DUNE Part 1, The film. A No-Spoiler Review

DUNE, the 2021 film is a true hit and a must-see large screen theater event. It drew millions across the globe to the theater. I was among those who saw it and loved it. I saw it a second time within a week and the film was still breathtaking, and I’ll see it again though probably via my television. Rated PG-13, mature teens will appreciate (and have for decades appreciated) the central character and the woman who will become his lover/mate. The are young and they are heroes in their own right. I recommend watching as a family and taking on the discussions that are unearthed by the narrative. Better yet, read the novel together. To read my review of the novel DUNE, click here. For my review of the film, please continue.

In a similar way that Peter Jackson pleased both the non-reading audience and the hyper fan of the LOTR books, it looks like Villeneuve will do the same for the his audience and fans of the novel, DUNE.

DUNE, the film, is the first of two. It’s only about half of the novel (yet another reason to entice your teen to read the novel), and there could be more films if Villeneuve decides to continue with the novel’s sequels. We’ll see how that goes. The later books are brilliant but probably more challenging for the average audience member to consume. Herbert’s world is a complex and mostly unhappy place on almost all counts.

First, The Short Review of DUNE

5 Reasons to See this Film, Especially if you are a Scifi Fan…

  1. Mostly pitch perfect and accurate (close to the novel) storytelling
  2. Herbert’s DUNE is a foundational work in the scifi genre and has a huge international following. AKA, without DUNE, Star Wars might never have been made.
  3. A vision within the story that transcends culture and era
  4. Great casting
  5. An epic visual feast

Now, for the Longer Review…

If you want to go deep, super deep on DUNE, there are papers written, blog posts and articles that speak to why the story DUNE is one that has reverberated in many cultures, especially subjugated cultures, since it was released in 1965. This article is a  good one, in case you want more breadth about the history. Click on the link for the Guardian’s penetrating reflection. DUNE article, Guardian.

As a viewer of the film, what I wanted was something of the depth of the novel, a compelling vision of the world of Arrakis, Caladan and the politics surrounding the story. I also wanted characters who made sense within that world. They had to feel real. DUNE delivered on all counts.

True, the viewer is only getting a third of the character depth in the film version and for that reason, I encourage all to read (or re-read) the novel. It ages well. But, even if you don’t read the novel, Paul, Leto, Jessica, Duncan, Kynes and the Fremen come across very close to the novelist’s vision. I had two observations of change that caught my attention: Villeneuve did not portray the Atreides’ mostly male in-house staff accurately in terms of their suspicion of Jessica as the betrayer. Their suspicion of the one woman in the mix comes through in the novel, not in the film. Also, the gay Baron Harkonnen is a known child predator in the novel. I can guess there are many reasons Villeneuve decided to forgo this portrayal of the only gay character in the story world. Let him be obese and disgusting in the visuals, but diminish his child predator persona. That seems like a wise decision on many fronts.

The portrayals I loved:

Arakkis, the worms, the Fremen, the sitch, the general feeling of the Bene Gesserit, the Harkonnens, the Sardaukar, the ornithopters, Arrakeen, the costumes (including the stillsuit)…these are all perfect, as are the actors’ portrayals of their characters.

Overall, DUNE was worth the money. I highly recommend this film.


DUNE, A Review of the Novel

This is my second time reading DUNE, with probably about twenty years in between readings. My first took place as a fan, consuming for pleasure. This time, I re-read DUNE as a writer of science fiction. It was still a thrilling ride.

DUNE, the novel holds up well to post-modern scrutiny and the writing is mostly perfect.

This is a PG-13 story, for sexual and violent themes, although those scenes are not explicit in this novel.

The Short Review

5 Reasons the Science Fiction Fan Needs to Read this Book Now

  1. DUNE, the film will be released in 2021…at least the first film of two will be released…unless pandemic interferes. In this case as in most, I recommend reading before viewing
  2. Compelling villain and compelling hero, with complex motives for each
  3. Dynamic characters around the main character, including a number of strong females
  4. Among the best world-building you will find in science fiction
  5. Without simplifying the complexity of good versus evil, this story gives the reader a vision of truth, goodness and honor

The Longer Review (mini spoilers below):

When George Herbert created the character Paul Atriedes, he stumbled upon a savior-type, a hero, a character who could embody a kind of leadership that most of humanity longs for. Hero stories are nothing new, certainly not new to the science fiction audience, but great ones are to be treasured.

In the case of DUNE, Paul is not the only treasure. The people of the planet Arrakis, the Fremen, also embody an ideal. They are oppressed, but intelligent, pushed to the margins of society, but resourceful and willing to sacrifice for the cause. Their discipline is akin to the greatest armies of literature and history. They are as creative as tenacious as a Roman legion, as fierce as Khan’s Mongols and as disciplined as the Spartans.

(Spoiler here) So what is supposed to get under our skin about DUNE? How can one argue with a story where the overly confident and utterly powerful Emperor is outsmarted, out-gunned and defeated by an honorable and humble tribal people? That feels so right and good.

But there are complexities that go along with this storyline. Paul is not as pure a hero as he might seem. His role as Messiah is an idea that plagues him throughout the novel because he knows he is not simply fighting for the Fremen. He is also motivated by vengeance and honor. He uses the Fremen to avenge his father, so his victory is an uneasy one. Even as he negotiates a marriage to the Emperor’s daughter for status and honor, but keeps his Fremen lover as concubine, the audience sees the inherent politics that will inhabit Paul’s governing. How Paul will rule the Empire is a story for later books, but the seeds of the struggle are sown well and deep in the original novel. So, even as the audience breathes relief at the victory over injustice, there is more to ponder.

To purchase the novel, click DUNE

There is also an amazing graphic novel version which is being released book by book. Dune is made up of three sections, called books. The first installment in graphic novel form is available here. To purchase, click DUNE, Graphic Novel The second installment will be released in the Spring of 2022. No date yet on the third and final.

Lastly, the 2021 theatrical trailer is out and worth a view, perhaps best seen after reading the novel…but then, maybe not.

Click here to see DUNE, film trailer

The Rise of the Audio Book, Part I

Do you listen to audio books? I do (and my family does) and word on the street is, there are a lot of book-listeners out there.

Here’s what Forbes’ Media and Entertainment writer, Adam Rowe reported last year:

“In 2017, digital content subscription service Scribd’s fastest-growing segment was audiobooks. Primary audiobook subscriber numbers for Scribd grew by more than 20% in 2016. The rise isn’t unique to Scribd: Audiobooks are also up about 20% year over year across the publishing industry for the first eight months of 2017, according to the Association of American Publishers’ data reports from 1,200 publishers. In the same time period, print books rose just 1.5%, and e-books dropped by 5.4 %.”

Who is listening to audio books?

Commuters, the home parent who is cooking a meal each night, families on a road trip, dog walkers, endurance athletes who have to train for hours at a time, the gym rat with a literary bent…many are listening. There is evidence to suggest that those who listen to audio books are also avid readers and audio books simply allow these readers to consume more books than their average number, but I suspect, some folks who don’t like to sit still in order to read are consuming books anew, like they haven’t since college or high school.

Where do you fall on the spectrum?

I confess, I don’t often listen to audio books while walking my dog, but use it as a time to be quiet and enjoy nature, but on a long road trip, whether alone or with family, I’m huge fan of audio entertainment, books and podcasts. I live in the Western US, where getting places often requires a long car voyage. A visit to my parents and brother, 12 hours. A visit to my son at the university he attends, 8 to 10 hours depending on traffic. If my daughter decides to go to grad school, we will drive 15 hours to help her move. These are all one-way trips I’ve delineated, so double the car time and I end up with a whopping number of hours spent in a car.

That’s a lot of productive time…or entertainment time…or time to check one or two books off your to read list. You will find that the hours it takes to get through a book vary, but on average, 12 hours will get you to the final chapter. The roundtrip to my daughter and back, for example, is at least 30 hours of drive time, that is about a 2-novel voyage…or we could take on something very long, like Herbert’s DUNE.

That’s the math for the road tripper, but what about the gym rat?

For the gym rat: 5 hours per week, for 4 weeks…that is about one extra book per month.

For the commuter in urban America, the average car time or train time to work is 30 minutes. That is 1 hour per day, 20 hours per month, about 1 to 2 extra books consumed per month.

If you are a business person, imagine reading one dynamic leadership book per month for a year and how that might impact your career. This becomes a fairly compelling model when one thinks about taking in new information that could improve your life coupled with entertainment.

I’m usually buying a science fiction audio book when I listen, but every now and then, a great non fiction book like THE POWER OF HABIT, gets onto the listening list. It turns out, habits do impact a writer like me, sort of a no-brainer, but the book lays out what happens in the body and brain when we establish positive (or negative) habits of life and work. I’m glad I listened to that book. I listened with a group that was on a road trip. My husband, a couple of college-aged kids and I were driving down to pick up my son from college. We ended up engaging in great discussions around the topic of habit that lasted the entire weekend…all while picking up a kid from college and helping him move back home for the summer…a time when college kids can fall into habits, good or bad. Am I a scheming parent to have thought of this? No…We really just stumbled upon the book.

So…it’s important, if you are choosing a book for the driving/riding community, to think about the character of the group that will be listening. Do aim for a book pleasing to all, but also, provocative. Spur those discussions that will happen at In n Out Burger or Grandzella’s or wherever you end up pausing for a meal.

This is part I of a two-part post.

See my post, The Rise of the Audio Book. Part II where I explain the appeal of audiobooks and perhaps entice the skeptic to try them out.