Fear Is the Mind Killer...
September 9, 2020 9:48 AM   Subscribe

 
Production design looks amazing. But anyone have a read on Timothée Chalamet? His acting in this trailer has me worried.
posted by Nelson at 9:56 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


It's pretty underwhelming
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:06 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


I think he did some real acting in Call Me By Your Name. I am very excited to see his Paul. The casting and design of this is unbelievably good. I'm sad to say my expectations are very high.
posted by macrael at 10:07 AM on September 9 [7 favorites]


Chalemet is pretty mumbly here, but that’s not necessarily a dealbreaker. It’s visually gorgeous.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:09 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I'm just like ccccmmmoooonnnnnnnn give me N K Jemison's Broken Earth trilogy why does this dead white dude get Yet Another adaptation fffuuuuccckkkkk
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:09 AM on September 9 [97 favorites]


I have never really cared about Dune but I kinda want to see this, I guess that makes it a good trailer. Nice use of "Eclipse":

Using the song “Eclipse” in the Dune trailer is a not only thematically appropriate (the film’s logo also appears to depict an eclipse, and the planet Arrakis, the titular desert planet, is orbited by two moons, which makes solar eclipses far more likely), but it’s also a nod to a previous version of the project that never got off the ground, as famed director Alejandro Jodorowsky once had hoped that Pink Floyd would score his version of the film, which was sadly never made.
posted by emjaybee at 10:09 AM on September 9 [12 favorites]


The casting is extremely good! It's kind of a shame that everything looks mud puddle grey!
posted by Reyturner at 10:10 AM on September 9 [7 favorites]


(1) I'm really excited about this. Then again, my standards for Dune adaptations are ridiculously low. For instance, I love both the Lynch version and this objectively terrible TV miniseries. In other words, I am the worst kind of Dune trash.
(2) YES PLEASE BRING ON THE BROKEN EARTH TRILOGY
posted by ourobouros at 10:14 AM on September 9 [27 favorites]


Well, if nothing else, the ornithopters actually appear to have flapping wings in this adaptation, so that's a plus, I guess?
posted by Clever User Name at 10:17 AM on September 9 [18 favorites]


The art design does look really good, except for the personal shields
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:17 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


With that short clip of someone in the flowing white jumpsuit looking out to the desert I was waiting for a score from ABBA.
posted by sammyo at 10:18 AM on September 9 [5 favorites]


I never knew Dune was a YA novel
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:18 AM on September 9 [15 favorites]


everything looks mud puddle grey!

Hated Blade Runner 2049 for the exact same reason. That was one seriously dank-looking movie.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 10:18 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


Well this middle aged woman and her teenage son have been raving about this trailer for the past hour. I am *almost* sold on Chalamet. My son is impressed that Momoa just looks so right as Idaho. And the rest of the casting decisions seem very good. Then there is the production - looks fantastic.

And they got the worm right!!!

I have high hopes.
posted by Megami at 10:22 AM on September 9 [8 favorites]


Hated Blade Runner 2049 for the exact same reason. That was one seriously dank-looking movie.

Wow. I could watch that movie with the sound off, just for the imagery and composition. It did win the Oscar for best cinematography and was nominated for best production design (among others). So I guess some other people liked the way it looked too.
posted by cron at 10:26 AM on September 9 [50 favorites]


However, this trailer does look like it's been pre-dimmed to mimic what it's like to watch a movie through polarized 3D glasses.
posted by Reyturner at 10:28 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


Hmmm. Surprising how much the trailer focused on elements that look so much like scenes from the Lynch version. Hated the use of Pink Floyd. In fact the whole trailer makes it look like an Avengers movie with a muted color palette. But I'm guessing that's just the trailer. I felt like the biggest problem with Blade Runner 2049 was the boring script and pacing. Will Dune have the gorgeous design of Blade Runner and the emotional impact and terrific writing of Arrival? Provided I've had my COVID vaccine shot, wild horses couldn't keep me away from seeing this on opening day.
posted by gwint at 10:29 AM on September 9 [9 favorites]


"There's a crusade coming."?

WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAK
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:30 AM on September 9 [6 favorites]


I'll also use this post as an excuse to link to my favorite Dune mashup image.
posted by gwint at 10:33 AM on September 9 [49 favorites]


Villeneuve gets itchy if there's more than a couple colors on screen at a time.

Maybe it'll be okay? The story's already written and adapted and maybe it will be easier to connect with the characters despite the sort of alienating "every person is a pretty pretty doll" syndrome, like 50% acting 50% face fetishization. But maybe it'll work for the whole running time through.
posted by fleacircus at 10:34 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


Wait, what? WHAT? Why is it whitewashed? Aren't all these people supposed to be brown? I thought the Dune universe was all Arab/Middle-eastern in the same way as Avatar: The Last Airbender was east/north/south-east Asian?

If Dune was secretly a white people's universe all along my 16 yr old self is going to be VERY UPSET pls tell me it ain't so.
posted by MiraK at 10:36 AM on September 9 [9 favorites]


I'm just like ccccmmmoooonnnnnnnn give me N K Jemison's Broken Earth trilogy why does this dead white dude get Yet Another adaptation fffuuuuccckkkkk

This idea of scarcity might make sense on Arrakis, but I feel very happy to live in a time when Dune gets to be made with the technology needed to do it justice and there is enough interest in science fiction and fantasy for Jemisin and many other writers to get their works adapted as well.
posted by Ouverture at 10:37 AM on September 9 [12 favorites]


Pretty sure the entire novel didn't take place at night.

Anyway, I don't think this is my jam. The Lynch film is actually really good for the most part (don't @ me) so I'll pass.

I liked 2049 a lot but applying that aesthetic to this is a really dumb idea. Unless the trailer is just misleading.
posted by selfnoise at 10:37 AM on September 9 [5 favorites]


I feel like "Broken Earth" should be a Watchmen-style deliberately limited series giving one season to each book. Somebody please do that. Those books are so fucking good.
posted by selfnoise at 10:38 AM on September 9 [22 favorites]


Fits the “How to Make a Blockbuster Movie Trailer” template perfectly!

I’m excited for the movie - I like Villeneuve and I like Dune - and the trailer looks good, but I’m also a bit nervous about the lack of excitement present in the trailer. Also, horrible song choice IMO.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 10:39 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


"There's a crusade coming."?

In 2020, it would be a dumb move to use "Jihad", source material be damned. Too much baggage.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:40 AM on September 9 [9 favorites]


Wait, what? WHAT? Why is it whitewashed? Aren't all these people supposed to be brown? I thought the Dune universe was all Arab/Middle-eastern in the same way as Avatar: The Last Airbender was east/north/south-east Asian?

If I recall correctly, it's all brown folks on Arrakis, but the colonial overlords are white. Can't relate to that at all ;)
posted by Ouverture at 10:40 AM on September 9 [14 favorites]


In 2020, it would be a dumb move to use "Jihad", source material be damned. Too much baggage.

Crusade, however...

If I recall correctly, it's all brown folks on Arrakis, but the colonial overlords are white. Can't relate to that at all ;)

I was gonna say, hasn't Dune always been kind of a White Savior, Lawrence of Arabia kinda deal?
posted by Reyturner at 10:41 AM on September 9 [27 favorites]


"Crusade"? CRUSADE?


On the other hand, I almost thought they said 'Iraq is'.
posted by legospaceman at 10:42 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


If I recall correctly, it's all brown folks on Arrakis, but the colonial overlords are white.

Holy shit, it was a white savior narrative, you are right, I never saw it at 16 or thought about it since.

GODDAMMIT.
posted by MiraK at 10:43 AM on September 9 [23 favorites]


Crusade seems like a better choice right now.
posted by octothorpe at 10:43 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


Wait, what? WHAT? Why is it whitewashed?

Many of the major roles are played by POC? Issac, Bautista, Zendaya, Chen, Mamoa, Barden... Dastmalchian has Armenian/Iranian background...
posted by mr_roboto at 10:45 AM on September 9 [10 favorites]


Aren't all these people supposed to be brown? I thought the Dune universe was all Arab/Middle-eastern

Paul Atreides is white, the Fremen are brown, there is a white saviour narrative going on. I thought this was a good article about that (from 2019):

There is a sizable hole in the construction of this book that can outweigh all other interpretations and firmly situate Dune among white savior tropes: Paul Atreides is depicted as a white man, and his followers are largely depicted as brown people.

There are ways to nitpick this idea, and people do—Paul’s father, Leto Atreides might not be white, and is described in the book as having “olive” toned skin. [...] While the name Atreides is Greek, Dune takes place tens of thousands of years in the future, so there’s really no telling what ancestry the Atreides line might have, or even what “whiteness” means to humanity anymore. There’s a lot of similar melding elsewhere in the story; the ruler of this universe is known as the “Padishah Emperor” (Padishah is a Persian word that essentially translates to “great king”), but the family name of the Emperor’s house is Corrino, taken from the fictional Battle of Corrin. Emperor Shaddam has red hair, and his daughter Irulan is described as blond-haired, green-eyed, and possessing “patrician beauty,” a mishmash of words and descriptions that deliberately avoid categorization.

None of these factors detract from the fact that we are reading/watching this story in present day, when whiteness is a key component of identity and privilege. It also doesn’t negate the fact that Paul is always depicted as a white young man, and has only been played by white actors: first by Kyle MacLachlan, then by Alec Newman, and soon by Timothy Chalamet. There are many reasons for casting Paul this way, chief among them being that he is partly based on a real-life figure—T.E. Lawrence, better known to the public as “Lawrence of Arabia.” But regardless of that influence, Frank Herbert’s worldbuilding demands a closer look in order to contextualize a narrative in which a white person becomes the messiah of an entire population of people of color—after all, T.E. Lawrence was never heralded as any sort of holy figure by the people he worked alongside during the Arab Revolt.

posted by inire at 10:45 AM on September 9 [17 favorites]


Casting looks good, but really I just want Timmy's curls and his outfits, especially at 0:48.
posted by mogget at 10:45 AM on September 9


On the other hand, I almost thought they said 'Iraq is'.

Dune is a documentary about the future told as a mythical parable.
posted by Ouverture at 10:46 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


The trailer seems like a parody of trailers but the imagery looks great and I mostly trust Villeneuve but I'm still not going to be ready to go to the theater in December.
posted by octothorpe at 10:48 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


Wait, what? WHAT? Why is it whitewashed? Aren't all these people supposed to be brown? I thought the Dune universe was all Arab/Middle-eastern in the same way as Avatar: The Last Airbender was east/north/south-east Asian?

I remember them being distinctly black but iwth glowing blue eyes in the white part in the book, but the video adaptations are terrible about making the fremen just be a bunch of white people with regular blue eyes. I'm not sure even the mythical jodoworsky adaptation had POC in the concept art. I was pleasantly surprised to find Chani and a few other fremen seemed to have at least somewhat tan skin and at least spotted one POC. What an incredibly pathetic low bar but that's the one they've set.

Also worth mentioning on top of the white-saviour thing, there's also a man-saviour issue in the books. Paul is some super special secret man with super duper versions of super powers that typically are born only to women, ruled by a matriarchy, but of course they have a propehcy about a ~special boy~ who will one day do prophet shit and lead everyone.
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:49 AM on September 9 [9 favorites]


(Yeah sorry for the weird derail, folks, this was a childhood favorite book and I haven't actually engaged with Dune or its fandom since, and my recollections are spotty by now. For some reason I had a memory of everyone and everything being Arab/brown, with literally no white people anywhere, so it threw me to see a white Paul and white Jessica etc., but obviously I was wrong, and like, grrr @ this: "Paul is always depicted as a white young man, and has only been played by white actors".)
posted by MiraK at 10:50 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


Wait, what? WHAT? Why is it whitewashed? Aren't all these people supposed to be brown? I thought the Dune universe was all Arab/Middle-eastern in the same way as Avatar: The Last Airbender was east/north/south-east Asian?"

Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista, Oscar Isaac, Javier Bardem, Chen Chang, Babs Olusanmokun, Gloria Obianyo, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Stephen McKinley Henderson... none of those folks are white by any definition I can think of.
posted by skullhead at 10:51 AM on September 9 [19 favorites]


^ Certainly, and Herbert even got the voluntaristic theology / quasi-fatalist Islam of the desert Bedouins correct.

But they should have stuck with jihad. Especially as it would have been supremely useful as an introduction to the notion of jihad not just as an outward struggle, but an inwards one. As someone else said, weak.
posted by legospaceman at 10:51 AM on September 9 [8 favorites]


Wait, what? WHAT? Why is it whitewashed?

Looking at the IMDB cast page, the listed Fremen characters are played by Zendaya, Javier Bardem, Babs Olusanmokun, and Gloria Obianyo.

How can you possibly call this whitewashed?
posted by mr_roboto at 10:51 AM on September 9 [8 favorites]


The ethnicities don't seem to map super clearly onto Earth ethnicities and races after millennia of space travel. The Atreides are supposed to seem vaguely Greek and the Harkonnens vaguely Russian but I don't think this is intended to be actual heritage in the books.

The Fremen culture is supposedly "Zensunni", so I guess Arab + Japanese?? But they picked up people from multiple planets over their history before ultimately settling on Arrakis. In real-world terms much of the Fremen stuff is appropriated from the Muslims of the Caucasus -- think Chechnya -- who are light skinned. But I like the idea of where they seem to be going, portraying the Fremen as of many ethnicities, united by religion and culture..

The clear distinction is that the Fremen are supposed to be subaltern/colonial subjects while the Atreides and Harkonnens serve a literal empire. It was certainly intended by Herbert to be something like a "white savior" narrative, although also a commentary on the problems with that narrative.
posted by vogon_poet at 10:54 AM on September 9 [16 favorites]


Say what you want about how clever a choice Eclipse was, for someone not terribly familiar with Pink Floyd's œuvre, all I picked up on was how much the scoring (especially the descant/counterpoint vocalist), chord progression, and occasional words I was able to process (like "everything under the sun") leading up to the "fear is the mindkiller" moment made me wonder why I was seeing a Dune trailer with a Lion King soundtrack.
posted by solotoro at 10:56 AM on September 9 [5 favorites]


I still don't think the casting is any good. Where are the ethnic middle eastern people in this? It's super racist to consider any person of color or any non-white people's culture swappable for any other non-white person or culture; with white (and white alone) as the sole unswappable race.

I mean, I'm not gonna make a fuss that Black or Pacifil Islander or hispanic actors are in this movie are "taking other people's jobs" because this is white supremacy at work, it's not their fault. But come the fuck on. This is an Arab/Bedouin/middle-eastern story.

The ethnicities don't seem to map super clearly onto Earth ethnicities and races after millennia of space travel.

Bull. Shit. Every cultural marker of note is coded middle-eastern desert cultures.
posted by MiraK at 10:56 AM on September 9 [10 favorites]


Paul is some super special secret man with super duper versions of super powers that typically are born only to women, ruled by a matriarchy, but of course they have a propehcy about a ~special boy~ who will one day do prophet shit and lead everyone.

I just hope they make enough movies that we get to see the fabled sex duel between Duncan Idaho Mk. CVVI and some Honored Matre whose name I can't be bothered to look up. See, she plans to to use her special BG/HM sex powers to mind-control him with her vagina, but he has even more sexy sex powers of his own, and he manages to out-fuck her.

The series gets REAL BAD I guess is what I'm saying.
posted by The Tensor at 10:59 AM on September 9 [29 favorites]


Javier Bardem is from Spain and may consider himself white.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 10:59 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


No glowing eyes?

(Was it just too dim?)
posted by gottabefunky at 11:00 AM on September 9


Paul Atreides is white, the Fremen are brown, there is a white saviour narrative going on. I thought this was a good article about that (from 2019):

That's a great piece. Herbert seems to understand some of these issues, especially in later books, but big-budget genre movies rarely preserve that kind of nuance and complexity.

We can tell that already by the casting of Paul in this movie and the previous adaptations.

I also wish there more Middle-Eastern/Muslim actors in this movie, but American media diversity generally means if there are going to be people of color in a movie, they will usually be Black.
posted by Ouverture at 11:01 AM on September 9


Aww, man, they fucked up knife-fighting-with-shields. The WHOLE POINT is that you have to move deliberately and slowly, because the shields stop anything with lots of kinetic energy. So knife-fighting (for royals who can afford shields, anyway) is almost a meditative practice, with long slow movements punctuated by quick wrist-flicks once you're inside their guard. That's why Paul initially has so much trouble when he gets thrown in the ring for an unshielded fight against a Fremen. It wouldn't translate well to traditional action sequences, but I was hoping they'd found the director who could handle something that isn't a traditional action sequence.
posted by Mayor West at 11:03 AM on September 9 [18 favorites]


Bull. Shit. Every cultural marker of note is coded middle-eastern desert cultures.

Herbert also drew from San culture.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:03 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


But they should have stuck with jihad. Especially as it would have been supremely useful as an introduction to the notion of jihad not just as an outward struggle, but an inwards one. As someone else said, weak.

Relatedly, I wonder if they will stick to the Mahdi or replace it something less controversial.
posted by Ouverture at 11:04 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


> But anyone have a read on Timothée Chalamet? His acting in this trailer has me worried.

I think he did some real acting in Call Me By Your Name.


I am not only seconding this reply, I am doing a full-on majorette routine complete with a baton trailing streamers that say "YES HE SURE AS HELL DID".

This still has me a bit worried, though; Call Me By Your Name was a small, lovely indie film, and this is Big Epic Hollywood Bombast and those call for two different acting styles. Not everyone can skip from one style to the other easily. I'm hoping this is at least okay enough for him to still have just as much freedom to pick and choose future projects, instead of being an "oh God things were going so well and then he was in that Dune and that just wrecked it all". (I'm a bit burned by the Lynch adaptation.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:04 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


I have never seen Jason Momoa without a beard before

My thirst for him has tripled

How am I going to focus on work after this
posted by Kitchen Witch at 11:05 AM on September 9 [9 favorites]


i don't care what villeneuve does, i truly don't -- he just isn't an artist with anything i give a shit about to say -- but there is no excuse to make a movie where the only fat person is a grotesque whose body explicitly reflects his nature
posted by Sokka shot first at 11:05 AM on September 9 [5 favorites]


I grew up watching the Lynch Dune when it was occasionally aired as a “Saturday Afternoon Super Movie” so I have a lot of very positive feelings about that adaptation, Toto and all. I have also loved Villeneuve’s directing since Sicario and Blade Runner 2049, and I’m excited to see this one too. He borrows most of his visual cues from Lynch with a little extra opening-scenes-of-Prometheus-in-a-good-way, and I think that’s probably the best fit for the source material. I want to see more of his vision for the guild navigators and the emperor here, to see how much he chooses to similarly borrow from the Russian Empire vs. Daghestan/Chechnya strain of source material.

The Jodorowsky Dune was clearly going to be a disaster based on the documentary about it. So much of its production talent went on to make films like Alien, but had zero discipline from the director at the top. If you thought Sting was weird as Feyd-Rautha I bet the planned scenes with Mick Jagger and Orson Welles would’ve been even more dissonant.

I hope Villeneuve or someone like him goes on to direct a mini-series adaptation of Broken Earth; we should have some new stories influenced by the old ones instead of merely recycling intellectual property.
posted by migurski at 11:05 AM on September 9 [8 favorites]


guys guys can't we just admit Dune is pretty much Avatar with worms
posted by benzenedream at 11:05 AM on September 9 [6 favorites]


No glowing eyes?

(Was it just too dim?)


Canonically melange addiction just gives you brilliantly blue eyes, which you can see in the trailer. Lynch's treatment of that was a little, er, overstated. Which is the only place in the otherwise-restrained movie where he gets carried away with optics, so I'll let it slide.
posted by Mayor West at 11:06 AM on September 9 [10 favorites]


I can tell this film won't be nearly long enough!
posted by Oyéah at 11:09 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


We don't see much of the Shai-Hulud in the trailer, but what little we do see looks really good. They're not done with the goofy special effects of previous iterations of the series, and look absolutely goddamn terrifying/mesmerizing in scale. They're supposed to be the living embodiment of the Spice, and ancient masters of a half-dead planet, not something Burt Gummers can take down with a RC car and a half-stick of dynamite.
posted by Mayor West at 11:11 AM on September 9 [11 favorites]


So it looks like this is the first in a two-movie pair. But still, adapting a famously-complex 400-page book into even two (three hour?) movies seems like a fool's errand. Novels rarely make good films.
posted by rikschell at 11:13 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I read most of the (increasingly bad) books and watched the (wacky) Lynch film, but the only fan service I care about is whether this movie will spawn a new Real Time Strategy game as good as Dune II :) Pre-teen me got completely obsessed with that game.
It caused my first (and second, and third) all-nighter. Come to think of it, maybe they shouldn't release a new one!
posted by Popular Ethics at 11:15 AM on September 9 [5 favorites]


A few thoughts:

-You can clearly see the heritage of Arrival here, with the big skyscapes and titanic objects floating in them.

-Much more of a dense of the desert than in Lynch or the SFC version. Much more tangible.

-Chalamet does indeed mumble. Reminds me of his weak performance in the very weak The King. He has better cheekbones and hair than voice. (As in Voice? uh oh)

-Interesting use of the word "crusade," given the novel's draw on Islam and the Middle East

-Not sure about the armor? that folks wear.

-Do Sardaukar troops fly, or at least have powered descent?

-Battle scenes echo the Lynch movie

-Ah, just teasing us with the Baron.

-Designs generally look good: detailed, worn, variated.

-The worm is excellent.

-Pink Floyd: ah, a nice callback to Jodorowsky
posted by doctornemo at 11:16 AM on September 9 [6 favorites]


I love Dune and all things related to (canonical) Dune and this looks like it's going to be a ball to me. I agree, though - the original books could easily span a few season's worth of television. All the scheming, politics, etc. The long timeline of the entire story works in its favor, too - the cast would turn over a couple of times at least.
posted by jquinby at 11:17 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


guys guys can't we just admit Dune is pretty much Avatar with worms

Nobody likes me
Everybody hates me
I think I’ll go ride worms
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:18 AM on September 9 [43 favorites]


Novels rarely make good films

I mean. I could give a list with everything from Prisoner of Azkaban through Three Musketeers by way of Gone Girl and Dr. Zhivago... but that would be giving this sentence way more thought than its author did.
posted by skullhead at 11:18 AM on September 9 [14 favorites]


American media diversity generally means if there are going to be people of color in a movie, they will usually be Black.

This isn't true, Hollywood is quite good at casting actors of the "correct" ethnicity, with the weird exception of specifically whitewashed casting. We often see white actors take over roles meant for PoC, but almost never a Black person cast as the Japanese monk or an Iranian princess or a Mexican outlaw.

Lawrence of Arabia cast Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali, not Sidney Poitier; Gandhi was played by Ben Kingsley not by, IDK, Morgan Freeman... I know these aren't Hollywood/American productions but I'm just saying, your point that Americans just cast Black people as every ethnicity isn't true at all.
posted by MiraK at 11:18 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


People forget that Dune was written in an era of sci-fi where there was all sorts of white authors exploring and repurposing eastern mysticism for their stories- it was the '60s, after all. Perhaps one day we'll get a proper treatment for Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light with Jack Kirby's art direction instead of Ben Affleck's boosted CIA op.

So while Dune can be interpreted as a white savior narrative, it was also created in a time period where sci-fi imagined far future societies with cultures and creeds and peoples alien to those of the past, while retaining their core truths.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:18 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Herbert also drew from San culture.

sure, but the biggest single category of influences for the fremen are middle eastern, so it would have been good to have a decent level of representation (i don't think it needs to be 100% middle eastern actors playing all fremen characters, but this is kind of an obvious issue).

some more on the russian / caucasus influences (and direct quotes) that herbert derived from 'the sabres of paradise', "a half-forgotten masterpiece of narrative history recounting a mid-19th century Islamic holy war against Russian imperialism in the Caucasus".
posted by inire at 11:19 AM on September 9 [7 favorites]


There was once a rumour that Lynch wanted to do a cut of his Dune that edited out all the story stuff, leaving only the Lynchian elements, and I must confess I'd quite like that. Which is to say, I don't think the Lynch bit was the problem with David Lynch's Dune. I understand his regret at that film, but it's often very beautiful and in a way that's enough for me.

It's quite possible that if you attempt to make a film of Dune it will inevitably turn out like that, either in an interesting or less interesting way.
posted by Grangousier at 11:20 AM on September 9 [9 favorites]


adapting a famously-complex 400-page book into even two (three hour?) movies seems like a fool's errand. Novels rarely make good films.

Dune is a fix-up, originally published as two shorter novels Dune World and the The Prophet of Dune, so there's already a natural dividing point in the source material.
posted by The Tensor at 11:20 AM on September 9 [9 favorites]


We can also just call it "Dances with Worms"
posted by Badgermann at 11:22 AM on September 9 [33 favorites]


People forget that Dune was written in an era of sci-fi where there was all sorts of white authors exploring and repurposing STEALING eastern mysticism for their stories ... So while Dune can be interpreted as a white savior narrative, it was also CULTURAL APPROPRIATION created in a time period where sci-fi imagined far future societies with cultures and creeds and peoples alien to those of the past, while retaining their core truths.

There ya go, Apocryphon, I fixed it for you.
posted by MiraK at 11:22 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


There was once a rumour that Lynch wanted to do a cut of his Dune that edited out all the story stuff, leaving only the Lynchian elements,

Hard pass on a movie made entirely of heart plugs, weirding modules, and Guild jizz-moppers.
posted by The Tensor at 11:23 AM on September 9 [7 favorites]


But still, adapting a famously-complex 400-page book into even two (three hour?) movies seems like a fool's errand. Novels rarely make good films.

Except, of course, when they do.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:23 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


There ya go, Apocryphon, I fixed it for you.

Well yeah, the entire '60s countercultural hippie movement was pretty much a big cultural appropriation fest.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:26 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that Sting.
posted by sacrifix at 11:26 AM on September 9 [19 favorites]


Except, of course, when they do.

...And I don't think I'll ever be as pleasantly surprised with a CGI element in a novel->film conversion as the Ents in LOTR.
posted by legospaceman at 11:26 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


I think I should read Dune as an adult at this time. I read it over and over again while I was very young. When I do, I will put in the character's faces from this film.
posted by Oyéah at 11:26 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


Hard pass on a movie made entirely of heart plugs, weirding modules, and Guild jizz-moppers.

"What did you find, young Duke?"
"An...ear, Thufir."
posted by jquinby at 11:27 AM on September 9 [17 favorites]


Well yeah, the entire '60s countercultural hippie movement was pretty much a big cultural appropriation fest.

So how is this a justification or exculpatory factor for the white savior narrative in Dune? I must have misunderstood your comment, what was your point in bringing this up in reference to the white savior thing?
posted by MiraK at 11:32 AM on September 9


See, she plans to to use her special BG/HM sex powers to mind-control him with her vagina, but he has even more sexy sex powers of his own, and he manages to out-fuck her.

*distant sound of Patrick Rothfuss furiously scribbling notes*
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:33 AM on September 9 [10 favorites]


> Well yeah, the entire '60s countercultural hippie movement was pretty much a big cultural appropriation fest.

So how is this a justification or exculpatory factor for the white savior narrative in Dune? I must have misunderstood your comment, what was your point in bringing this up as an explanation for the white savior thing?


I didn't take it as a justification, but rather as an acknowledgement.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:35 AM on September 9 [12 favorites]


Yeah, heh, knew I was going to pay for the "novels rarely make good films" hot take. But I stand by it. I know the LOTR movies are much beloved, but I was not a fan. There are a lot of good movies based on books, sheerly by the fact that there are so many movies based on books. I still maintain that most of them are bad. In fact, bad books tend to make better movies than good books. Carl Sagan's Contact, for instance, showed how great a nonfiction writer he was (!), but the movie worked all the kinks out. Books just tend to have way too much stuff in them to cram into a movie. Zhivago was a great movie, I'll grant you. And maybe if David Lean had made a version of Dune...
posted by rikschell at 11:40 AM on September 9


The WHOLE POINT is that you have to move deliberately and slowly, because the shields stop anything with lots of kinetic energy. So knife-fighting (for royals who can afford shields, anyway) is almost a meditative practice, with long slow movements punctuated by quick wrist-flicks once you're inside their guard.

I don't quite remember it this way. The knife must move slowly (I guess two to three inches per second) to penetrate the shield, but once you're in you're in; the shield was right up against the skin/clothing of the user as I remember it (and I may, of course, be remembering it wrong, or Herbert simply didn't specify that precisely). So the slow bit is the actual killing (you hope!) blow. Everything before that can be as fast as you like.

I seem to remember shields being described as "slippery," too, so I imagine that knife fights in the Duniverse would look a lot like wrestling in armor: you use large joint locks (like against the elbows and shoulders, things you can really lock up using your own arm without relying on your fingers) to immobilize your opponent for the time it takes to slip your knife through their shield. Something like this or this (no armor here, but shields would be quite a bit more flexible in the techniques available; for one thing an elbow lock like the first image wouldn't work against most European armors, although Japanese is a different story).

Something that would probably also be unfilmable without a Lynchian "I'M THINKING NOW" voiceover is the consideration that fights can only go on for so long since the oxygen supply inside the shield is quite limited.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:41 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


Why Arab and Islamic representation matters in the new Dune
Putting aside the obvious similarities between the struggle over crude oil in the Middle East in the '60s and the fictional power struggle over spice in the book, it is through the nomadic Fremen that the Arab and Islamic influence is most felt. Their features are dark and tanned like Arabs and their language is made up of Arabic words. Paul’s messianic name is Muad'Dib (“ mu'adibs ” means “teacher” in Arabic), they call the sandworms Shai-Hulud (Shai meaning “Thing" and "Hulud" meaning "Immortality”), and Paul’s death commando bodyguard, the Fedaykin, derives its name from the Arabic Fedayeen, a term used to describe military groups willing to sacrifice themselves.

Even their collective name is a nod to the Berbers of North Africa, from whom Herbert heavily borrowed their nomadic, desert-dwelling lifestyle. As Mira Z. Amiras writes in Religion, Politics, and Globalization: Anthropological Approaches, “in addition to spicing up his fictional vernacular with a smattering of Tamazight dialect, Herbert also named his alien heroes ‘Fremen’ — free men — a literal translation of the term ‘Amazigh’ — the name Berbers call themselves.”
[…]
I could go into further detail but what’s abundantly clear is this: Dune and the subsequent books in the series would be nothing without the influence of the Arab and Islamic world. So to learn that no Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) actor has been announced in the cast to play any of the leading Fremen characters is a let-down. Instead, it’s been reported that Zendaya, a biracial Black actress, is in talks to play warrior Chani and Javier Bardem, a Spanish actor, might be taking on the role of Fremen leader Stilgar.
Looking at the IMDB cast page, the listed Fremen characters are played by Zendaya, Javier Bardem, Babs Olusanmokun, and Gloria Obianyo.

How can you possibly call this whitewashed?


Who from the IMDB cast list is Arab and/or from the MENA region?
posted by Ahmad Khani at 11:43 AM on September 9 [10 favorites]




It's not a justification, it's an explanation. It's putting the work in its historical period. It doesn't excuse it nor vindicate it, but it contextualizes it. Even though many of the big influential works from that period (both sci-fi and not) may have been created from attitudes or cultural practices that are not tolerated today doesn't mean we can't still try salvaging them, at least when it comes to adapting them.

Also, I brought up the '60s context because my broad impression of both Golden Age and New Wave sci-fi- and here's hoping that someone with more knowledge of it can weigh in- is that when they depicted far future settings, they tended to imagine very postracial societies when the cultural and racial conflicts of the time had become relics of the past. So there's some added complexity to that.

SyFy: Dune and religious appropriation
In the end, Dune is a 50-year-old book in which Frank Herbert borrows a large amount of material from various theologies, cultures and even other sci-fi novels (check out Sabres of Paradise) in order to write. Yes, he appropriated religious ideas, but it wasn’t to put them totally in a bad light. In fact, Herbert was critiquing the messianism of science through the Bene Gesserit and their psychology powers just as much as the messianism of Paul by the Fremen. As Timothy O'Reilly, author of Frank Herbert, writes, "It is too easy to see messianism as something that happens only to desert peoples like the Fremen. Less immediately apparent is the fact that to Herbert the neurotic use of science in modern Western civilization betrays the same pattern as messianic religion.”

Herbert didn’t like the idea of being trapped in the box of absolutism that both science and religion champion and Dune was his way of using each belief system to hit that home. “Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense,” he writes in Book Three. “But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.”
posted by Apocryphon at 11:46 AM on September 9 [19 favorites]


Soundtrack is missing "There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it's all dark"
posted by Kiwi at 11:48 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Wait, what? WHAT? Why is it whitewashed? Aren't all these people supposed to be brown?

I wouldn't say that's the case at all... Liet Kynes went from White man to Black woman.

I'm not sure Bardem looks right as Stilgar, his hair should be longer and he should be more imposing overall.
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:49 AM on September 9 [1 favorite]


Hopefully also on the sound track, especially when the sandworms first show up. I will also accept My Heart Bleeds the Darkest Blood.
posted by sideshow at 11:51 AM on September 9


(Zendaya is such a gorgeous human.)
posted by maxwelton at 11:53 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


It's not a justification, it's an explanation. It's putting the work in its historical period. It doesn't excuse it

It's very difficult to read your comments and the bits of articles you quoted as "not to excuse it" when it's full of phrasing that IS blatantly about excusing it, not just contextualizing it.

Yes, he appropriated religious ideas, but it wasn’t to put them totally in a bad light.

People forget that Dune was written in an era ... So while Dune can be interpreted as a white savior narrative, it was also [insert lofty thing]

I love context as much as anyone, I heartily recommend the links posted here by inire and Ahmad Khani for instance. But please don't be disingenuous Apocryphon. "Yes, but..." is justifying and excuse-making.
posted by MiraK at 11:56 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


No one actor can look right for everyone's imagination. That's the beauty of reading. You are your own director, and the budget is unlimited.
posted by rikschell at 11:57 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


I re-read Dune during the quarantine, and enjoyed it again, immensely, in preparation for this new movie.
I came across this interview with Herbert, recorded in 1965 about his influences and the cultural ideas he was co-opting to create the characters.

My one comment about the trailer is that if any one lesson should have been learned from Lynch's Dune it's that it's possible to have too much whispered voiceover. So, not impressed so far.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:57 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


not much of a herbert fanboy but gotta say WAY STOKED ABOUT THE FLOYD LYRICS IN THE OPENER
posted by hearthpig at 11:58 AM on September 9


I see no pugs.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:01 PM on September 9 [23 favorites]


I thought the Pink Floyd stuff was corny and so predictable. And, yeah, why are movies taking the worst visuals from video games? Palette: mud, with metal. Ugh.

Tim is acceptable, however.
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 12:11 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I see no pugs.

Expect a boycott of the film by the Modern Pugs Movement for this exclusion.
posted by Liquidwolf at 12:12 PM on September 9


This thread is heading towards #racefail. White people, especially, please try to listen and do better! I'm sticking around here since I'm not Middle Eastern and as someone from a country (two countries!) which oppresses Muslims flagrantly, I don't think I get to bow out of this discussion and leave Muslims alone. So let's do this.

1. Does anyone here want to argue that Dune is not a fable based primarily on MENA cultures? You are in denial about where your stories came from.

2. Does anyone here think it's not whitewashing for a production of Dune to feature seemingly zero Fremen characters played by MENA actors? You are in denial about white supremacy in Hollywood: only white supremacy finds PoC interchangeable with one another.

3. Does anyone think there's any excuse for whitewashing Dune? You're in denial about the harms done to MENA cultures and Muslim people by this kind of wholesale erasure. And you're in denial about who is profiting from your excuse-making.

Note that none of this means you aren't allowed to like Dune or enjoy Dune or enjoy this production of Dune even. This is a plea for acknowledgement and context. You all lose nothing by acknowleding that yes, this movie's casting is a huge fail, this movie's erasure of Islamic elements and references (such as substituting "crusade" for "jihad" what the ever loving fuck) is racist. All our faves are problematic. We are allowed to have problematic faves.

What we should not do is write screeds defending white supremacy here about how ACTUALLY our faves' problematicnessess are in the service of something super noble so hey, don't forget all these "noble intentions", that's context!

Consider instead the context of how deeply Dune borrows from MENA people and Islamic cultures, and how harmful it is to MENA people and Muslims to be erased in popular culture. This is the only context relevant here. Please stop with the apologetics for racism.
posted by MiraK at 12:13 PM on September 9 [57 favorites]


Mayor West: "Aww, man, they fucked up knife-fighting-with-shields. The WHOLE POINT is that you have to move deliberately and slowly, because the shields stop anything with lots of kinetic energy. So knife-fighting (for royals who can afford shields, anyway) is almost a meditative practice, with long slow movements punctuated by quick wrist-flicks once you're inside their guard. That's why Paul initially has so much trouble when he gets thrown in the ring for an unshielded fight against a Fremen. It wouldn't translate well to traditional action sequences, but I was hoping they'd found the director who could handle something that isn't a traditional action sequence."

I was wondering about this too, but it might just be a training sequence? It's been a few years since I read the book, but IIRC there's a scene where Paul practices knife combat that includes a lot of crackling shields.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:21 PM on September 9


You're absolutely right, MiraK, and everyone who agrees with you should say so.
posted by rikschell at 12:24 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


I'll certainly agree that while Hollywood as a whole is so white its a relief to see ANY person of color its also 100% true that Dune was clearly written as a Middle Eastern fable in space and the failure to cast actual Middle Eastern people is a serious problem.

Including Black actors while leaving out Middle Eastern actors is a failure. Its not as big a failure as Lynch's all white cast was, but it is nevertheless a failure.

I still plan to see the movie, recognizing both the problematic aspects of it and the book.

But yes, there's a lot to be desired.

I'll also Nth the call for new stuff. Despite the fact that i do like Dune and consider it a good read despite its flaws Hollywood keeps rehashing old white guy SF and not doing enough new stuff from authors who (gasp) aren't white.

Broken Earth wouldn't be my first choice. I think the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms would be more filmable (well, sorta). But yes, please let's move past 1960's "Grand Masters" and try newer stuff.
posted by sotonohito at 12:25 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Was it just me who noticed Zendaya's eyes glowing blue near the end of the trailer? Hmm, rewatching now!
posted by MiraK at 12:29 PM on September 9



You're absolutely right, MiraK, and everyone who agrees with you should say so.


With respect, I disagree and I say so.
posted by Liquidwolf at 12:29 PM on September 9 [10 favorites]


I'll also use this post as an excuse to link to my favorite Dune mashup image.

I'm gonna have to escalate with this marvel that I actually got a framed print of.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:33 PM on September 9 [5 favorites]


I also disagree. This level of 'outrage' about a film not yet released seems... disproportionate.
posted by epo at 12:33 PM on September 9 [10 favorites]


Based on your comment history in this thread MiraK, you have the zeal of a new convert. Speaking for myself it’s been about 20 years since I learned about the connections between 19th & 20th century Arid Zone history and Dune so I’m less inclined to focus exclusively on the very obvious casting problems to be found in a film like this. It’s gonna have some problems, hopefully fewer of them than past adaptations.
posted by migurski at 12:33 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


Funnily enough, it looks like both the articles posted by Ahmad Khani and me are by the same author, published around the same time.

It is problematic for a work that borrows heavily from another culture to not acknowledge the people of that culture. One of the reasons why Pacific Rim worked was because del Toro acknowledged the Japanese roots of the kaiju genre with its casting. Even though Dune is set in the far future, ultimately you should acknowledge the people you're cribbing from in some way. It'd be tricky- cast the Fremen as Middle Eastern and you fully visualize the white savior angle- very Daenerys crowdsurfing- so maybe you also have Paul be played by a Middle Eastern actor as well?

I'm not sure if the people making this movie even considered these issues, but if they did, it seems like they went with the default of the previous Dune movies and even Lawrence of Arabia itself (Omar Sharif and Gamil Ratib aside), of just casting mostly European actors as the oppressed indigenous people.

I'd be interested in seeing if there's been any racial or Orientalist analyses of Dune. Sci-fi from that era had some loopy visions of culture in the far future- I'm reminded how in the appendix in Dune about the Orange Catholic Bible they mention not just Zensunni wanderers but a whole ton of made-up syncretic religions- Buddislam, Mahayana Christianity, and Zensunni Catholicism. As a kid, I didn't really get why it went into an extended history about the Council of Ecumenical Translators - though I like how it mentioned the tidbit that one of the translators, upon completion of the OC Bible, flew a spaceship into the sun - but in retrospect it was probably talking about how they were setting up this elaborate syncretic religion as a means of social control, not unlike the Bene Gesserit. I suppose the whole point of mentioning the '60s connection is that sci-fi from that era was just weird.

It'd certainly be cool to see sci-fi works be created as responses to Dune. Maybe something from the Fremen's point of view. Maybe flipping the cultures of Dune- have a powerful Arab Islamic-inspired civilization coming across a planet of a Celtic-descended culture! Or perhaps it can be historical fiction- maybe something like The 13th Warrior, minus the Antonio Banderas racebending? The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson is one of the most underrated works of sci-fi, as alternate history, and depicts a world where Europe fell and civilizations of Asia and the Americas ruled instead. There's also Lion's Blood, which has Islamic Africa dominating Europe instead. I think works such as Dune can be the start of these conversations that reexamines where these works were made, and inspire new ones, even ones refuting its central premises.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:34 PM on September 9 [7 favorites]


I read Dune for the first time over the summer, hated 80% of it, spent a lot of time complaining to friends about Magical Boy Lawrence of Arabia, some may call him Paul or Maud'Dib, but he will always be MBLOA to me. He's the best at being Bene Gesserit and the best Fremen ever, because of course he is. Out of all my peeves the two that annoyed me the most:

a) Jessica thinks of a cool thing she can do, then she doesn't do it.

b) Baron Harkonnen is fat and gay and evil, and in case you forget this, it will be mentioned again. And again. And again.

However, I'm excited to see the film because I think the 20% I enjoyed will be fantastic on the screen and sometimes books with questionable prose make great films. I hope this does well enough so that they make both parts because Feyd-Rautha learning to scheme was part of what I enjoyed.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:36 PM on September 9 [4 favorites]


This looks great!

I'm disappointed that all the clothing and armor is black, but I'm convinced big production companies do this all the time because 1. Black clothing is "cool" and 2. even with an $800 million budget, it's better for the wardrobe department to have matching pieces they can swap from one costume to another.
posted by SoberHighland at 12:40 PM on September 9


Here's a deeper look into the Arabic and Islamic themes in Frank Herbert's "Dune", which I think many here will find both germane and fascinating.
What is not well known are the various Islamic undertones, and Arabic etymologies that Frank Herbert put in Dune. The purpose of this article is to try to list these themes, and trace them back to whatever Islamic concept there is (if any).

The following list is derived from the above linked Lexicon, with some of my own addition. I try to explain what the term means in Herbert's novel, and what possible Arabic or Islamic terms it was derived from, and their original meaning.

As per the request of a visitor, I added the possible Arabic origin, in Arabic text next to each title.

I also disagree. This level of 'outrage' about a film not yet released seems... disproportionate.

I don't see any "outrage" in this thread but rather, conversation.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 12:44 PM on September 9 [21 favorites]


Seriously I enjoyed everything about that trailer except that I'm watching it on my iPad instead of a big screen.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:46 PM on September 9


*glances around himself smugly* I never read these books - they any good? Heh... but seriously, there’s a reason I haven’t re-read any Heinlein and this book always had that, yes perfect! MBLOA aura to it that made me keep away (any book where the ‘outsider’ (99% white guy hero) can do things better than the ‘natives’... ugh that said, and being blissfully unaware of all its transgressions against the book - the Movie looks great, that Villeneuve guy can really frame an image. “Arrival” was beautiful (“BR 2049” got borked by script and Hollywood problems, which was too bad.) This trailer looks super - visually impressive, which is what I want most from my Sci-fi epics - with the minimum amount of crap story-telling possible.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:46 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


How cowardly of them to remove the word jihad. The Butlerian Jihad was, for me, one of the best parts of scene setting in the books. At least it tried to justify why all this archaic stuff still existed rather than just being drones and robot mining rigs.
posted by benzenedream at 12:49 PM on September 9 [7 favorites]


It doesn't look like 18,000 (give or take) years from now to me.

Fault the Lynch film for its failures (and the crushing homophobia), but it looks exotic and lush and like an evolution of some sort of long-now human aesthetic. This just looks like a science fiction film with a big budget, but without the sound, other than the clear giveaways, I would never know what this film is supposed to be.
posted by sonascope at 12:51 PM on September 9 [10 favorites]


Also, no pugs.
posted by sonascope at 12:54 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Based on your comment history in this thread MiraK, you have the zeal of a new convert. Speaking for myself it’s been about 20 years since I learned about the connections between 19th & 20th century Arid Zone history and Dune so I’m less inclined to focus exclusively on the very obvious casting problems to be found in a film like this. It’s gonna have some problems, hopefully fewer of them than past adaptations.

Dude. It is possible that I am misreading your intent here, but: I don't think that even the sprawling polysyllabic majesty of the German language has a word to express the magnitude of how bad an idea it is to wade into a discussion with several people of color about whitewashing in film casting, and for your opening salvo to be chiding one of them for being a recent convert.
posted by Mayor West at 12:55 PM on September 9 [20 favorites]


I don't think anyone is saying Dune is bad and you should feel bad. That's just strawmanning.

Dune is problematic, and it's fine to like problematic things. I do, I bet everyone here does.

The thing is its appropriate to acknowledge when something has problems and not be dismissive of people who decide that the problems go beyond their willingness to put up with them.

Everyone draws the line at a different place. And that's also fine.

What isn't fine is trying to pretend the problems don't exist or insisting that people should/must look past the problems and appreciate the thing.

Both the book and this movie have some problems. Herbert did a lot of appropriation and mangling of cultures to which he did not belong to. The movie fails to cast hardly any Middle Eastern people for a people who are clearly a fictionalized Middle Eastern society.

Both of these things are true. Either is a perfectly valid reason for a person to say they wont see the movie for ethical/philosophic reasons (though I note no one has actually said even that, they've merely pointed out the problems and resisted pushback claiming the problems aren't real)

That doesn't mean you are a bad person for wanting to see it. Don't make this about you.
posted by sotonohito at 12:57 PM on September 9 [25 favorites]


I read that as being a recent convert to Dune, which I admit is a weird thing to be converted to but couldn't make any sense out of the comment otherwise.
posted by axiom at 1:07 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


Back to link you all to MENA and Muslim people who are talking about this in smart ways white folks on this thread need to hear and read:

The Middle Geeks podcast, episode 12, with Reza Aslan as guest: "The internet was abuzz a few weeks ago when the first photos for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune 2020 adaptation came out, but where were all the MENA people who should have been cast in a work clearly informed by the Middle East and its people, down to blatantly using Arabic and Persian words? In our exasperation at this blatant exclusion, we have our friend and lifelong Dune fan Rocky on again to discuss why this is troubling and its overall implications for MENA representation in Hollywood. Why did Warner Brothers and Villeneuve not cast any MENA actors? We’re very tired. "

Roxana Hadidi is on Pajiba talking about Dune's Middle Eastern representation problem: "But I’m so tired of having this conversation over and over again. So tired that Hollywood can barely make any space for actors of Arab, Iranian, Middle Eastern descent. Riddle me this: If the Fremen were villains—if they were terrorists, let’s say—would brown actors have been cast then? It depresses me that I think the answer leans toward yes." She is also on twitter:"two dualities can exist at once, which is that I am both exhausted and excited [about Dune]."

This tweet points out how actor Mena Massoud has not seen any significant work come his way after starring in Aladdin. "The book is based off their culture, they should be the main characters in a story that involves their culture." There are real consequences to Muslims and MENA culture and people being erased.

Lexi Alexander's thread about the Dune trailer points out how Ridley Scott refused to cast "Mohammed So-and-So" in his film 6 years ago. Once again, real consequences to this erasure. Lexi says: "We have great talent, just like every other culture and community has talented actors. They’re only “Mohammed so-and-so” to you because you refuse to give them a chance. Every Chris was a Chris so-and-so before a director and a studio decided to cast them in a starring role."

Based on your comment history in this thread MiraK, you have the zeal of a new convert. Speaking for myself it’s been about 20 years since I learned about the connections between 19th & 20th century Arid Zone history and Dune

If you really had read my comments in this thread, you'd realize the only thing that's new to me about Dune is that white people have anything at all to do with it. That's what came as a shock to me today. As a kid reading Dune, I legit thought Frank Herbert was an Arab writer who had taken on a white sounding name for marketing purposes.

I read that as being a recent convert to Dune, which I admit is a weird thing to be converted to but couldn't make any sense out of the comment otherwise.

posted by MiraK at 1:07 PM on September 9 [20 favorites]


my favorite Dune mashup image

Christina's Wor...msign
posted by exogenous at 1:14 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


I do especially think that it's a crime that Shohreh Aghdashloo is not in this movie.

To be fair, I think it's a crime whenever she's not cast in anything.
posted by axiom at 1:15 PM on September 9 [10 favorites]


Riddle me this: If the Fremen were villains—if they were terrorists, let’s say—would brown actors have been cast then? It depresses me that I think the answer leans toward yes.

Spoiler Warning: The Fremen (and Paul) are terrorists and villains. Immediately after their victory at the end of Dune, the Fremen (led by Paul) are responsible for a Jihad (so-called) throughout the known universe, lasting more than a decade and resulting in the sterilization of 90 planets and the deaths of 61 billion people.

How would you like the Fremen cast now?
posted by The Tensor at 1:17 PM on September 9 [5 favorites]


Mayor West, you are indeed misreading my intent. I am not chiding anyone for being new to an idea (in this case, the middle-eastern and Islamic influences on Dune and its resulting white-savior representation when combined with lazy Hollywood casting practice). However, maybe it’s not great in a conversation like this one to adopt a “fixed-that-for-you” approach after having just made this connection?
posted by migurski at 1:20 PM on September 9


How would you like the Fremen cast now?

o boy u sure got us ok it's not racism if u whitewash folks after deliberately writing them to be stereotypical massacreing terrorists i guess
posted by MiraK at 1:20 PM on September 9 [7 favorites]


Shohreh Aghdashloo would make a killer Reverend Mother. Maybe recontextualize the Bene Gesserit, the Spacing Guild, and the Imperium as pre-Islamic Persia while the Fremen as pre-Islamic Arabia? They are ruled by a Padishah Emperor, after all. And Alexander Siddig deserves a better new role in an adaptation to a popular novel after the terrible way Dorne was handled.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:21 PM on September 9 [4 favorites]


Bob Dylan went electric in the same year that the novel of Dune was released - this book is old, and Herbert is generally a dodgy writer who occasionally strikes lucky. I read it for the first time in the spring, with fond memories of the Lynch film, and found it to be a pretty tedious slog. It's not about a massive space jihad, it's about predeterminism, and how there's one special white guy who has seen the future. The fact that we are getting another film from this source material points to how barren Hollywood is, and how stuck in boomerism mainstream culture is.
posted by The River Ivel at 1:28 PM on September 9 [9 favorites]


How would you like the Fremen cast now?

I don't know, The Tensor, how WOULD Hollywood cast the Fremen if this movie did indeed include the Fremen's Jihad wiping out all those planets? I really, really, really, really, really, really, really wonder.

If only their woke solidarity with MENA people and Muslims extended quite as far as yours, they would.... still have the actors speak in arabic and shout "allahu akbar" before they blow something up, but they'd make sure to cast Black actors instead of Arabs. How very non-racist that would be!
posted by MiraK at 1:37 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


I'm middle-eastern and Muslim and I disagree (and am bored) with all of this being boiled down to 'racism'. Then again, I won't watch this movie, and probably haven't in the past 5 years watched a single movie made after the 1960s. So I am not the target audience, and I think it is telling that the target audience has innumerable hangups that cannot be resolved without flattening every aspect of the entire world.

Also, free co-option and references of cultural flavor is not a uniquely modern Western thing.

Finally, I am reminded, by corollary, of the famous response to the racist question, "Who is the Tolstoy of the Zulus?" The answer was, 'Tolstoy is the Tolstoy of the Zulus', since each one of us comes from, and belongs to all the rest of humanity.
posted by legospaceman at 1:38 PM on September 9 [23 favorites]


o boy u sure got us ok it's not racism if u whitewash folks after deliberately writing them to be stereotypical massacreing terrorists i guess

The use in the trailer of the word "crusade" (which only occurs once in the text of the novel) instead of "jihad" (which occurs more than twenty times) suggests that maybe Villeneuve is trying to tone down the portrayal of the Fremen as Muslim-coded jihadi super-killers. Is that admirable or just more white-washing?

I don't see how you can adapt Dune, which for all its reputation for mind-blowing science fictional ideas is in its basic structure still Lawrence of Arabia in Space, without either (a) running neck-deep into a mid-20th century white guy's literary melange of real Earth cultures that aren't his own, or (b) trying to somehow file off all those cultural serial numbers, leaving...I don't know what. I would have said Dune is unadaptable for a modern audience because of this. I guess we'll find out how Villeneuve navigated these waters in December.
posted by The Tensor at 1:41 PM on September 9 [8 favorites]


Herbert is generally a dodgy writer who occasionally strikes lucky
Show me a list of the greatest works in sci fi that doesn't have Dune in the top 5 before you make a comment this laughable. sure it's problematic in ways that almost any book written in another age would be, but "strikes lucky" is absurd unless your name is also on that list more than once.
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:44 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


Now if he had said that about Orson Scott Card he would have been correct!
posted by legospaceman at 1:45 PM on September 9 [4 favorites]


I just had a darkly amusing thought -

I wonder if the casting department actually did approach any actors of Middle Eastern descent, only they all scoffed and said "oh God, that thing? Fuck no."

(I know this is very likely not what happened, and I am instead imagining it as an explanation from an alternate universe.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:46 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


b) Baron Harkonnen is fat and gay and evil, and in case you forget this, it will be mentioned again. And again. And again.

You forgot that he's a pedophile and Russian.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:47 PM on September 9 [4 favorites]


I agree with MiraK. I love Dune and acknowledge that it's a totally problematic fave, and this is not only a question of "social justice", but also of... boredom. Whitewashing everything makes it boring. It's always the same faces.

My ideal casting would be to keep all the Fremen Middle Eastern/North African (hey why Rami Malek is not in this?!?!? inexcusable), and the Atreides should obviously be subsaharan Africans, coming from a rainy place to cross a desert going after spice... the Afrofuturist Dune adaptation practically writes itself.

But this could never come from Villeneuve. I watched his other movies in preparation for this and Sicario is super racist and disappointing. I used to think he was an interesting new filmmaker, Arrival and 2049 are intriguing, but Sicario showed me his limitation: he's just another boring white guy.
posted by Tom-B at 1:47 PM on September 9 [7 favorites]


Now if he had said that about Orson Scott Card he would have been correct!

Largely because Card is of this age, and problematic.
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:49 PM on September 9


My ideal casting would be to keep all the Fremen Middle Eastern/North African (hey why Rami Malek is not in this?!?!? inexcusable), and the Atreides should obviously be subsaharan Africans, coming from a rainy place to cross a desert going after spice... the Afrofuturist Dune adaptation practically writes itself.

A flipped version of the Zanj rebellion, perhaps?
posted by Apocryphon at 1:50 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


Seconding MiraK's concerns.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:52 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I don't see how you can adapt Dune, which for all its reputation for mind-blowing science fictional ideas is in its basic structure still Lawrence of Arabia in Space, without either (a) running neck-deep into a mid-20th century white guy's literary melange of real Earth cultures that aren't his own, or (b) trying to somehow file off all those cultural serial numbers, leaving...I don't know what. I would have said Dune is unadaptable for a modern audience because of this.

you could start by having some of the fremen played by muslim / mena actors, as originally suggested lo these many comments ago.

that would somewhat lessen the problematic impact of the appropriative bits of dialogue / worldbuilding (without eradicating it or retrospectively absolving the novel, sure), and the better representation there might give you room to play up some of the non-muslim / mena bits a little more (without erasing the muslim / mena influences) to avoid turning it into 'stereotypical islamic terrorists in spaaaace'.

frankly it'd be worth doing on its own merits even if it did none of the above and the whole thing remained fully problematic.

denis and co don't need to fully de-problematise the film, just... make more of an effort?
posted by inire at 1:54 PM on September 9 [5 favorites]


you don't need to fully de-problematise the film, just... make more of an effort?

Right? I'm such a huge fan of the books ... over 22 years now since I read them! though all these years I've assumed nobody in it was white and it was written by a brown dude ... and I'm so excited to see this trailer (haven't seen the TV series). It would have been trivial to not erase the very people this book is wholesale stolen from.
posted by MiraK at 1:59 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


Yeah, surely there is some midpoint between "have no MENA actors as Fremen" and "make all the Fremen MENA actors" (the latter would obviously have some issues looking like stereotyping while the former has a problem of representation). The cast listing on IMDB looks incomplete to me (there are only about two dozen names listed) but I would argue that probably one of the Fremen parts given to a MENA actor ought to be a speaking role.
posted by axiom at 2:01 PM on September 9 [5 favorites]


Hmm. I wonder if Villeneuve has tried to thread this needle by taking an idea from the original conception of the Fremen in Spice Planet—that they're "Free Men", convicts from all over the galaxy sent to harvest spice. That would avoid portraying the Fremen as stereotypical space-Muslims and might explain the multi-ethnic casting (including Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Zendaya, and Babs Olusanmokun).
posted by The Tensor at 2:01 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


I am disappoint. They managed to take a unique story and concept and strip it of anything that makes it look even slightly distinctive and interesting. If I didn't know it was Dune, I'd say it was a trailer for Generic Sci-Fi Action Dystopia 48927.
posted by SansPoint at 2:05 PM on September 9 [4 favorites]


The trailer is very "sell this complex and frankly weird scifi opera to a wider audience". Someone made the comment of this feeling like a YA story and I totally see that in the presentation here if stripped of any of the knowledge of the source material.

As is the case for trailers, there's also not a lot of breathing room. I like his other films because they tend to have a meditative quality to them and he's not afraid of silence to build mood and character, which I would expect to see in this adaptation. If the film is like this trailer, I'll be disappointed but I'm still hopeful that this is selling a different experience.

The sense of place for Arrakis is so palpable in the book that I mainly want that to come across in the film.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:05 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I hope it isn't just 90% closeups and over-the-shoulder shots of people trading plot points with pensive expressions....like in the past dozen or so Star Wars.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:08 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Maybe thinking in terms of Muslim or Islamic-culture representation, considered more broadly, might be fruitful, because Herbert appropriates heavily from non-Arab Islamic cultures and from cultures outside the Middle East and North Africa, ranging from the aforementioned Caucasus to Indonesia.
posted by vogon_poet at 2:09 PM on September 9 [6 favorites]


It's a TRAILER, people. It's meant to target and market the film to specific audiences. This is not the actual film.
posted by SoberHighland at 2:10 PM on September 9 [10 favorites]


I wish filmmakers would release two trailers: One like this one, for a mass audience, and one that's an actual short film, say that occurs before the action of the actual film, so you'd get to see some of the actors and design, but not have any of the main movie ruined by 100 jump cuts.




oh who am I kidding, I'd watch both like 100 times.
posted by gwint at 2:14 PM on September 9


As long as it doesn't start with an exposition dump that fades out and then fades back in with the actor literally saying "Oh, I forgot to tell you", I think it'll be tolerable to watch.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:14 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


[ One comment removed for violating the guidelines (reinstated after we got permission form the commenter to edit it)]
posted by loup (staff) at 2:15 PM on September 9


Herbert is generally a dodgy writer who occasionally strikes lucky

Show me a list of the greatest works in sci fi that doesn't have Dune in the top 5 before you make a comment this laughable.


This is not a refutation of the comment we both quoted. Herbert did strike it lucky with Dune, and the fact that almost nobody can mention his other books more or less proves it! I've read several of his other works and none of them are anywhere close to Dune in quality, even the other Dune books! I did enjoy The Dosadi Experiment, but The Whipping Star was just bad.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:20 PM on September 9 [5 favorites]


I tried reading Dune twice. I loved all the concepts and world building and bizarre characters, but his prose is... ugh. I would have to re-read a page every now and then just to figure out who was saying what to whom, for example. He had great ideas, but shoddy writing.
posted by SoberHighland at 2:24 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


I wonder if Villeneuve has tried to thread this needle

with what, a camel?

i have also not read dune for at least 15 years, and looking back at the plot now is reminding me just how much of it was, uh, let's say 'used as inspiration' for warhammer 40k, my first and most problematic fave (it's... really quite problematic <_<) - navigators, the god emperor, the imperium, the butlerian jihad, the golden path, probably a bunch of other stuff i'm forgetting.

on the trailer itself - it looks fine, and arguably even good at points, but i find it difficult with villeneuve specifically to tell from trailers whether i'm likely to enjoy his films. maybe because it feels like his characters are so often detached, which can make sense in context, but comes across as oddly weightless in isolated scenes. probably going to watch it anyway, who am i kidding.
posted by inire at 2:30 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Herbert did strike it lucky with Dune,

You and I just have a different definition of luck I guess. I find it insulting to an artist who put so much effort into his work to call the result of that effort luck. Dune isn't a one-off. there are sequels that stand up as well. We agree that the Dosadi Experiment is decent. I also liked Destination: Void and The Green Brain back in the day. You make yor own luck as they say, and Herbert, for all of his flaws, earned his stature IMO.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:33 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


In later books there are so damn many clones of Duncan Idaho running around I couldn't keep them straight.

As a writer, you have to ask yourself, what is my end ghola with this character?
posted by benzenedream at 2:35 PM on September 9 [26 favorites]


what is my end ghola

ಠ_ಠ
posted by Ipsifendus at 2:36 PM on September 9 [20 favorites]


If you really had read my comments in this thread, you'd realize the only thing that's new to me about Dune is that white people have anything at all to do with it. That's what came as a shock to me today. As a kid reading Dune, I legit thought Frank Herbert was an Arab writer who had taken on a white sounding name for marketing purposes.
This is incredibly interesting, thanks for sharing it. I always took the Euro-sounding house names at face value along with the 19th c. styling of Lynch’s design choices. I was exposed to his film before the book so it was anchored as a “Great Game in Space” story for me. The Fremen were visually presented in a less specific way. It wasn't until I read the book that I caught all the spelling and terminology choices as clear allusions.

Someone upthread mentioned Star Wars which just reminds me how hard it is to do modern takes on these old, problematic intellectual properties. Star Wars itself is a mashup of samurai films and Flash Gordon while Dune leans hard on Sabres of Paradise, but both bring new elements and establish their own tropes for later creations. I’d much rather see movie money directed towards stories that re-interpret other media in this way, rather than just dropping someone like Villeneuve into the no man’s land between “Dune had problems” and “you’re no David Lynch”. Guess I’ll just… repeat that Broken Earth would make a fantastic adaptation. Or something like HBO’s Watchmen which managed to achieve significance on its own terms, entirely separate from upstream source material.
posted by migurski at 2:41 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


Dune isn't a one-off.

Well, that's where we disagree. I think "decent" just about sums up the rest of his output, while Dune is clearly of another order. It's unfair of me to contrast him with Gene Wolfe, whose output was consistently fabulous, but then I think it's unfair that Herbert is a household name in comparison to Wolfe, so I don't care.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:41 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


My expectations for this has severely been tempered. Probably for the best.

I've watched David Lynch's 'Dune' so many times that it feels weird to watch this trailer without a soundtrack by Toto. I like Pink Floyd, but the song in the trailer lacks the eeriness.

I'm a-ok with the shield effect. "The slow blade penetrates the shield" and the shield stops high kinetic energy objects, there are no restrictions on how to use the shield itself as a weapon. The blades are a bit too long, compared to my mind's eye.

Also, where's the pug!?
posted by porpoise at 2:53 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


just wanted to make sure everyone is well-supplied with dank dune memes, carry on
posted by inire at 2:56 PM on September 9 [7 favorites]


The Jodorowsky Dune was clearly going to be a disaster based on the documentary about it.

Now we will do battle to the death, and I will claim your water. Jodorowsky or GTFO!!!!

i tease b/c i luv... Jodorowsky
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:00 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


In response to a comment above about a supposed secret Lynch cut of Dune: There was an extended cut that I think only aired on TV a few times, but Lynch disowned it, and it is credited to Alan Smithee. It circulated in bootlegs for years, but was eventually released officially. It's sort of gloriously insane in its own way, with like a 5 minute opening narration over stills of what looks like concept art from pre-production, a la The Sting (not Sting, though). There's a lot more context/exposition to some scenes (like Paul's first encounter with the Fremen and his duel, which explains the whole issue with Paul's slow fighting style and how the Fremen interprets it as mockery). There's also lots of footage that's missing some final special effects touches, so Paul will have blue eyes in one shot, then not in the next, and so on.

And as to the Atreides' Greek descent, in God Emperor, Leto II carries within him the memories of his male ancestors, just like the Bene Gesserit do with past Reverend Mothers, and there's mention a couple times about him talking with his ancestor Agamemnon and that Atreides is a corruption of Atreus (hence the curse of male heirs/rulers dying violently). [or perhaps that's from one of the prequels, of which I have read a few]
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:15 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


The "secret Lynch cut" was supposed to have removed story stuff (no idea how that would work, honestly), though, while the TV cut added in a bunch of shit, as you observe.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 3:18 PM on September 9


Will the new version be as good as Lynch's Dune without the dialogue?
posted by autopilot at 3:19 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


That was a lifeless trailer with terrible music, for what will probably be a pretty good movie.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:20 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I don't think there's anything in the world of Dune that can map back to what we know.

Like what does Zensunni even mean? Is it a new religion blending elements of Islam and Zen Buddhism? Is it a school of thought within Sunni Islam? Is it cultural shorthand to signify to readers that you should think of Arab people with a very clean/empty aesthetic?

What is race when you have Guild Navigators, mentats, and gholas that are all arguably human? What are the actual skin colours of the various characters? Do the Emperor and Great Houses all have the same skin colour? Are there populations with different skin colours on each planet? Does each planet have a dominant "native" skin colour? Maybe everyone in the universe has more or less the same skin colour and any reference to someone being pale or dark are within that context? How about eye and hair colour? I know that once you're addicted to spice your eyes turn blue but that's about it.

So a Dune where everyone is Middle-Eastern makes sense to me. So does a Dune where everyone is white (aka the David Lynch movie). Or maybe go hard on the Zen part of Zensunni and make everyone Japanese. I'm not going to say that any of those would be right or wrong, they'd all be equally valid interpretations. I'd probably prefer to see the interpretation where the majority of the cast are POC but I'll be watching this movie once it hits Netflix in any event.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:27 PM on September 9 [5 favorites]


Will the new version be as good as Lynch's Dune without the dialogue?

I honestly want to see the whole film like that.
posted by Grangousier at 3:31 PM on September 9


For me Lynch's Dune falls over after Paul goes into hiding with the Fremen -- too many dripping water flashbacks and then some very confused battle scenes. Nothing's wrong with the first half, or the final showdown, though.

I'm not sure if I liked movies in the 1980s or I just liked expensive sets and location shoots
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:37 PM on September 9


Steely-eyed: I think that rumor was just a rumor
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:48 PM on September 9


any portmanteau in a storm: Like what does Zensunni even mean? Is it a new religion blending elements of Islam and Zen Buddhism?

Yes, and its creation is explained in the book as a specific in-universe historical event. The various religious leaders form a council that gets together, mashes up all the religions, and forms new ones out of all of the intersections. It's definitely one of the goofier parts of the worldbuilding.

And--with the big caveat that I'm white and thus cannot have experienced this book from the perspective of a person of color--Dune isn't really a standard white savior narrative because Paul...isn't actually the savior. It's sort of a subversion of the white savior narrative, if anything. Paul thinks he's going to be the great peacebringer and use his special once-in-a-lifetime magical powers to avert the galaxy-consuming war that is coming. And the big realization the plot hinges on is that he can't. Because it's not actually his war--it's the Fremen's, and the Bene Gesserit's, and they're using him as a figurehead as much as anything. In fact, the only person who makes an independent, fate-altering choice in the entire story is Jessica. (Which choice is to ~give her husband a son~, so, err...)

Now, that said, what I would criticize about the story is the choice to portray it from Paul and Jessica's POV, and not have the POV of someone like Stilgar or Chani, so we only see the Fremen from the perspective of someone who views them as the exotic Other.

Oh, and I guess you could also say that Liet-Kynes is a white savior!

Either way, do I trust this adaptation to get those nuances? Not really. This looks like the least Middle Eastern Dune I have ever seen. The stillsuits look so generic. Are they not supposed to be based on Bedouin or Tuareg dress? I'm only here for the casting, including the absolutely stellar choice of Zendaya for Chani, and Hot Yueh. (Yueh was definitely one of the most outright racist portrayals of anything in the book. The Fremen seemed well-researched and respectfully portrayed, at least to this white person, and yet in the same book you have that really gross, stereotype-laden description of Yueh. Really glad this adaptation is not going in that direction.)
posted by capricorn at 3:54 PM on September 9 [9 favorites]


I hope it isn't just 90% closeups and over-the-shoulder shots of people trading plot points with pensive expressions....like in the past dozen or so Star Wars.

Oddly, the first post-Disney-purchase Star War begins with a scene of close-ups and over-the shoulder shots of two characters trading plot points, and the two characters are played by Max Von Sydow (who has a prominent supporting role in Lynch’s Dune) and Oscar Isaac (with a prominent supporting role in this movie).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:57 PM on September 9


Atreides is a corruption of Atreus

The word “Atreides” is in Homer. It’s some declination of the genitive case of Atreus or something like that. It refers to one of either of Agamemnon or Menelaus.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:57 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


there ya go
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:03 PM on September 9


I don't think there's anything in the world of Dune that can map back to what we know.

i think the various links above strongly suggest otherwise. there’s no direct one to one mapping (the fremen are not literally and simply middle eastern, given the far flung future setting), but the various appropriations / borrowings / references were made selectively and with intent, from things that exist in reality, in order to play on readers’ knowledge of and associations with those things to give a particular literary effect. it’s not a meaningless mishmash, or so thoroughly decontextualised (from the reader’s perspective) as to be divorced from its modern day sources. it relies on the reader mapping things across (partially, blended, etc) for its impact.
posted by inire at 4:05 PM on September 9 [8 favorites]


Someone upthread mentioned Star Wars which just reminds me how hard it is to do modern takes on these old, problematic intellectual properties.

I'm still waiting for the grimdark-Galactica version of Buck Rogers.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:07 PM on September 9 [4 favorites]


And I’m dreading what Amazon decides to do with The Culture.
posted by migurski at 4:08 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


tl;dr the dune universe may have no concept of race, but we do, and we’re the ones reading it.
posted by inire at 4:08 PM on September 9 [12 favorites]


And I’m dreading what Amazon decides to do with The Culture.

would you accept: nothing?
posted by inire at 4:10 PM on September 9 [9 favorites]


Meanwhile, fucken D&D are about to ruin the Three-Body Problem
posted by Apocryphon at 4:11 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


Yeah, looking back on a Bladerunner 2049 trailer, pretty much none of my favorite things were even hinted at. That movie was much less constrained by the source material, as it was the unexpected sequel to what was already a pretty loose adaptation. But I won't be surprised if the experience of this film is quite different from the trailer.

But that's not what we're REALLY talking about here in this thread.

I re-read Dune back in January; the whole Wonderboy Hero's Journey was really over the top and not my jam. As others noted above, Harkonnen and Yueh are incredibly terrible depictions, using race and sexuality as indicators of how evil they are. Ugh. On one hand, it's a product of it's time, and I found myself saying 'OK Boomer' a lot while reading it. OTOH, it probably had a large impact on making the 'time' in sci-fi that it was a part of.

(I was intrigued by the idea that the follow up books undid the whole hero's journey thing and turned Paul into a villain. So I picked up Messiah and bounced after about 200 pages because it was so meh.)

Like what does Zensunni even mean?

Well, it means that Herbert's idea of how to create an alien civilization was to make a pastiche of various real-world cultures. The end result of this approach is throwing lots of stereotypes together, based on the author's limited and selective knowledge of these cultures. Writing interesting culture in sci-fi is a HARD problem: it has a tendency to veer towards the Planet of Hats problem, which we can interpret as racial essentialism. Herbert's solution to the culture problem wasn't great, imho.

A couple more recent books that I thought had much better solutions to the culture problem: Binti (which illustrates a specific African tribal culture in a sci fi context) and A Memory Called Empire, which approaches cultural imperialism and assimilation in a fascinating way, and without essentialism; the characters are people with their own wide range of relationships with their various cultures involved.

There's a good point up above that placing MENA people in the Dune movie gives a chance to cast people outside of the usual terrorist stereotypes. That's what is lost here. (well, in context, it's not THAT far off the stereotypical casting... Harkonnen would certainly call them terrorists.)
posted by kaibutsu at 4:28 PM on September 9 [10 favorites]


In the book there's a guard who likes to get really high and listen to atonal music. He didn't appear in the Lynch version, maybe a brief scene in the miniseries. I wonder if he appears in this one. I would watch a movie from his point of view.
posted by ovvl at 4:30 PM on September 9 [8 favorites]


Like what does Zensunni even mean? Is it a new religion blending elements of Islam and Zen Buddhism?

Yes, and its creation is explained in the book as a specific in-universe historical event. The various religious leaders form a council that gets together, mashes up all the religions, and forms new ones out of all of the intersections. It's definitely one of the goofier parts of the worldbuilding.


Isn't that the Orange Catholic Bible? I thought that was a different thing from Zensunni.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:38 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


I've always understood that trailers use silly music because they haven't had time to get the movie scored for real yet. But here they had the time to re-record Dark Side Of The Moon so they'd have a version of it that would be even sillier and more incongruous in this trailer than if they'd just used the Pink Floyd record. I don't know, maybe they do this stuff on purpose to give people something to talk about. Aside from that, looks good to me...
posted by Sing Or Swim at 4:51 PM on September 9


It's been many years since I read Dune, but I don't recall anything in particular about Yueh's race or sexuality being used as shorthand for how "evil" he was. What are you guys talking about?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 5:02 PM on September 9


Herbert did a lot of appropriation and mangling of cultures to which he did not belong to.

Is this necessarily a bad thing? I can see how it could be; I don't think in the case of Dune that it is, or this thread wouldn't be so productive.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:03 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


guys guys can't we just admit Dune is pretty much Avatar with worms

I need more spice if I am going to experience time flowing in that direction
posted by srboisvert at 5:06 PM on September 9 [8 favorites]


Ultimately, he says, it sounds like the lack of interest came not from Amazon, but from Banks’ estate

Re: Culture adaptation - this is probably for the best. I obviously can't really know how Banks would have felt about an adaptation of his ultra-left post-scarcity queer hedono-communist world being bankrolled by the richest man in our very much pre-post-scarcity one, but I'm guessing he wouldn't be all in on it.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:08 PM on September 9 [7 favorites]


(spoilers for the lame prequel books, if anyone cares, and also a content warning)

In the first set of prequels that Herbert's son co-wrote (the only ones that I read), the young Baron is beautiful, athletic, and extremely vain -- sort of like the beauty of Feyd-Rautha with the brawn of Rabban. So, there's a whole different kind of stereotyping going on with him as a narcissistic gay man. At some point, he rapes Jessica (before she becomes Leto's concubine, I think), and she uses her Bene Gesserit powers to infect him with the degenerative disease that makes him obese and gives him skin infections -- the BG apparently have some sort of stock of diseases dormant in their bodies that they can activate at will. There may have been something also about how Jessica was originally supposed to be the Baron's concubine, or perhaps she was supposed to bear his child to then be wed to Leto's heir, I don't really remember.
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:10 PM on September 9


Yeah, I'm confused about what people are going on about with Yueh too. The good doctor loves his wife and hates Harkonnen. What's wrong with that?

The representatives of the various religions, Zensunni among them, all came together to put together the Orange Catholic Bible, the syncretic religious text.
posted by Fukiyama at 5:32 PM on September 9


(Yueh is pretty heavily coded Chinese (drooping mustache, almond eyes, etc), playing the part of a literally brainwashed servant, who then betrays his (white) masters. Which has a bit of a 'smell' to it, imo. The fat shaming and homophobia tied up in Harkonnen's depiction is much more overt.)
posted by kaibutsu at 5:47 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


Are Hebert's subsequent books any good? I read the next three about 30 years ago and recall them as each being a dropoff of quality from the one before.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:08 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


They're a bit of a journey. I actually like them a lot, but as much because I'm game for seeing Herbert try and improvise and resynthesize and expand on some of the stuff in the original. The second book is essentially a third act of the original novel (and was laid out as such), the third a sequel to that those and wrapping up the familiar character arcs. The fourth, God Emperor, is really interesting in a bunch of ways but is a big big time jump from the first three. The last two get weirder still and for all the bad rap the series gets I think five and six are the only two that really deserve it. (I still like them. But they're weird and he was definitely winging it.)
posted by cortex at 6:21 PM on September 9 [6 favorites]


If I go back and re-read them (which I've done a couple times), after having read all six once, I always stop at the 4th book. God Emperor is a really interesting, but profoundly different book from the first three, and it can be a bit jarring, but I think it still holds up as a plausible continuation of the story. 5 and 6 are what you read if you want to see where things end up, but there's definitely a drop off.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:39 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


The first three books have the same feel. The first is obviously the best. Book four almost feels as if it were written by a different person.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:46 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


(Yueh is pretty heavily coded Chinese (drooping mustache, almond eyes, etc), playing the part of a literally brainwashed servant, who then betrays his (white) masters. Which has a bit of a 'smell' to it, imo.

Hmm. I guess I don't associate a drooping mustache and almond eyes and those other qualities with Chinese to make that connection. By brainwashing, do you mean the Suk doctor imperial conditioning he has received?
posted by Fukiyama at 6:51 PM on September 9


Are Hebert's subsequent books any good?

This seems to be one of the great divisions in science fiction. Never heard anything much other than the line "no books exist after God Emperor" or "they just keep getting better". I'll put them all on the trusty ebook just in case of another lockdown without wifi, but probably never make my own examination.
posted by sammyo at 7:36 PM on September 9


I unironically like the Lynch movie, and hated the books (I finished the first one and petered out early in the second). I will definitely watch this, though the trailer suggests that there are going to be some really boring big battle scenes to slog through.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:45 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I have to say I never pictured anybody other than Dean Stockwell as Yueh, thanks to an imagination tainted by the film, but this page leaves little doubt.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:06 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Show me a list of the greatest works in sci fi that doesn't have Dune in the top 5

Must we? Dune certainly wouldn't make my top 30, and I'm positive there are plenty of lists that wouldn't acknowledge it as a "greatest work in scifi" (see also Stranger in a Strange Land, barf).

Like the first couple LOTR films, I honestly do prefer the movie. And hell, I liked Bladerunner 2049, so maybe I'll actually like this version. But let's not pretend the source material is any more sophisticated than C.S. Lewis's equally-problematic A Horse and His Boy.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:42 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


Hmm. I guess I don't associate a drooping mustache and almond eyes and those other qualities with Chinese to make that connection.

Not so much actual Chinese people as Hollywood stereotypes of Chinese people in the old Fu Manchu/Mr. Wu mold.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:06 PM on September 9 [2 favorites]


> So a Dune where everyone is Middle-Eastern makes sense to me.

same with the bible! :P
posted by kliuless at 9:16 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


Still, far from his race or anything else being a shorthand for "evil," I've always found the portrayal of Yueh to be rather sympathetic. We are shown, of course, that history reviles him, but if there's one thing Dune is about it's definitely not the infallibility of history.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:22 PM on September 9 [5 favorites]


17 minute Dune featurette / Q&A with Villeneuve and several of the actors conducted by Dune superfan Stephen Colbert (?!)
posted by gwint at 10:07 PM on September 9 [3 favorites]


Are Hebert's subsequent books any good?

dune, dune messiah, and children of dune serve as a very interesting trilogy, with the first two books being a really nice sort of arc.

god emperor of dune (book 4) is where you get the first massive time jump, and it’s really where you see the bloodlines thing come into play even more, because the majority of main characters are all descended from essentially the same major players from the earlier books. but you also have like… weirdness in the form of hwi noree, who i kept feeling was being described as a sort of exoticized east asian woman character, coming from ix, the tech planet, and she’s a key character in what leads to the golden path.

i’m still largely okay with it, even though there’s also bioessentialist weirdness (though the whole series is filled with it), what with the rationale of the fish speaker army (women armies don’t pillage and destroy, you see, not like men armies…)

---spoilers follow, and content warning for sexual violence---

but heretics of dune and chapterhouse dune, the last two frank herbert books, are another enormous time jump (like 50k years or something), so much so that the protagonist’s surname Atreides becomes Odrade due to linguistic shifts… but that’s where you get a lot more of the weirdness: during this gap, the bene gesserit sisterhood has split, with one descending faction, the honored matres, coming from beyond the old borders of the empire and having essentially magic hoo-hahs that can control men through sexual imprinting. those within the old borders of the empire turn the tide by cloning an old character and giving him a magic dick that sexes one of the honored matres juuust right so they imprint on each other and help join the two groups of humanity.

i would, however, completely avoid any of the books written by the son: aside from quibbles with technology timelines (the very early appearances of no-ships, for instance, which hide people from prescience, whose existence that early in the timeline should have altered quite dramatically the overarching story), there's a disturbing tendency for brian herbert and kevin j anderson to drop fig leafs and just go for hbo game-of-thrones-type of sexual violence and prurience. some examples from a few of the earlier books they wrote, which happened to be prequels, in comparison with frank herbert's style:

- frank suggests the harkonnens are... really bad at respecting safe words to the point of having dead lovers and treating the people the view as lessers as nothing, but few details are provided. brian goes into graphic detail regarding the torture, rape, and murder of a woman, witnessed by her brother, which is then used as character development fodder for why he hates the harkonnens and pledges fealty to the atreides.

- frank repeatedly points out nobody has ever seen a female bene tleilaxu, but mentions that the bene tleilax reproduce themselves via cloning using axolotl tanks, which are also used to create all their other biological products; it's hinted strongly the reason you don't see female bene tleilaxu is because all that's left of them are the artificial wombs that are the axolotl tanks. which is, on its own, horrifying. brian and kevin decide that they might as well explain the process by which they render women bread dead and transformed into those tanks, doing so with a few women characters you've gotten to know, and of course, their murder and conversion to biological incubators is mostly to provide shock value and... character development for other (generally man) characters.
posted by i used to be someone else at 10:21 PM on September 9 [5 favorites]


Yeah, that's what I remember from the prequels I read
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:46 PM on September 9


Nth-ing MikaK.

Derail:
> I felt like the biggest problem with Blade Runner 2049 was the boring script and pacing.

The cis heteronormativity angered me: maleness had agency and femaleness had passivity objectification and death.

Not a derail: this (cinematic) format for making art is skewed by commercial concerns and has a community centred around earning money to live on. It's source material is from a previous generation and you have to fit all that future capability, alien to us, into contemporary bottles which rarely age well: I don't think a worldly USA person would write Dune today or an author from any other place would tell the same story, at least because technology has progressed to give us a different lens on the Butlerian concerns. (Such as, would rare-earth element mining in African nations or China, which poisons the land and kills the miners, be the allegory for Spice?)
Nevertheless, we call for better art.
posted by k3ninho at 12:52 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


at least because technology has progressed to give us a different lens on the Butlerian concerns
I realize that this isn't what you meant, but it seems like the Butlerian Jihad's prohibition of "thinking machines" has gone from completely outlandish at the time Dune was written to at least understandable after the advent of Facebook, etc.
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 1:30 AM on September 10 [6 favorites]


Wow, this looks great. And Timothee Chalamet is going to be magnificent, how could he be otherwise?
posted by Coaticass at 1:45 AM on September 10


Filmjoy loves BR2049 kind of a lot, which does make me think y'all haters are wrong. De gustibus etc. and all, but if you think Deakins sucks then you can be and are wrong.

Obvs Deakins isn't doing the cinematography on Dune, but I'm willing to give Denis the benefit of the doubt that at least some of the Deakins magic rubbed off. There are enough shots in the trailer to whet my appetite. I'm only talking cinematography, the casting issues still are the casting issues.
posted by axiom at 2:03 AM on September 10


Needs more Jessica.
posted by emd3737 at 2:58 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


While we're here...I just wanted to mention that the one bit of the (otherwise pretty forgettable) TV series that I really liked but probably wouldn't work for a lot of people is the fact that almost all of the Baron Harkonnen scenes ended on Shakespeare-esque rhyming couplets.

Don't worry. I've already wedgied myself, stolen my own lunch money, and shoved myself into my locker.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:33 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


Well, I don't know about y'all, but I've got my premiere night party supplies...
posted by Katemonkey at 3:45 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


I have never read Dune. I have no idea how many people have read Dune and I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm gonna guess that most people who watch this movie will not have read Dune either. I like watching sci-fi and action movies with not very much rhyme or reason to my faves other than to be entertained (I loved Gravity, Thor Ragnorok, Moon, Pacific Rim...)

My thoughts watching the trailer:
- Hmmm, I would never pick out Chalamet as a star for a sci-fi epic but ok.
- Are these the baddies? Is Chalamet a baddie? Why does everyone look like they're the baddie?
- Lightning suits. Okay.
- It's all very orange isn't it.
- God, Zendaya is so pretty.
- Mmmm Mamoa.
- I really don't understand what is happening.
- Why do they sometimes wear the nose plug and sometimes don't?
- Can Chalamet control sand?
- Oh it's a big worm thing. Does Chalamet control worm things?
- Is it important that the sand is sparkly?

That's it. That's my trailer impressions as a non-Dune reader.

My impressions after reading this thread:

I got zero Middle Eastern vibes from the trailer and had no idea of such influences in the book until I read this thread. So, the discussion in this thread is very illuminating and I do think some sort of opportunity was missed here if indeed, such influences are a core tenet of the novel. It didn't quite feel like what I would describe whitewashing to me, because like I said, I didn't really get any Middle Eastern vibes that whiteness replaced necessarily. It was just completely absent to me.

That said, I will note that I thought the casting felt "diverse", but in a way that they just called on a medley of very famous POC actors. Nothing groundbreaking or challenging, but a sign of the times for more diverse casting these days I guess? I'm just happy there's no square jawed white guy in it. (And instead it's a lithe pointy jawed one.)

It sounds like the book (books?) are really dense and it has quite a challenge to cover all the nuances and details that the book readers are versed on. But my own challenge with the trailer is that I still have no idea what the plot of this story is and there's a slight danger of it being rather smug and unapproachable for me.
posted by like_neon at 4:58 AM on September 10 [6 favorites]


So who makes the still-suits? They look mass produced. Do the Fremen have factories?
posted by octothorpe at 5:49 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


They're made by hand by the fremen...somehow.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:00 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


So who makes the still-suits? They look mass produced. Do the Fremen have factories?

Yes, they do. The book mentions that they have factories in the south desert. The Fremen are actually shown to have a very sophisticated set of technologies that they have developed.
posted by aerosolkid at 6:04 AM on September 10


Oh, really? I guess I don't remember as well as I thought.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:04 AM on September 10


- Is it important that the sand is sparkly?

That is probably Spice mixed in the sand.
posted by PenDevil at 6:27 AM on September 10


Interesting that it also appears to be the only reference to ‘spice’ at all in the trailer.
posted by schmod at 6:41 AM on September 10


Is Chalamet a baddie? Why does everyone look like they're the baddie?

Part of the point of Dune is that there are no real heroes here. Many undeserving get hurt, but none of those causing the dying are "heroes". There is maybe one, but he gets killed at the very beginning of the book.
posted by bonehead at 6:54 AM on September 10 [3 favorites]


This misunderstanding is the major failing of the Lynch version IMO. It hollywoodizes the narrative into good guys/bad guys. Paul is a monster, unwilling perhaps, but a monster bigger than the worst megadeath tyrants of the 20th century. Paul is literally millions of times worse than even Stalin or Mao.

I like the grays. I think it puts the proper mood on things.
posted by bonehead at 7:00 AM on September 10 [3 favorites]


Paul is literally millions of times worse than even Stalin or Mao.

Oh. Maybe I will pick this up then
posted by From Bklyn at 7:10 AM on September 10


One of Frank Herbert's complaints about the 1984 movie was that it made Paul into a god who could apparently make it rain.
Dune was aimed at this whole idea of the infallible leader because my view of history says mistakes made by a leader (or made in a leader's name) are amplified by the numbers who follow without question. That's how 900 people wound up in Guyana drinking poison Kool-Aid. That's how the U.S. said "Yes, sir, Mister Charismatic John Kennedy!" and found itself embroiled in Vietnam. That's how Germany said "Sieg Heil!" and murdered more than six million of our fellow human beings.
I think that kind of subtlety goes missing in any movie though, where it just seems like he's a straightforward hero.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:17 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


On the problematic stuff: I think on the basis of the trailer the film-makers have done a reasonable job of not whitewashing it. The skeleton of the plot is "Lawrence of Arabia in Space", but the books try to mix up a bunch of differerent cultural influences in a way that was openminded by early-Sixties standards.

If you made the Atreides and Harkonnens white and the Fremen non-white (on the basis that they're the British, Germans and Arabs in Lawrence of Arabia) you just go down another problematic road where even in the far distant future it's white people who have all the technology and power, and brown people who are "primitives". I think making Keynes black is a good move as she's an Imperial scientist: it gets away from that stereotype.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:35 AM on September 10


RELEASE THE BATTLE PUGS
posted by loquacious at 8:04 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


Any reading of Muad 'dib as hero is pretty shallow. He's the accidental product of 10,000 years of a eugenics program meant to produce a manipulable heir to Bene Gesserit power. He's a generation early, and trained, not by the BG, but by Jessica and House Atreides to be a military leader. For the powers that be he's in the wrong place at the wrong time. The emperor has carefully created super-soldiers on a prison planet, and Paul has this epiphany that is one of the messages of Dune. When you starve a people, when you think you've taken their hope and given them nothing else to lose -- that's when they're the most dangerous. So now Paul has a weapon (the Fremen) more powerful than the emperor's, and he can use them to control the most important resource in the known universe. Because he can see the future, he is constantly aware of what he is about to unleash, and he is reluctant at almost every step to do so. But the emperor, by manipulating the Harkonnens, keeps pushing him toward the inevitable. This is nothing like LoA, and if Paul is messianic, that's on the BG, not house Atreides. Not really a hero.
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:04 AM on September 10 [10 favorites]


I would say Pardot Kynes the father of Liet is more the hero than Paul.

As for the Fremen...

They have stillsuit manufacturing. They have superior water reclamation abilities. They can make food out of spice. They can harvest spice at will and use it to bribe the Guild to hide their terraforming. They are terraforming Arrakis slowly but surely. No one in the Imperium has any idea of their true population. They can ride the sandworms as needed for transport and understand the sandworms' relationship to spice.

All this before Paul came along.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:15 AM on September 10 [7 favorites]


The trailer needed to thread the needle between appealing to the people who read the book and people who didn't, and going by like_neon's comment they leaned too much to appealing to the people who read the book.

I will add that on the topic of tropes the book uses that bother me, I'm coming to increasingly loath the trope where the author decides that at some point centuries and/or millennia ago something bad happened and that's why they don't use the tech involved in that something bad today.

Star Trek does this with anything transhumanism related. Centuries before the events in the Star Trek show some Bad People used genetic engineering so therefore centuries later there's an ironclad, unquestioned, rule that forbids any and all human improvement technology.

Dune is even worse. Almost ten thousand years ago a bunch of servants destroyed robots because they wanted to keep being servants and were afraid that the robots would take those very desirable servant jobs away. And for that reason, ten fucking thousand years later everyone is living in castles and technology is banned.

It's absurd. If that was the way people worked then we'd have an unquestioned, ironclad, never broken, universal ban on horse archery because hundreds of years ago people rode out of the steppes and used horse archery to conquer most of the planet.

I mean, sure, I'm complaining about that in a setting where getting stoned on the right dope lets you predict whether or not your hyperspace jump will be safe or kill you, but still it's a lazy bit of writing and, frankly, totally unnecessary to his story.

From Bklyn Note that the aforementioned great jihad that renders dozens of planets incapable of supporting life and kills trillions doesn't happen in the first book, it's just foreshadowed. The first book really is largely Laurence of Arabia in space with some hints of the awful shit Paul will do later happening in a few drug induced precognitive flashes and some brooding about his dark future.

Not saying you shouldn't read it, and the first book really doesn't present anyone as unambiguously great, but the Harkonnens are so awful it's hard not to sympathize with anyone fighting against them. Basically they're the worst sort of feudal influenced capitalism out to squeeze all the money they can from the valuable resource in the desert. Exxon basically, and while the terrorism used to fight them isn't really great it's easy for us to see it as justifiable.
posted by sotonohito at 8:39 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


> Not really a hero.

Any filmmaker's problem is how to translate that lore dump into an emotion that can be shared and instinctively picked up on by the audience, even as an indirect foreshadow?

Colour and visuals are a strong way to do that (music being even more visceral). Paul is an innocent at the beginning of the film and claims his destiny by the end. The fremen are transformed from a free people trying to hide their survival from an incredibly oppressive conqueror into a machine for enacting many genocides themselves. How does a director hint that, and not glorify their futures? Villeneuve can't dump a few hundreds of pages of text on screen; he doesn't have the time or the guarantee of a 10-hour epic with multiple sequels.
posted by bonehead at 8:41 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


All this before Paul came along.

Indeed, before Paul came along and parlayed centuries-old Bene Gesserit messianic protomyths into survival and political power. Yep; even the indigenous perspectives in the story have been effectively colonized. I don't know if Villeneuve will be able to speak to that – neither Lynch nor the miniseries really did – but I can't imagine that doing so would be much of a cinematic priority, and that's a shame.
posted by lumensimus at 8:52 AM on September 10


I feel like I should add a quick note to like_Neon, and anyone else who's professed to unfamiliarity with both the book and any prior adaptations -

The reason you have people in here cracking jokes about pugs is because some years back, someone noticed that the David Lynch adaptation inexplicably gave the main characters a pet pug, for no real reason except "it was David Lynch". They made a supercut of all the scenes that had the pug in them to underscore the ridiculous and it's kind of become a weird in-joke.

(Go watch the supercut linked to in that link above; there's a shot with Patrick Stewart in a full all-out space battle, only he has a pug strapped to his chest. It is a scene which must be beheld, I promise.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:01 AM on September 10 [4 favorites]


Saw TENET in an empty theatre a couple of weeks ago with my wife. If this pandemic holds up, I might go see this in an empty theatre too!
posted by blue_beetle at 9:18 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


Almost ten thousand years ago a bunch of servants destroyed robots because they wanted to keep being servants and were afraid that the robots would take those very desirable servant jobs away.

Where are you getting this from? The event is spoken of pretty vaguely as I recall, but the sense I always got was that it was (at that time fairly novel? nowadays yet another) a war fought against AI that threatened to enslave/annihilate mankind. I'm pretty sure there's no textual evidence for it being a war waged by, like, people who wanted to be mentats or whatever, but at this point my memory has been established to be Unreliable, although no googling around gave me any support for your version of events, either.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:37 AM on September 10


I agree there are many, many works of sf that are as if not more deserving of being filmed than Dune, especially as there have been two adaptations already (not to mention the abortive but influential Jodorowsky project.) But Dune is the Everest of sf adaptations: people climb/film it because It Is There.

In terms of the casting, it misses the point a bit to say that it is set in the far future and we don't actually know the ethnicity of the Fremen. Most sf, irrespective of setting, is addressing some aspect of the time it was written, and Herbert used so many aspects of Middle East / North Africa culture and history that any remotely faithful adaptation is bound to have the Fremen coming across to a contemporary audience as that way, even if you scrub every use of the word 'jihad' from the script. Given that, the paucity of MENA cast is certainly worth comment.

I am intrigued to see how well Villeneuve gets across the weirdness of the background and setting. Whatever the flaws in the way he did it, Herbert did convey a culture that was recognisable in many respects yet fundamentally different from our own. Dune posits a vast interstellar empire entirely organised on feudal lines, where concepts such as democracy and personal freedom are essentially unknown and irrelevant; the best the average subject of the Padishah Emperor can hope for is to live on a planetary fiefdom under an enlightened autocrat such as Duke Leto Atreides. Indeed, in the The Dune Encyclopedia (a fascinating work of, in effect, very erudite and detailed fanfic) Willis McNelly rationalised the Dune universe as set in the far future of an alternate history where Alexander the Great succeeded in conquering the known world and founded what became a global - and later galactic - empire that never fell.
posted by Major Clanger at 9:55 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


The Butlerian Jihad changed and was retconned and portrayed as vague half forgotten history often enough that you can claim a lot of things. Brian Herbert wrote books where it was an all out war against evil AI hellbent on destroying humanity, Frank mostly implied it was due to fears of technology supplanting human labor both mental and physical but was non-specific.

But fine, strip away my specifics and you still get:

10,000 years ago AI was bad, so today it is a totally unquestioned ironclad rule that technology is banned and we all live as miserable peasants in drafty castles doing hard physical labor.

Even if we go for the Evil AI trying to exterminate humanity take, do you really think that even after a couple centuries of endless drudgery people wouldn't be right back to developing technology? And even AI? Just more cautiously and with better safety measures.

Again, note that we're much closer to the various steppe people riding out and conquering most of the world with horse archery than the people of Dune or Star Trek are to their respective bad technology being bad events. And, surprise, we have no ban on horse archery.

Herbert claimed he invented the Butlerian Jihad so he could focus more on philosophy and ideology than on technology, but I think that's a bit silly. Technology is inherently tied to philosophy and ideology, as evidenced by the fact that he chose to go all neo-feudal and limited his exploration of philosophy and ideology to those which could fit his neo-feudal framework. Even if his proclaimed reason was true, it still doesn't make the trope any less absurd.
posted by sotonohito at 9:55 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


do you really think that even after a couple centuries of endless drudgery people wouldn't be right back to developing technology?

"Many machines on Ix. New machines."
posted by The Tensor at 10:03 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


Frank mostly implied it was due to fears of technology supplanting human labor both mental and physical

Well, that's not really the same thing as servants "want[ing] to keep being servants and were afraid that the robots would take those very desirable servant jobs away," is it? This bit from somehow apparently the only Dune wiki speaks to your revised point:

Another, more subtle justification for the Butlerian Jihad is also found in Frank Herbert's original novels, specifically Heidegger's thesis that the use of technology trains humans to think like machines. The problem is that machines are deterministic; thus, training people to be machines is self-limiting. Herbert seemed to think that to be human is to be essentially 'open-ended', capable of undiscovered, indeterminate evolution, both personally and as a species.

I have never read any of the Brian Herbert stuff and I promise you I never will.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:09 AM on September 10 [3 favorites]


Uh, "technology" isn't banned, as there's plenty of advanced technology in the books, it is just that all forms of computation are done by humans. "Thinking machines" are banned, as even in Frank's books it's fairly clear that the Butlerian Jihad was a war against AI that threatened to enslave humans (literally and/or metaphorically). And I'm pretty sure their castles have HVAC.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:13 AM on September 10 [5 favorites]


From the "Terminology of the Imperium" section of Dune

Jihad, Butlerian: the crusade against computers, thinking machines, and conscious robots begun in 201 B.G. and concluded in 108 B.G. Its chief commandment remains in the O.C. Bible as "Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind."
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:18 AM on September 10


From a 100% Not-A Sci-Fi-Fan-And-Thought-Dune-Was-Absolutely Ridiculous-The-Time-I-Read-It perspective:

Chalamet is a doll. I love Zendaya. I thought "Blade Runner:2049" was breathtakingly gorgeous.

I liked the trailer.

I will absolutely see this movie.
posted by thivaia at 10:20 AM on September 10 [3 favorites]


Frank mostly implied it was due to fears of technology supplanting human labor both mental and physical but was non-specific.

I have an ebook of the first Dune so it's fairly easy for me to check the entry in the appendices and it pretty strongly implies that the prohibition was based on AI:
Jihad, Butlerian: (see also Great Revolt) — the crusade against computers, thinking machines, and conscious robots begun in 201 B.G. and concluded in 108 B.G. Its chief commandment remains in the O.C. Bible as "Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind."
From memory, the mentats were supposed to be a response to the Butlerian Jihad, not a cause of it.

Even if we go for the Evil AI trying to exterminate humanity take, do you really think that even after a couple centuries of endless drudgery people wouldn't be right back to developing technology? And even AI? Just more cautiously and with better safety measures.

As for the idea that people will always naturally tend to employ technologies in the most effective and liberating ways possible, that seems kind of Whiggish and naive given, well, everything going on in the world. People labour to perform needless drudgery constantly in our world today, and other people have become wealthy and powerful thanks to that system. If you want to defend Fukuyama's idea that history has a natural end-point and that end-point is a post-scarcity Star Trek universe or whatever, fine, but it doesn't seem like the evidence is in for that position yet by some distance, and it wasn't (and still isn't) a crazy position for Herbert to have said "hey maybe some people will form cliques and abuse their power, including the creation of artificial scarcity".

You say "look at horse archers", I say "look at the history of the lightbulb".
posted by chappell, ambrose at 10:22 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


Again, note that we're much closer to the various steppe people riding out and conquering most of the world with horse archery than the people of Dune or Star Trek are to their respective bad technology being bad events. And, surprise, we have no ban on horse archery.

mongol invasion of europe was in the 13th century, we're in the 21st; that's 800 years.

for star trek, the federation (well, more earth's, which then became the federation's) proscription on genetic engineering for enhancement is an outgrowth of earth's eugenics wars, which took place in the late 90's/early 00's; they're first mentioned in the original series, which is set in the 2260s; that's... 260 years. (of course, during those 260 years, earth goes through a nuclear war in the 2020-2050s with aftereffects until the 2080s, *but* develop warp drive and replication technology leading to a post-scarcity society/luxury gay space communism (as long as sufficient energy exists and are within the federation's borders)).

also, horse archery became somewhat less effective in the intervening 800 years, while in the world of star trek, genetic enhancement is still a powerful force that runs counter to "fairness" (as defined in 2370's DS9) with an enormous risk of failure.
posted by i used to be someone else at 10:48 AM on September 10


While nuclear disarmament seems to have stalled in recent decades, there is at least a societal desire to ban WMDs and reduce their proliferation. While these technologies have none of the benefits of computers or genetic engineering, that's at least a real-life example of a technology prohibition.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:12 AM on September 10


I always figured that the Butlerian Jihad was just his way of getting around what was later called The Singularity because that wasn't the story he was interested in telling. If he hadn't stuck that in there, readers would have complained about the lack of computers in the future so he wrote them out.
posted by octothorpe at 11:18 AM on September 10 [7 favorites]


While nuclear disarmament seems to have stalled in recent decades, there is at least a societal desire to ban WMDs and reduce their proliferation. While these technologies have none of the benefits of computers or genetic engineering, that's at least a real-life example of a technology prohibition.

Great point. Also CFCs, leaded petrol, thalidomide and asbestos are all recent examples of useful technologies that got prohibited (in all but certain very specific applications) because they were collectively perceived to do more harm than good.

Eugenics and selective breeding of humans (a preoccupation of Herbert's while writing Dune) is also a technology that we more-or-less completely prohibit that was seen as pioneering and important only a century ago.

Wrt your nuclear example, I'm sure all of MeFi knows of the WIPP report and the attempt to use symbolism, mythology and religion to create an enduring prohibition against digging up nuclear waste, a prohibition that could last beyond current human civilisations. "This is not a place of honour..." and so on.

Innovation in the first place seems to be highly contingent, not inevitable - here's a great thread on the blue about this - and also innovation can be forgotten and scientific progress can go backwards. Here's how the British forgot that Vitamin C cures scurvy.

Finally, we still use AC electricity and type on QWERTY keyboards for inefficient historical reasons that no longer make a lot of sense, except that it would be a huge hassle to totally rearrange society to not do that any more.

The idea that we can't prohibit technology; or that we can't make myths and even religions around technologies; or we can't get stuck in inefficient ways of using technologies; or we can't forget how to use given technologies - all of these are wrong.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 11:34 AM on September 10 [3 favorites]


It's probably wishful thinking, but perhaps future generations will look at weaponized drones with horror and ban them- though at that point you might as well ban missiles as well. At any rate, cultural restrictions against AI weapons could explain why piloted starfighters exist in sci-fi, instead of just massive mechanized drone fleets.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:48 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


If he hadn't stuck that in there, readers would have complained about the lack of computers in the future so he wrote them out.

I thought I'd read something similar to this - that sentient computers/androids are boring; ditto for laser weapons which is how the conceit of shields and knife-fighting came about.

*- In the Dune-universe, lasers/blasts that strike a shield result in a catastrophic, nuclear-type of explosion, so they're not used. Shields also protect against projectiles, so guns are sort of out too.
posted by jquinby at 12:33 PM on September 10 [3 favorites]


In the Dune universe everything is set up to keep the status quo in place: All interstellar travel has to go through the Guild so they'll likely know if you're transporting things you aren't supposed to, even if you bribe them they'll still know but just won't tell anyone (you hope); The wives or concubines of all the lords are Bene Gesserit and have loyalty to them; If a given lord gets too big for themselves then the Emperor can call down his elite troopers to stomp you out; Your doctors come from a special school, and likely have a strong degree of loyalty to them; Do the mentats all get trained in one place? I forget about that. But basically everyone at the top has their own monopoly that keeps them happy and they all work together to keep the system in place. Yes there'll be minor intrigues where they might try to gain advantage over the others, but not to the extent that it would bring the whole structure down.

There aren't any new frontiers to discover that might have significantly more resources. There aren't any groundbreaking technological advances to make because the tech that's in place is the product of thousands of years of refinement so it would take really advanced study to find something groundbreaking, and hey the Ixians seem to have the monopoly on that. In God Emperor, Leto basically locks down on this stability/stagnation even more in order to force humanity to leave all of these existing structures behind as a reaction. I don't think he needed thousands of years to do that, but I guess he had to finish his breeding program and that couldn't be hurried.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:59 PM on September 10 [3 favorites]


Paul is not the Hero

The way I read the novels, it was more of a deconstruction of the white savior
posted by The Power Nap at 1:28 PM on September 10 [4 favorites]


Paul can't bring himself to do what he knows he has to do, so is ultimately a failure

What he has to do is left to his son, and that is to become a giant worm
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:35 PM on September 10 [7 favorites]


Becoming a worm is part of what Paul won't do, but I think much more of it is prospect of being the Tyrant day after day after millions of days.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 2:49 PM on September 10


Paul is not the Hero

The way I read the novels, it was more of a deconstruction of the white savior


That's also the way Herbert wrote the novels. The plot is so reminiscent of Lawrence of Arabia not because he was an Orientalist hack*, but because he was explicitly attempting a critique of it.

*He may still have been an Orientalist hack. I'm no expert, just someone who mostly enjoyed the first two books, and also the (maybe apocryphal) stories of how some fans hated the second one because it was even clearer about how Paul was absolutely Not The Goodguy
posted by Mike Smith at 3:29 PM on September 10 [3 favorites]


What he has to do is left to his son, and that is to become a giant worm

Parenthood is hard.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 3:48 PM on September 10 [5 favorites]


Re: shields & guns: IIRC, shields are pretty much the domain of the elite, as is extensive training in close-quarters knife combat. Guns are used, but by the rank & file. At least, in the Lynch movie there are totally projectile & laser weapons used.
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:46 PM on September 10


The Butlerian Jihad is an interesting piece of back-story/world-building, and it's also implied in the book that the cultures of Ix & Tleilax are bending/maybe-breaking the rules about creating computers..

The Dune Encyclopedia is my personal fave Dune-thing. Fascinating & funny.
posted by ovvl at 5:25 PM on September 10 [4 favorites]


Ah, I finally found a couple of comments I made about Dune & gender in a thread 2 years back, that seems apropos:

As much as I love Dune (and I've read all of Frank's sequels multiple times, and even a couple of the mediocre books his son wrote!), at its heart it's structured on a male-female binary, and although he tries to transcend the patriarchal aspects of that structure, he ends up mystifying it in some kind of masculine and feminine essential forces....
even though the book came out in 1965 and features acid trips on hallucinogenic spice excreted by giant sandworms, Herbert was already 45 when it came out, so he was too old to be a hippie and really to be a part of the radical shifts in thinking about identity of the 1960s. Reading his work, it's clear that his influences are primarily late 19th century, and early-mid 20th century: Freud, Jung, imported Zen Buddhism... No matter what your goals, you can't be all that progressive if your most advanced vocabulary for talking about gender comes from Freud and Jung....
In a certain sense, he was one of the last great writers of an early wave of sci fi and speculative thinking more generally. The book's trippy aspects attracted many kids of the 60s and 70s, but he was more like their cool, crazy uncle than one of the gang heading out to Woodstock. I think if he were alive today, he might be like an anti-Jordan Peterson.


There's also some stuff about how gross the concept of the Reverend Mother/Honored Matre is.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:28 PM on September 10 [4 favorites]


I reread Dune a couple of years back, and just popping in to echo a couple of comments above, really. It seemed pretty clear that (despite its own orientalist and numerous other failings) the conscious impulse of the novel (in particular the portions seemingly primarily derived from the second novella) is a critique of naive white saviour narratives in general and Lawrence of Arabia in particular. That impulse doesn't save the novel from its failures on race, religion, cultural appropriation, women, sexuality etc. etc. In fact, it tends to highlight these things, rather than ameliorate them. The impulse is significant to the text, however.

All of which is why this current trailer left me cold. Of all materials, those most ripe for modern adaptation are those that strive to say something interesting about our cultural development but which we can now see are stymied by the cultural perspectives of their era. Interrogating the assumptions Dune was trying to explore and the way its own unexamined assumptions lead to its failures is a genuinely worthwhile project, not just because it's interesting but because such work has a power to illuminate the dark places in our own assumptions. There's nothing about this trailer that suggests a film interested in examining and challenging the interesting things about the book and its profoundly unsympathetic characters. If you're trying to sell me a Dune movie, you're not going to get far with a muted colour palette, whitewashed Fremen, and vaguely emo mumbling suggestive of personal trauma more on the level of Anakin "Overly Critical" Skywalker than that evoked by Dune's constant themes of (justified, because seriously, every single aristocrat in Dune* is a paranoid monster due to the various forms of profound emotional abuse that the noble houses employ as a survival and dominance strategy) self-hatred, personal emptiness and utter futility in the face of a deterministic worldview. The fact that Herbert does much more telling about the strangeness and unpleasantness of his characters than showing it in dialogue is no excuse: one job of an adaptation is to find solutions for the problems in the source material, not just reproduce them.

At the moment this looks like a perfectly fine and averagely boring sci-fi movie. But Dune is an important novel and calls for better and more pointed critique than this trailer makes me hope for. I would, however, like to be proved wrong, because the worms look very good.

* OK maybe not just in Dune.
posted by howfar at 12:31 AM on September 11 [5 favorites]


What he has to do is left to his son, and that is to become a giant worm

Parenthood is hard.


The worm’s in the cradle in the sands of Dune,
Eyes of bright blue and the mouse on the moon.
When you comin’ home, son? I don’t know when,
But we’ll get together then, Dad;
You know I’ll be a worm god then.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:59 AM on September 11 [13 favorites]


As far as the concepts of control in the book, and the idea that those with power use it to keep others from encroaching on their spheres of influence, there was also the thread that the Bene Gesserit had, over centuries, essentially seeded nearly every society with various creation stories and central myths, and that that seeding is one of the key ways Paul is able to ingratiate himself with the Fremen in the beginning.

Even with two films, that seems like something that will get lip service at best, but more likely end up on the cutting room floor.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:19 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]


Oh, and since no one has posted this yet: Goodnight Dune.
posted by jquinby at 6:34 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


I'm certainly not advocating any sort of idea that things inevitably get better.

I'm just saying people are lazy and they don't give up labor saving devices for long and that bans on technology don't hold. Especially not in a cut throat all vs all setting like Herbert described.

As a method of explaining why you didn't include X in your story, "it was banned because a bad thing linked to X happened hundreds if not thousands of years ago" is just not a good method and it bugs me when I run into it. Just don't include X and if you feel you must toss in a throaway line about the foolishly optimistic people who thought X would work and how they failed to anticipate all the (unspecified) problems that kept it a mere pipe dream.

The shields are an example of how to do it right. Herbert didn't want guns, laser or projectile, so he made up a believable explanation for why they aren't included.

Think about the reverse: a Dune setting where no one uses guns because in the Gunpowder Jihad of 10,000 years ago a bunch of people rebelled against gunpowder and ever since then guns have been outlawed, is that believable?

Saxon Kane Yeah, Lynch seemed unable to wrap his head around the idea of an SF setting without guns, but in the book shields are cheap enough to be universal, every soldier has one, and wars are fought with swords, pikes, knives, etc.

Lynch also subverted Herbert's idea that the Fremen were the ultimate fighting force, able to easily beat even Imperial Sardukar, because their environment was so harsh it forced them to be that badass. Instead in Lynch's movie the Fremen won because they had sound guns. Also in the movie Paul turned into a god at the end and just made it rain by force of will or something which was not part of the book.
posted by sotonohito at 9:35 AM on September 11


Think about the reverse: a Dune setting where no one uses guns because in the Gunpowder Jihad of 10,000 years ago a bunch of people rebelled against gunpowder and ever since then guns have been outlawed, is that believable?

The impression I always got was that Ix was always playing with AI, but on a very hidden level. At one point in time they had mechanical navigators.

Also, the dark ages are a good historical example of repression of progress at the state level, the church was able to slow scientific advancement significantly for hundreds of years. Another counterpoint being that modified humans were able to fill niches that would have been occupied by machines.

I dunno, the Butleterian Jihad was one of the things I really liked about Dune. It was a future without robots, which is still rare for SciFi. Take my comments with that in mind.
posted by The Power Nap at 11:09 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


a cut throat all vs all setting like Herbert described

Feeling like a broken record at this point, but it's starting to seem to me like we just read different books. This is not at all how I would describe the political background of Dune. Rather, it strikes me as one very much bound by a plethora of rules and traditions, and the nobles on top seem to (as nobles more or less always do!) care only about their relative position within this system and don't give a shit about saving the lower orders labor at all.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:16 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]


No, I get that, I just don't see it working for more than a generation or three. Certainly not 10,000 years. There's always someone power hungry enough to knock it all down to have a chance at winning big.

Here on Earth no system like that has ever lasted more than a couple of hundred years at the most. There's always a wannabe Alexander or Caesar or Oda Nobunaga or whoever and then it comes crashing down.

For a guy with a meta plot about shaking humanity out of a rut his rut was essentially unbelievable to me. Maybe that's why the later books just fell flat (I mean other than the whole 80,000+ year plot depending on getting some dude super Viagra so he can win a sex fight).
posted by sotonohito at 12:07 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


For me it was the endless reveries of ancestral personalities in Children.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:09 PM on September 11


Here on Earth no system like that has ever lasted more than a couple of hundred years at the most. There's always a wannabe Alexander or Caesar or Oda Nobunaga or whoever and then it comes crashing down.

Ancient Egypt went on pretty steadily for about 3,000 years. There some were blips like Akhenaten, but things diverged and reverted within decades. It wasn't even a 3,000 year arc building up to the pyramids -- the pyramids come towards the start of that span. They were doing insane feats of engineering like mining whole obelisks and transporting them hundreds of miles. They had very smart, very skilled people in multiple domains.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 12:22 PM on September 11 [7 favorites]


Think about the reverse: a Dune setting where no one uses guns because in the Gunpowder Jihad of 10,000 years ago a bunch of people rebelled against gunpowder and ever since then guns have been outlawed, is that believable?

Did the guns and gunpowder become self-aware and try to destroy/enslave humans? Because then it would be somewhat believable.


Re: Lynch's Dune, I think at least some of the craptacularity of that movie came from the incessant interfering of the De Laurentiis father & daughter producers, as well as the studio's demand for a 2 hr standard sci-fi blockbuster.

The sound guns is probably all Lynch, though, as he's obsessed with sound in all of his films, and a lot of what Paul says about sonic power sounds quite a bit like some Transcendental Meditation stuff I've read about (meditating on one's individual mantra, etc.).
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:27 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


Well, some of the crapness of it is also the vaguely racist comment of Lynch's about not wanting "kung fu fighting on the sand".
posted by i used to be someone else at 2:15 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


Given the dearth of Asian performers in that film, I don't if that's racist or just a lazy comment about action sequences
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:21 PM on September 11


As far as the Butlerian Jihad being realistic or not, bear in mind it wasn’t just a rule or a law forbidding any sort of AI, it was a central part of the religious guidelines, that the event it was a full on religious war.

That, and there are multiple references to the idea that the whole galaxy is set up for mutually assured destruction. All of the great houses have nuclear weapons (atomics as they’re called in the books) with the understanding that they are not to be used, but that they will and can be used against anyone or anything that upsets the balance. For me, it’s easy to imagine that, in the universe Herbert built, there is at least one irradiated dead planet out there that serves as a warning about violating the rule. Given the general bloodthirstyness of the galaxy, probably more than one, but less than, say, Warhammer 40k.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:43 PM on September 11 [3 favorites]


Is anyone still reading this thread? Check out this '84 vs. '20 shot for shot edit!

His movie might be a mess, but Lynch had the better architecture, shields and spaceship design.
posted by Tom-B at 6:01 PM on September 11 [5 favorites]


His movie might be a mess, but Lynch had the better architecture, shields and spaceship design.

As a very big fan of Lynch's film, I am not sure I agree. I'll hedge until I get to see the movie.

Dune was a slog, but seeing it visually first was what got me through the first book. Pretty much every book after #1 was initially a disappointment in the sense that I wanted "more of the same". Frank Herbert, IMO, did a great job of logically extrapolating what prescience means and how it would affect people. And... y'know... becoming a worm.

The first three work very well together. The fourth was intriguing. I can't remember a damn thing about the 5th and 6th, other than trying to read Chapterhouse as my first foray into the Dune universe on a sick day from school. That lasted about two pages.

And, to be fair, it's probably been 25 years, since I have read the full series, so who knows how well my recollection of the books holds up.)

posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 6:55 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


seeing it visually first

Confession; I first saw the long-form version (with the watercolour stills introduction) by accident on cable TV. Just flipping channels as a pre-teen. Missed the first few minutes of the intro, but when it started on the rebellion against thinking machines, it hooked me.

Bet your ass I made sure to catch the second half the next day - and iirc, they replayed the intro in its entirety + a recap.

I was on one of those Columbia House but-for-books subscriptions, and a trade softcover copy of Dune arrived the next cycle. I dog-eared it, reading it about once a year until college. That trade softcover is a survivor though; it remains on my shelf to this day through countless purges of my library. I've picked up multiple used copies when I've found them for cheap and handed those out to people I run into who've never read it.

In my mind's eye, the characters are mostly from the Lynch movie, even though I know a lot of them didn't match the descriptions; most egregiously Duncan and Yueh, but it was 1984... But to be fair, there was some iconic casting there (Francesca Annis, Brad Dourif, José Ferrer, Linda Hunt, Freddie Jones, Kyle MacLachlan, Virginia Madsen, Everett McGill, Kenneth McMillan, Jack Nance, Jürgen Prochnow, Paul L. Smith, Patrick Stewart, Sting, Max von Sydow, Alicia Witt, Sean Young, David Lynch); we'll see how the 2020 version compares; it's certainly vastly more diverse, if unevenly.

I was so excited by the first 'Dune' PC video game (flawed, but called back on the Lynch movie, and introduced the idea of RTS) and was absolutely obsessed with 'Dune II.' Dune 2000 was ok, but mostly disappointing.
posted by porpoise at 7:58 PM on September 11


Has it been revealed/ leaked where the first Dune 2020 movie will end?

I can't remember when the cable version of the extended version was broken up but it might have been right when they Jessica and Paul meet the Fremen, and it resumed with Paul's takedown of Jamis, Chani "catching" Paul, and the knife fight between Paul and Jamis. Or maybe little bit back when Arakeen gets attacked.

Where did the original magazine/ print version transition?

Personally, I'd make it the "Gurney Man! Gurney!"/ "Young Pup, You Young Pup!" scene and spend more time fleshing out the back half of the story.

But yeah, to beat a dead horse, Lynch changing the wierding way from a preternatural mind-body discipline to something like the quack qigong/ chi gong mind-over-matter charlatans to acoustic amplifiers flavoured by qigong lore. I thought that the 'Children of Dune' miniseries did a reasonable interpretation of the wierding way. Daniela Amavia sold it pretty well.
posted by porpoise at 8:19 PM on September 11


I'm looking forward to the movie, but then again I'm a sucker for big budget sci-fi.
Loved the first book, struggled through the next three and enjoyed the last two - would love to see the Bene Gesserit get their own movie - lot of scope to do interesting things there. I tried the first Brian Herbert book but didn't really enjoy it. After discovering Iain Banks Culture stuff, years after Franks last book, the way Brian tried to fill in the back-story seemed cheap & nasty by comparison with the original and/or more current takes on the genre.
posted by phigmov at 11:14 PM on September 11


Where did the original magazine/ print version transition?

Look here and find out! (Dec-63, Jan-64, Feb-64). It's right where "Book One: Dune" ends in the book version.
posted by The Tensor at 11:37 PM on September 11


The two Dunes side by side comparison. The new one really pales in comparison to the costume design and production design of the original.
posted by octothorpe at 9:11 AM on September 12 [2 favorites]


The side-by-side was really interesting, and highlighted how much influence the previous movie had on this one.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:13 AM on September 12


His movie might be a mess, but Lynch had the better architecture, shields and spaceship design.

I'll have to wait until I see it but so far I agree. Although I do like the new Atreides Frigates.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 11:39 AM on September 12


Apropos of nothing much in particular, I don't often see one of these for sale, but every time I do I solemnly place my hand on it and say, "I was a friend of Jamis": https://www.jamisbikes.com/usa/index.html
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:59 AM on September 12 [1 favorite]


The side-by-side was really interesting, and highlighted how much influence the previous movie had on this one.

I think that's a bit deceiving based on the clips they selected, but even with the ones chosen you can see some notable differences that suggest a different approach to the material by the two directors (assuming that the trailer is reasonably representative and one has a fairly strong memory of Lynch's version in mind.)

While any version of Dune is going to contain the same basic ingredients, the things that make Dune Dune, like spice, Sandworms, the battle between Houses Atreides and Harkonnen and the interference of the Bene Gesserits and the Emperor, what a director/movie does with those things will vary and may not reflect the themes of the book entirely, though some elements of the book lore and symbols are obviously unavoidable for being essential parts of what the audience understands as "Dune". In a time when characters and their worlds, like those in Batman, Spider-Man, or James Bond are "rebooted" every few years to try to fit them more to current times, this shouldn't be surprising or a problem, but hardcore book fans always want to complain about infidelity to their favorite works. The book is not owed any absolute sense of allegiance to how it frames its world, as it is a separate work, the movies and book will stand or fall on their own merits or defects.

Herbert's exploration of the "white savior" and the culture of the Arab-Islamic world is that of an outsider to that culture, not a work from within it, so carries its own issues around appropriating elements of that culture to its own design. That Villeneuve might be seemingly choosing to expand the notion to a broader sense of cultural hegemony, or some like situation has a different context than it would had the work come from the culture which it represents. Whether that's "white-washing" or not I can't say, but there are reasons to suspect that Villeneuve isn't oblivious to the issue.

I'm sure I've offered my read on Lynch's Dune before in some detail, but here's a short version. Lynch's take on Dune was, essentially, a psycho-sexual reading of it, where Lynch played up and added or eliminated elements to fit his concerns. His version emphasized a kind of quasi-Freudian symbology, fit to Lynch's own interests, where the battle was as much an interior one, as fit the way Lynch used voice-overs expressing thought and emphasized tight close-ups with the face of the characters in the center of the screen. His use of sound, the change to the weirding way being sound based weapon, is balanced against the way he had the Bene Gesserit voice control reverberate internally. Paul overcomes the Bene Gesserit voice by his own "killing word". Just as he is the first man child to survive taking the water of life and bring rain to Arrakis, he subsumes the role of women by becoming the Kwisatz Haderach, just as he defeats the decadent Harkonnen, who Lynch treats as having strong homoerotic desires. Paul achieves his victory by becoming something beyond man or woman, which is symbolized by his control of the sandworms, which is the ultimate symbol of both phallic and yonic power by Lynch's design.

Villeneuve's version of the movie, as much as one can guess from the trailer and his previous couple films, looks to emphasize different elements. Where Lynch's version was surprising claustrophobic, not only in the tight close-ups, but lots of tight interior shots and even outside shots often framed against rocks or sand where the characters dominate the landscape, almost as if the world responds to their internal conflicts. Villeneuve's sems to have a lot more wide shots and shots where the characters, particularly Paul, look small compared to their surroundings. The scale of the world seems to be emphasized more, to perhaps match a sense of Paul's place, his character being "smaller" than Lynch had him. Paul seems a slighter figure in the trailer than in Lynch's film, someone above said emo, which isn't too far from the case, as he doesn't seem to command the screen in the same way MacLachlan's did. That's a choice of framing and carries on in some of the other details, like Chalamet's response to pain being an inchoate scream, where MacLachlan's was more a yell of "The pain!".

Villeneuve seems to be decidedly playing down the psycho-sexual aspect of the story for some other angle around the appropriateness or meaning of ruling. Paul's relationship to his father, and his father's ability to rule, seem to have a different nature here, as most of the trailer is spent being informed Duke Leto and his ancestors were fuck ups who didn't know how to rule, but maybe Paul will be different. The analogy of the animal in a trap biting off its own leg is more expressly linked to the Fremen, where the centrality of the question appears to be over how the Fremen have been considered by previous rulers, as something to be discarded to free oneself or something more vital. That the roles of Liet Kynes is given to Sharon Duncan-Brewster and that of Thufir Hawat to Stephen McKinley Henderson suggests that awareness of the nature of the struggles and that of the Fremen have some analog to racial awareness and that women will have a different place than in the book or the previous film, with Chani's role too seeming much more central to this movie than Lynch's version.

The sandworms themselves are significantly different and the one in the trailer is used to a specific and powerful effect. If Lynch's were sexual symbols, the worm in the trailer is strongly linked to that of an eye. The last shot of the trailer shows the worm looming over Paul as if a giant eye looking at him, while the song ends on "all that you see", as if Dune itself is looking at Paul and the main question being asked is whether Paul will learn to "see".

As Villeneuve's previous two sci-fi films both dealt explicitly with the unreliability, faults, or limits of narrative, and particularly those told or understood by white men, even as the fuller exploration of that critique is more subtly understated rather than made blunt, I don't have much reason to suspect Villeneuve will change tack here and do something wildly different. Lynch's movie was a greatly fascinating, deeply troubling but strikingly eccentric work that leaves enough open to keep it interesting over time.

Villeneuve's interests and approach is different. The eccentricity will likely be much less noticeable, as few can or maybe even wish to match Lynch for that, so that sense of effect will be weakened, and Villeneuve hasn't, in the movies I've seen, shown as much interest in the action elements of spectacle, so fight scenes and the like could be given short shrift, but he has a strong sense of space and overall design with a fully realized visual/story logic to the films that doesn't perhaps overwhelm the senses as much as Lynch but can be as absorbing in a more distant way as Villeneuve's characters tend to react to their worlds or act as part of some bigger picture rather than the worlds of the films seeming to bend to the characters as with Lynch.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:43 PM on September 12 [13 favorites]


I just want to say that the Dune pug continues to make me happy.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:39 PM on September 16 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: the ultimate symbol of both phallic and yonic power
posted by axiom at 12:58 AM on September 17 [2 favorites]


Huh, I flagged this post for the spelling of Denis but I guess it didn't take.

Villeneuve's characters tend to react to their worlds or act as part of some bigger picture rather than the worlds of the films seeming to bend to the characters as with Lynch

I think Villaneuve really enjoys moments of like, a blank faced paralysis/impotence in the face of a situation that seems overwhelming. His characters are always processing and under-reacting to something beyond their orbit, though they are not really very dynamic with stuff in their orbit either. He doesn't like spectacle, but he also kinda doesn't like dialogue, or even, like, expression. He'll show spectacle -- but only so he can focus on the spectator's blank face for you to project your interpretations on. My feeling of his films is... cerebral people bumping up against the limits of the cerebration. Pretty, expensive-looking, but inhuman and static.
posted by fleacircus at 2:01 PM on September 17 [1 favorite]


Flag must have slipped through the cracks. Fixed it now!
posted by cortex at 2:07 PM on September 17


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