I made the mistake of watching Lynch’s Dune two days before Villeneuve’s Dune was released. Months later, I still find myself unable to decide which is the “better” movie. I suspect it’s Villeneuve’s. Certainly, Villeneuve’s is much more successful in the box office. Yet I can only think of Villeneuve’s Dune in terms of how it lacks compared to Lynch’s Dune.
Dune is largely considered impossible to adapt, which is silly, because Lynch did fine adapting the whole book. Turning half of the book into a montage may not be what certain fans prefer, but if you watch the movie for itself in Watsonian fashion, it makes sense: Paul Muad’Dib is created by the events in the beginning of the movie, and we see his creation being the downfall of his enemies when he fights Sting And Friends at the end. It is a story at mythic scale that does a “one two, skip a few, ninety-nine, one hundred” approach to the plot. You can try to argue with Lynch’s approach, but there’s no point, because this is David Lynch we’re talking about.
Villeneuve’s Dune isn’t a complete story in itself. It ends halfway through the book, in a fashion both anticlimactic and abrupt, and does not attempt to construct a standalone story out of that material.
In the meantime, the movie drags us through many long, slow scenes that amount to little more than concept art while establishing world and mood. I genuinely believe that the amount people enjoy this movie is dependent on how likely they are to repeatedly peruse an Art of Dune coffee table book. Although I love concept art, this isn’t in a style which appeals to me. It’s minimalist, geometric, and nearly monochromatic to almost a comical degree – as though Villeneuve was making a deliberate move away from the lush Baroque world Lynch built.
What do you think the future will look like after humans have spent a couple thousand years trucking around the galaxy? Will we have ancient structures that glory in the accumulated wealth of our empire, or will we be utilitarian?
What do you *want* the future to look like? If you think, “I hope the future has a lot of sheer sandstone faces,” then I bet you will love to stare at Villeneuve’s Dune.
Similarly, I found the actors’ performances less compelling than in Lynch’s adaptation – probably because many of them were flown in for a partial movie shoot, whipping out a few scenes under the promise they will have a lot more scenes in the second half of the movie that has yet to be made. But Villeneuve’s vision for this movie also involves making Paul Atreides a “normal boy” who is moody and irritating, completely unlike Lynch’s Paul Atreides, who feels like he was born a legend and will die a legend and belongs to the mythic forces surrounding his life. The sense of drama is so different.
I could continue enumerating the elements of this adaptation which I found to be inferior, simply because they are so much less *interesting*, but I think I’ve said enough to make it clear I’m more of a Weird Movies Person than a Whatever Villeneuve Was Trying To Do Here person. I can’t evaluate this version of Dune on its own merits, and I don’t want to. The fact I sat through it for so many hours isn’t just because Oscar Isaac is one of the hottest people on the planet. I was clearly some kind of entertained. But it will never be anything but the Lynch’s Dune turned down from 11 to a 4.