DUNE review by Roy Frumkes



I’m putting this one up a little late in its theatrical/home-delivery life to give it a fighting chance to initially play itself out. Not that bad-mouthing the film in Films in Review could realistically damage its flow of dough. But still I hate being a naysayer on the front line of a film’s release. After all, a hundred and sixty-five million goes a long way into supporting the technicians who labor on these multi-zillion dollar road-show pieces.


But what I must say, I’m about to. DUNE is a dud. A long, confusing, sand/dust clogged slog that deserves almost none of the praise it’s gotten, primarily from an audience high on Spice. I’ve questioned a few who have seen and enjoyed it, and the reason for many of their positive reactions is that this version is closer to the novel than the previous two attempts to capture it on ‘film.’ Well, I, like fellow FIR critic Victoria Alexander, haven’t read the book. I have read the entire John Carter of Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Disney’s piece of crap version of that entertainment masterwork actually made me sick to my stomach. DUNE didn’t go that far in rattling my digestive system. Since I had not read the book, it merely left me bored.

Anyone want to challenge me about the two lead actors – Timothee Chalamet as the protagonist and Rebecca Ferguson as his mother – being utterly and disastrously unsympathetic? I sank deeper into my reclining padded theater seat each time Ferguson appeared until finally I was horizontal, much to the amazement of the ten other patrons in the darkened IMAX auditorium.


Speaking of which, I travelled well over half an hour to reach an IMAX theater in which to view DUNE at maximum power. Never again. Not only would I not waste my shekels on that noble but pricey form of presentation, I wouldn’t waste it on a normal theater viewing, nor for that matter on home presentation. In short, I won’t be willingly submitting myself to DUNE DEUCE at all. Part One was more than enough.


Let’s briefly discuss the film’s score. I was a big fan of Hans Zimmer’s music. The National Board of Review honored him decades ago and I was there, and happy to congratulate him in person for a body of extraordinary work. However, the body has been put to rest and then resurrected for DUNE. The best melodic cues in the film were lifted from THE LAST SAMURAI and were less effective here. It has been said that when a director dies he becomes a cinematographer (they were referring, I believe, to Joseph Von Sternberg). What about a composer? What does he become? Well, Zimmer’s musical presence stultifies DUNE with redundancy, in particular for a film that everyone involved knew going in had a certain cache that urged the various participants to play their best game. Not so for Hans. It appears to have been merely a case of paycheck collection at work. Period. What a shame.


Back in 1962 there was this little sand dune littered flick called LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. I don’t know if any of you remember that choice chunk of cinema. Steven Spielberg acknowledged his debt to director David Lean’s and cinematographer Freddie Young’s masterpiece, but I guess 60 years can dim the brain’s memory banks. DUNE’s use of desert climes is… well, is kinda like the cleanup staff at the studio blowing the dust away in preparation for the next day’s shooting of some other project. When they did it for John Wayne’s THE CONQUEROR, they gave him cancer. Fortunately all they gave us was debris.


Let us address the dreaded Sand Worms. I’ll make this brief. The best version of these critters wasn’t in either of the two previous versions. It was in TREMORS. Check it out. A lot of fun. They missed the fun part here, and what we finally got to see - after several distant dust storm teasers heralding the creature’s malevolent presence - we’d already seen.


Given nothing whatsoever to do is my favorite recent actor – Zendaya. And of course, given nothing to do, she does…nothing.


And everyone’s been touting Stellan Skarsgard’s four-hundred-pound Marlon Brando impersonation. That was fun, I admit it. All five minutes’ worth. The other two and half hours… Well, if I haven’t already said it straight out, allow me:


I’m done with DUNE.