So this week we started watching the new version of Dune:
Whoops, how’d the trailer for the whackadoo 1984 David Lynch version of Dune get in there? Must’ve had too much spice. Here’s the trailer for the 2021 version of Dune:
Now of course, the premise of Dune is that the Emperor of the Galactic Empire* has decreed that House Harkonnen will no longer be managing the production of
pumpkin spice at Starbucks on the planet Arrakis; rather, this will now be the responsibility of House Atreides. The leader of House Atreides, of course, complies with this decree, because after all, wouldn’t you rather go become the oppressors of the local population on a planet that’s basically the Sahara Desert than live here?
Now, the perceptive reader will note that I said “we” started watching Dune, and it is, in fact, the case that I induced my wife to watch it with me, mostly on the basis of Jason Momoa‘s presence in the cast as the character Duncan Idaho**. Since she is not familiar with The Source Material***, I gave her a quick summary of what to expect:
Me: “Just think of this as Game of Thrones in space. Actually, since this came first, you should think of Game of Thrones as Dune in a fantasy setting. With dragons instead of sandworms.”
Wife: “Is there going to be lots of sex?”
Me: “Uh … I don’t think so.”
Wife: “Well it’s not Game of Thrones then is it?”
Like the 1984 version, the 2021 version of Dune started out with a bit of featherdusting****, in which a narrator explains about how the drug “spice”, which can only be found on Arrakis, which the locals on Arrakis (the Fremen) consume to induce visions during their religious ceremonies, is harvested and shipped off-world for use by interstellar pilots so that they can astrogate. “Without spice,” the narrator intones, “interstellar travel would be impossible.”
Wife: “I have a question.”
Me: “Is your question If interstellar travel is impossible without spice, then how did they get to Arrakis to find spice in the first place?”
Me: “Oh. Okay, what’s your question?”
Wife: “So the Fremen use spice in their rituals, but they don’t use it to travel?”
Wife: “And the pilots use it so they can travel?”
Wife: “Okay. So everyone should just stay home. Problem solved.”
But of course everyone doesn’t just stay home. They never do. And soon we are introduced to Paul Atreides, the main character of Dune, played by Timothee Chalamet:
Wife: “He has nice bone structure, but his hair is too poofy.”
Me: “Maybe, but apparently the girls love him.”
Wife: “Probably because of the hair.”
Various questions then ensued about Timothee Chalamet, including “What does he look like in real life?” Siri, as usual, was useless for answering these questions, so we had to look him up on Wikipedia, only to discover that, in real life, he looks exactly the same as he looks in Dune. Mostly. Except for this one picture:
Wife: “Wow, he looks really French in that picture, what with the turtleneck and stuff.”
Me: “Actually, stick some clawed gloves on his hands and with that striped sweater he could be Freddy Krueger.”
Now, being the Chosen One, with special powers taught to him by his mother, Paul Atreides at an early point in the film has to be tested, by extreme pain while under the threat of death, to see if he can control his impulses. Which, so far so good, he can. Naturally this is pretty stressful for him, and afterwards he follows his mother out into the rain to, uh, have a few words with her for arranging the whole situation.
Me: “Look, his hair isn’t poofy anymore.”
Wife: “Yes it is.”
Of course, Paul and the rest of the Atreides gang eventually make it to Arrakis, which as previously mentioned is really freaking hot, although it is, of course, a dry heat. Upon their arrival they have a big processional as they exit their giant spaceships, with, you know, traditional science fictiony type musical instruments accompanying them:
Wife: “They have bagpipes?!”*****
The Atreides get settled into their new digs in one of the few cities on the planet, after which Paul goes for a little walk out in what passes for the garden, i.e., a row of palm trees that someone is watering with a ladle.
Wife: “Look at him. It’s supposed to be like a hundred and fifty degrees out and his hair is still perfect and he hasn’t got a drop of perspiration on him. It looks like he went to the desert with his hairdresser and hairspray and plenty of product.”
Me: “Well you know, his fans don’t want to see him all sweaty and disheveled.”
It took about 45 minutes for Dune to put my wife to sleep, which is pretty good for a science fiction epic that’s mostly been a bunch of talking so far. Presumably she was hoping to learn the final fate of Timothee Chalamet’s hair.
Anyway, after the initial round of viewing, my wife only sort of semi-watched the rest of Dune, but she was watching it when, towards the end, the Fremen are looking for someone to be a champion in a judgment fight for a character who cannot fight for themselves, at which point she said:
Wife: “This is just like Game of Thrones.”
Oh, and, for those of you who were wondering about what happens with the most important apsect of Dune …
Timothee Chalamet’s hair never really gets messed up. Not even once.
* There’s always a Galactic Empire.
** Because in the future, we name people after US states, I guess.
*** I myself only read The Source Material in the early 2010s. This is because, many many years ago, as a youngster, I happened to get the book God-Emperor of Dune from the local library, not really aware that it was a late entry in the Dune saga, and so I had no idea who the hell any of these people were or what was going on and leaving me with the vague idea that Dune was a disjointed mess. Only when someone loaned me the paperback some 30 years later did I actually read it.
**** This is a reference to an old device in fiction where, to familiarize the reader/viewer with background information about the characters, they would have a maid with a featherduster answer a ringing phone and then explain to the caller who everyone in the household is and why none of them can come to the phone. (I swear I once read this definition somewhere, but now I can’t find it.)
***** No wonder the locals try to assassinate them almost immediately.