriums. No shows today. They said something along the lines of the theater might re-open next Wednesday. I overheard someone else talking about the building foundation. Even if that isn't an issue, fixing water damage doesn't happen real fast. I think there is no telling when or even if this theater will re-open. That leaves Lawton with one operational theater, the Vaska, which only operates on an odd, part-time basis, only occasionally showing movies. I'm kind of surprised the old building hasn't already been turned into a marijuana grow house.


      • #4
        My biggest gripe with this, is that it isn't a complete story and despite the thing being labeled "Part 1" in the opening credits, a release date for "Dune 2", if there ever will be one, has yet to be set. The 1984 film, while notoriously deviating from the book on quite a few key issues, at least tried to tell a complete story and compared to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you at least knew there would be a sequel next year, so the time invested into this, somehow felt better spent.

        Visually, this thing was as impressive as it could get, although I felt it was strongly influenced by the general looks of the 1984 movie, one that Frank Herbert still worked on himself and as such, apparently did get his approval.


        • #5
          Per the comment about dialogue. Yes, there are a few scenes in which the dialogue is almost impossible to make out. I thought perhaps it was just our theater, but then I saw many reviews that mentioned the same thing.

          The film is indeed visually stunning and the sound mix makes your system fire on all cylinders. Aside from the dialogue issues, well done.

          Glad they had Zimmer do the soundtrack. His incorporation of the organ in films really makes certain parts stand out. Love hearing a couple scenes in this movie from the lobby. To hear the organ shine through the rest of the music really makes already grand scenes larger than life.
          Last edited by James Wyrembelski; 10-24-2021, 02:22 PM.


          • #6
            I have not seen it yet, but the problem with the sound got me worrying that Dune might get the same reception that Tenet got. I did a search on "Dune sound problems" which took me to Reddit and these comments:

            I really liked a lot of the unique sound effects that different things got, but Paul's lines during his spice visions weren't loud enough or clear enough.
            I feel that the score and effects were too loud and the voices weren't loud enough. I lost half of what was being said by Paul and Jessica during the gom jabbar. Hans Zimmer did a great new thing in Inception, but I didn't need that sound in Dune. Maybe it was just the theater I was in.
            I had the same issue, but when they arrived on Arrakis. Couldn't understand what they were saying over ambient sound/music. But consensus seems so strongly otherwise I have to wonder if it was my theater.
            So I had a slightly different experience. I went in with very high expectations. Saw the non-Imax regular version in the cinema. The sound design was absolute horseshit. Like it was mixed by someone wearing headphones.
            The battle scenes were so loud my fiance and I literally had our hands over our ears. The other half of the dialogue was lost to mumbling. It didn't ruin the movie outright, but it definitely didn't seem right. Maybe it was the theatre I saw it in, but it was really, really disappointing.

            They are blaming theaters for the poor sound mix!


            • #7
              Originally posted by Ed Gordon View Post
              They are blaming theaters for the poor sound mix!
              That's pretty typical, as most people really have no understanding of film sound, how it's created or where the real control over dynamics is established.

              In our theater a few lines of dialog were definitely muffled and the action scenes certainly got loud (as noted in my review), especially with Zimmer's score. It's not quite as 'stupid loud' as Godzilla Vs. Kong, but ironically I liked GvK's mix better, as it's music wasn't quite so overpowering. Most of it's volume came from sound effects, and dialog was easily understandable.


              • #8
                Apparently, the sequel got green-lit today. So it looks like we can expect a sequel somewhere in the next few years. It will be interesting to see if this sequel will cover at least the remainder of the first book, so the story can get some kind of closure, of if they want to drag this out over two extra parts.


                • #9
                  Yeah for 2023. Hope they can craft a worthy successor with the same scale and quality level as Part 1. For all the nitpicks I've thrown, they're all at choices the filmmakers made. Technically, this movie is almost without peer and it would be a shame if part 2 gets shafted in that regard in order to get it done in two years.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Ed Gordon
                    They are blaming theaters for the poor sound mix!
                    The customers might be on to something if their trips to the theater have been anything like mine to sites in Oklahoma and Colorado.

                    For the past several years every time I've seen a movie on a non-premium screen the volume levels were set relatively low. The levels are not nearly the same as what you would hear in a room with a premium brand and ticket price. The overall character of audio was no more dynamic than me listening to the built-in speakers in my TV set at home at a modest volume level. That's different from the loudness issues mentioned above. But the lack of volume and overall dynamics can often make it a struggle to hear passages of dialog that are mixed pretty low, compounded by actors mumbling their lines.

                    Back in the 1990's when digital sound for 35mm film prints was slowly rolling out to a growing number of theaters, the theaters equipped for it usually showed off the capability (some did it better than others). Back then customers didn't have to a pay a premium to see a movie in a well configured 5.1 auditorium or even in a THX-certified house either. Today 5.1/7.1 LCPM audio is common to most theaters. From my own recent experiences the only time I encounter a theater today delivering any real dynamic kick with that kind of audio is when I'm paying around $3 extra to see the movie in a premium house. Otherwise they seem to have the audio turned way down, maybe to prevent speaker damage or something.

                    Movie audio in theaters should be better than ever, particularly with newer technologies like Dolby Atmos available. To me it feels like progress is moving backward. THX is pretty much a thing of the past. Not as much appears to being done with sound system maintenance. So technical problems with audio are very possible even in auditoriums where the volume levels are cranked up to even loud levels.


                    • #11
                      I remember reading the books when I was a teenager.

                      I think this Dune movie is ok, but not much more than that.

                      However, I guess I'm in a minority because one of my regular customers, on his way out, said, "This is absolutely the best movie that I've ever seen in your theatre!" He lives in a town about 40 miles from here so he drives quite a way to see anything that's science fiction or action and so on.

                      Another guy and his wife, on the way out, said that he wants to buy all of the popcorn that I have left because it's a long drive ahead of him. While I was getting it packed up for him I asked where he came from and he said about a half-hour north of Kamsack, which makes it about two hours from here.


                      • #12
                        We didn't hear any dialog complaints on Dune, but most people seemed to like the movie or be confused by in-between.

                        Supposedly the plan is for a three-part story but only the second part has been green-lit at this point. The third one could end up at a different studio, if the second one is less than stellar.


                        • #13
                          For those that don't know about the general story of Dune, I think even this movie is pretty hard to follow as a lot of stuff happening on-screen must seem pretty haphazard. I often doubt that a story that needs such an extensive setup as Dune translates well to the screen, as you'd either need an endless string of exposition or an overly long introduction with not much action happening. They more or less choose the latter, but nonetheless I think they mostly succeeded.

                          Originally posted by Frank Cox View Post
                          However, I guess I'm in a minority because one of my regular customers, on his way out, said, "This is absolutely the best movie that I've ever seen in your theatre!" He lives in a town about 40 miles from here so he drives quite a way to see anything that's science fiction or action and so on.
                          It's an audio-visual spectacle for sure. Not having seen a new, big movie in a proper theater for a while myself, I also was pretty impressed by the visual spectacle on-screen. The action scenes were bold, grand and loud, but not cut like many of those modern action movies, where you don't know what the heck is happening...


                          • #14
                            I saw Dune yesterday, and I'm firmly in the "really enjoyed the movie" group. I went in knowing nothing about it aside from having seen the trailer before, and I didn't feel as if the story was overly confusing, at least not more so than other films I've seen. My one criticism, like others, is that there were quite a few lines of dialogue that were unintelligible, and that was a bit distracting and took me out of the movie. If I had the chance to watch it again at a captioned screening, I would, however my local cinema doesn't seem to offer that very often if at all (however it makes up for that because it's a 1930s picture palace with slightly curved screen, curtains, movable masking and a balcony! Truly a wonderful place to watch movies).