Dune (2021). Directed by Denis Villeneuve. English. 155m. Showing all over.

There’s a whole story to be told about the various attempts at making films of Frank Herbert’s epic space opera, but I won’t go into that. Denis Villefranche is a good filmmaker, who has made some interesting films. But this is not one of them.

Really, I don’t want to waste a lot of my time on it, but it exemplifies everything that is bad about modern Hollywood. Almost all current mainstream movies are assembled by financiers, who study the figures for previous hits and then try and remake them, copy them or reuse their component parts to make useless hybrids.

Dune is more a kind of fairground ride than a film. Almost from the start, it batters you with noise, flashing lights, explosions, fights, hardware and stupidity. It has no characters to care about: the hero, played Timothée Chalamet, is a cypher, a kind of androgynous man-child supposed to appeal to teenage girls. He has no agency in the movie, being just a vehicle for the genes and ideology of his parents. He experiences a series of events – tortures, explosions, ludicrous sword-fights and effortlessly survivable plane-crashes – rather than a plot.

The film pillages the ancient and visceral mythologies of the world (Greek, Christian, Islamic, Nordic, etc) for visuals and language, and allies them to a philosophy that is utterly dishonest: having destroyed the world by conquest, violence and exploitation, we can save it by more of the same.

All the sound and fury generates almost no excitement. The film offers no vision of the future, no new ideas, unless you are in the business of marketing action figures and plastic spacecraft. And it has no understanding of the world’s past, taking its cue from authoritarian fantasies rather than history.

Everything in it we have seen and heard before, in other (better) movies. Unlike the films that began the blockbuster plague, it offers no humour, no romance, no sex, no jeopardy and no fun.

What are stories for? To help us make sense of ourselves, our times, our world. Dune is a fantasy conjured up by an old and impotent empire in its death-throes, desperate to conquer and control the world, but out of ideas and running out of friends.

Don’t waste your time.

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