It’s time to look at a very ambitious film with a huge character roster. This was clearly trying to be a big Star Wars/Lord of the Rings kind of experience. You could also make some similarities to Game of Thrones purely from a plot perspective where you have 3 kingdoms fighting for control. In the midst of this you also have the rebels making noise. Unfortunately while the film starts out with some promise and will grab your interest, it loses this shortly afterwards. The film then continues its spiral of descent until you walk away thinking that this was a terrible movie.
The movie starts with showing us the Emperor as he is greeted by his boss. The monster lets him know that the son of the Duke has to be murdered right away. It would seem that he has some ties to the spice and the holy water so they need to remove the threats right away. The Emperor is fine with this as he likes murdering people off anyway. His plan is to have World A take down World B and then he’ll get World C to beat A. With all of the forces sufficiently weakened then he’ll be able to finish off the Duke. Additionally he has a man on the inside so he figures this will be pretty easy. Then he can go back to manufacturing the spice.
In this world, the Spice is the greatest resource of all. It allows you to gain cosmic consciousness and it can extent your life to a great degree. Here’s the problem, only the chosen few can actually use it. According to the main character, everyone else has died who tried to use it. It makes you question a bit why the spice is such a hot commodity but I suppose just the possibility that you can use it for eternal life is a promising prospect. I still feel like it’s not huge though. I also have to question how the Duke’s planet didn’t do better in the war. Their abilities seem to far outstrip the other planets when you think about it. They can use their words to force opponents to listen to them (Only top nobles have this power) and they can also turn their words into energy blasts. The latter seems like a common skill as they taught it to the rebels quite fast. I’ll chalk this up to their never teaching anyone because it wasn’t necessary at the time.
Where the film really goes wrong is that it goes from Zany to just grotesque and mean spirited very quickly. Mainly this is due to the inclusion of the villainous Baron. The Baron is made to be a very grotesque creature who goes around blowing people up and we get a pointless scene where he eats an animal. Any scene with him is bound to be quite violent or gross, sometimes a mix of both. The film definitely pushes the boundaries quite hard for a PG-13 film as I’d say you could make a solid case for this going to the next level. This is really where the film trips up. The Baron has numerous scenes and they are all completely terrible. The film goes for max grit the whole time and it takes away from all the other plots. It gets to the point where you want to automatically skip any scene with the Baron to get back to the other plots.
Paul’s plot is the most interesting by far. His planet made for a good background and the hero was introduced as a good fighter from the start so it’s easy to see why he was so resourceful later on. I would have liked to have seen him use the crystal barrier technique a little more but to be fair, that move doesn’t seem all that useful in this world since “slow” objects can pierce it. Naturally the villains know this so they put it to good use. It did make for a fun fight scene near the beginning but in a way it was also pointless. If you cut the crystal shield out of the film then absolutely nothing changes which is pretty much the definition of filler.
The movie is rather long but I’d say the pacing is solid. There are a lot of characters and factions running around as I said so you need that time to develop them. Then every faction has some key players and traitors running around so that has to be accounted for as well. An interesting thing the film did here is letting us hear the character’s thoughts the whole time. In books there tends to be a lot of inner monologue that is left out of movie/TV adaptions. I think this is a pretty natural way to show those thoughts and it would work well in many other films as well. Of course here it was to remind us that the characters have telepathy so there are no real secrets to be had, but that doesn’t change the base concept which is pretty solid either way.
The effects for the fight scenes are okay, but maybe a little sub-par. I liked the backgrounds and scenery, those were handled well. It feels like the film copped out of using real effects a lot of the time though like with the heroes having guns that shoot invisible bullets made out of their words. It’s not like you could grab any kind of effects from that. So from a visual standpoint it could have been a little better but I suppose the fight scenes weren’t the main thing to focus on here. The writing was okay I guess, but the movie did little to show me how Paul and his forces were able to defeat the Emperor’s. The Emperor had legions of ships and yet they all flew low in orbit so they could be crushed by Worms and blasted by the ground forces. Why not just blow up the planet at that point or target Paul from long distance? The only real answer is that they didn’t have the technical ability to target Paul from afar in which case their tech isn’t all that great.
While there are a lot of characters I wouldn’t say most of them are particularly likable. The film goes out of its way to make quite a few of them grotesque as well. The best character would be Duncan though. While he may not have lasted a super long time or anything, he did come through when it counted to aid Paul. Then you have Paul’s sister who appeared suddenly near the end of the film and did a good job. Her powers definitely seem like they will have a lot of potential. The rest of the characters are mainly here to get wrecked or get in the way. They talk a good game but never realize that they are going to be the next ones to be bumped off until it’s too late.
Overall, Dune is a film that started out with some promise but it all quickly fell out the window and this became one of the worst films I’ve seen. It does succeed in getting the feel of a grand epic but it just couldn’t tell a good story and I feel like that happens with quite a few of these kind of films. I certainly was not a fan of the Lord of the Rings or Hobbit series either. Same with Pirates of the Caribbean and what those all have in common is that they are very long films with lots of plots and characters running around. You definitely have to handle these kinds of films carefully or you end up biting more than you can chew. Additionally, all it takes is one bad plot to spoil the rest. In this case that was the Baron’s plot. Really a waste of time and just a horrible excuse for grit. If they had cut this out and every scene related to the Baron then the film would have been so much better. If you want a solid Sci-Fi film I’d recommend checking out something like Men in Black instead. Now that one is a film that is solid in all aspects.