“Spider-Man: No Way Home” 2nd Trailer Puts The Villains Front And Center

There’s a certain irony to the fact that Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and his villains are so extensively intertwined with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that Spider-Man: No Way Home already feels more like a proper Spider-Man movie simply because Peter Parker is facing off against villains from pre-MCU Spider-Man movies, but hey, I’m not complaining…at least not about the villains that we’re actually getting in No Way Home. Yeah, it’s sad that the MCU hasn’t got their own versions of these iconic characters (yet), but I’m not sure I’d have trusted director Jon Watts with that great responsibility either.

Spider-Man
Doc Ock and Spider-Man | buzzfeed.com

The villains that Holland’s Spider-Man has fought up until this point, like Holland’s Spider-Man himself, have suffered from being weighed down by MCU baggage. To be fair, Vulture actually makes sense as a victim of Tony Stark’s ruthless pursuit of profit, but then Marvel undermined their own creativity by doing the same storyline again, only worse. Mysterio’s generic quest for vengeance against Stark did little to benefit a potentially interesting character.

And Stark is only one of several MCU characters who have loomed over the franchise, pulling focus from Holland and his actual supporting cast, most egregiously the underutilized Zendaya. Every Spider-Man movie features a big-name MCU hero in a major supporting role (Stark in Homecoming, Nick Fury in Far From Home, Doctor Strange in No Way Home) who invariably makes a mess that Peter Parker then has to spend the entire movie cleaning up. Fans often critique solo movies, like Doctor Strange or more recently Eternals, for feeling disconnected from the broader MCU, but MCU Spider-Man perfectly demonstrates the dangers of leaning too far in the opposite direction.

Shoehorning in all these connections has given Watts and his writers an excuse to stop fleshing out the characters they’re actually supposed to be building a franchise around, which is how we end up with only a vague idea of who Holland’s Peter Parker is, much less his circle of friends and family. I don’t know if No Way Home will actually remedy this issue, because it’s a sprawling Multiverse epic with a lot of characters and subplots, but at least this time around Tom Holland’s onscreen competition comes from other Spider-Men and their own villains.

We all know that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield are in No Way Home at this point. Technically it’s still only a rumor and I still need to point that out, but this is not another case of Mephisto fever – hard evidence exists, and you can find it in this very trailer. Doc Ock even indirectly mentions Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man when he confronts Tom Holland in what looks to be their first fight. We can see that Ock’s instantly iconic introductory line, “Hello, Peter”, is followed by confusion when Ock actually unmasks the MCU’s Spider-Man and is taken aback, saying “You’re not Peter Parker”. Who’s he referencing? Probably the same guy who’s very clearly punching Lizard in a frame from the Brazilian version of the trailer.

But Sony wants the Maguire and Garfield reveal to be a surprise for moviegoers, and I respect that. So for now, this trailer just focuses really heavily on all of their villains – okay, well, five of their villains; just enough to indicate that Marvel is assembling a Multiverse Sinister Six team, but one short of completion. Personally, I think that empty slot has to be filled by someone from Holland’s own universe. If the MCU really can’t come up with one Spider-Man villain of their own, that would be extremely embarrassing and very telling of how this franchise has been mishandled. My bet’s on Mysterio posing as Doctor Strange, because I still don’t get why Benedict Cumberbatch is acting so weird in these trailers, but Vulture would work.

Spider-Man
Electro | comicbook.com

Of the villains pulled from other universes, the stand-out to me is Jamie Foxx’s Electro – because my god, what an upgrade. Last time we saw his version of the iconic villain, he was inexplicably neon blue. Now, he’s wreathed in comics-accurate yellow lightning, and most importantly he’s wearing a proper costume and his starfish mask. Granted, the mask is made of CGI lightning, but it works better than I ever expected it to. Scratch that, I never expected them to adapt the mask in the first place, so this is a welcome surprise. Electro has been my favorite Spider-Man villain since as long as I’ve known about Spider-Man at all.

Doc Ock and Green Goblin both look pretty good in costumes lifted from the Sam Raimi films in which they originated, although there’s a clear difference between how Raimi directed both characters and how Watts tries to mimic his style, and that lessens the impact of both characters’ long-awaited reappearances ever so slightly. There’s discourse on social media about Peter Parker making fun of Doc Ock’s name, but honestly I think the real problem is that very few of Peter Parker’s jokes in the MCU are actually clever or funny, not that he makes jokes.

As for Sandman and Lizard, they’re kind of just…there. I don’t expect them to have a particularly large role in No Way Home, and honestly I don’t want them to, either. Sandman has been reimagined as a floating cloud of dust particles similar to the shapeless elemental beings that Spider-Man fought in Far From Home, while Lizard’s design doesn’t appear to have been touched up at all – and that’s not a good thing. I’d have swapped out either one for Rhino, and I don’t even like Rhino. Ideally, Black Cat would be on this team, but at this point she’d be better off waiting until after Catwoman has debuted in The Batman to avoid copy-cat accusations (I’m worse at making puns than MCU Peter Parker, I know).

But the really interesting thing about how No Way Home is utilizing these villains is how they seem to play into Peter Parker’s character arc. The trailer sets up the major conflict at the heart of the story, but it’s not between Peter and any of these Multiverse baddies – it’s between him and Doctor Strange, who sees them as potential threats to the universe and basically instructs Peter to kill them all, one by one. Peter doesn’t want to have to kill any of them, so he very forcefully chooses to defy Doctor Strange and liberate the villains. The twist is that they still want to kill him (except Ock, who seems like a genuinely good guy), so the challenge of returning them to their respective universes is going to test Peter’s ability to save everyone without getting any blood on his hands.

Spider-Man
Green Goblin | indiewire.com

That’s a really compelling conflict, but No Way Home can’t be afraid to “go there” in terms of showing the consequences of Peter’s wavering. It’s been theorized that someone close to him will die in this movie to drive the point home, and the trailer ends on Zendaya falling from the Statue of Liberty in a sequence evocative of Gwen Stacy’s horrific death in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – but that’s crossing a line even for me. If Marvel actually kills off Zendaya, especially in such a callous manner, we riot. We can all agree on that, right? Just take Happy Hogan instead. Kill Uncle Ben again, for all I care. But don’t fridge Zendaya, okay?

Trailer Rating: 8/10

“Dune: Part One” Is Only Half Of A Masterpiece In The Making

Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune is often described as the science-fiction equivalent to J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy The Lord Of The Rings – not only because both works are immense, richly detailed, and lore-heavy, but because both are widely regarded as having redefined the boundaries of their respective genres and left an indelible influence on future works in those genres. We could spend all day arguing about whether Dune merely repackaged the ideas and themes of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation into something more friendly to the 1960’s counterculture movement, but that’s beside the point because I’m not here to review the book.

Dune
Paul Atreides and Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam | npr.org

This weekend, director Denis Villeneuve’s long-awaited adaptation of Dune finally hit screens both big and small, introducing Herbert’s story to the world at large – and it’s a momentous occasion for fans who long thought the novel to be “unfilmable”. The same word was used of The Lord Of The Rings once upon a time, and both novels were unsuccessfully adapted only a few years apart from each other (1978 for Ralph Bakshi’s animated The Lord Of The Rings, and 1984 for David Lynch’s bizarre Dune), lending credence to the theory that both stories were too vast and intricate and reliant on still-rudimentary CGI to work onscreen.

But even though Peter Jackson came along and proved that The Lord Of The Rings could work when divided up into a trilogy of monumental proportions, it’s taken twenty more years for Dune to enjoy the same treatment. Denis Villeneuve’s film only covers the first half of Herbert’s original novel, a bold but risky choice given that Villeneuve isn’t filming his entire saga simultaneously, the way Jackson did. Granted, I can’t imagine that Warner Brothers will pass up the opportunity to try and shape Dune into a sci-fi franchise rivaling Disney’s Star Wars, and this is the same company that is recklessly plowing forward with the Fantastic Beasts franchise despite the mounting evidence that no one cares, but Dune is a totally different beast.

This first section of the story has the daunting task of establishing Herbert’s sprawling ensemble cast of characters, the world of Arrakis, and the complex current geopolitical crisis in which two rival families find themselves entangled. If there’s any critical flaw in the film’s structure, it’s that the whole experience is a bit like watching people set up a board-game while you impatiently wait to play – but just as you sit down to start the game, the movie ends. Dune: Part One is not a stand-alone story. I can watch any of the films in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy and be thoroughly satisfied by the journey, but Dune: Part One has no self-contained thematic or emotional through-line of its own.

Theoretically, I suppose it’s a smart business move. Dune: Part One not only demands a sequel, but requires one. And regardless, it deserves one. Denis Villeneuve has spared no effort in ensuring that Herbert’s world feels like a fully realized location, and now that the board is set and the pieces are in motion, the game is free to unfold across a canvas rich with carefully considered detail and texture. And make no mistake, there’s already plenty of spectacular action and interpersonal drama in Dune: Part One – Villeneuve is padding out the first half of the book, but he’s doing so with as much consideration for what audiences want from a blockbuster as for what readers want out of the story and its extensive lore.

Dune is epic on a scale that Star Wars has only rarely reached in over forty years of dominating mainstream sci-fi. Villeneuve envisions a universe where everything is impossibly large. The unseen Emperor is a god-king; the royal houses of Atreides and Harkonnen are arranged like small armies in their rigid hierarchy of power; their palaces are the size of cities; their starships are geometric monoliths too great to be housed on land – when the fleets of House Atreides depart Caladan for Arrakis, they rise from under the ocean like continents ripping off the planet’s surface. And our protagonist, the tormented Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), is born into a societal structure where he’s expected to ascend to that level, to become a superhuman befitting of his family’s legacy.

But although Paul struggles with those expectations even back on Caladan, it’s only when he’s thrust into the harsh and unforgiving deserts of Arrakis by necessity that he finally begins to grasp how small he truly is in the grand scheme of things. Unfortunately, we don’t get to spend very long in the desert ruminating on this revelation before the movie’s over, and ironically it’s the least visually interesting environment in Dune. Deserts, even on our humble planet, are vibrant habitats, and you’d think that the deserts of alien worlds – deserts populated by giant sand-worms, no less – would provide fertile ground for more arresting visuals than what the film actually offers. As far as sci-fi deserts go, Tatooine still takes the cake with its binary sunset. Sorry.

This is partly a result of Dune‘s spartan color palette. The film is so austere that in the hands of a lesser director and cinematographer, it could easily have been rendered irredeemably dreary or monotonous – but with Villeneuve and Greig Fraser working on the film, Dune‘s bleakness serves a thematic purpose, accentuating the scars of Arrakis, a world being sucked dry of its natural resources by relentless capitalism and imperialism. Every rare flourish of color – whether it’s the vivid saffron of Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson)’s dress when she first steps foot on Arrakis, or the flickering red and blue force-fields that warriors wear as shields in battle – is a welcome relief, like the sight of water in a barren desert.

For interior sequences, Fraser expertly manipulates light and shadow to fill in the empty spaces of Dune‘s many sets, which are largely devoid of ornamentation or extravagance by choice. Again, it’s all about playing up scale and starkness – you wouldn’t want to live in this world built for titans (unless you’re a hyper-minimalist, in which case don’t let me stand in your way), but you can’t help but marvel at it. House Atreides even dresses severely, with costume designers Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan deserving a special shoutout for turning in a wide variety of sleek militarized fits that feel fashionable yet forbidding. They are the outward face of ruthless, efficient, terrifying power.

Dune
Gurney Halleck and Paul Atreides | cnet.com

True power, however, lies in the hands of the Bene Gesserit, a cult of psychic sorceresses who operate behind closed doors, subtly manipulating galactic politics to further their own agenda – and to mark the distinction, they wear instantly iconic all-black outfits of their own, complete with some extraordinary headdresses. Lady Jessica is a member of the Bene Gesserit, and through her Paul Atreides inherits both a killer fashion sense and a couple of other abilities and special powers. The Bene Gesserit are massively important to Dune, but they have only a handful of scenes in Part One before departing for their own HBO Max series, their appearance bookended by Hans Zimmer’s haunting theme.

Zimmer’s score is brilliant for many reasons, but it’s the completely random use of Scottish bagpipes that really stuck out to me. And I don’t mean that bagpipes are just featured on the score. No, there’s a literal bagpipe-player in this movie, set thousands of years in the future, and all I can say without spoilers is that there’s one scene where those bagpipes kick in and start playing the House Atreides theme, and if I were a hardcore Dune fan I feel like that would be my Ride of the Rohirrim moment.

But the unexpected Scottish influence on Villeneuve’s Dune is all the more bizarre when coupled with this adaptation’s erasure of the MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) and Muslim influences that exist in Frank Herbert’s original novel and inform on some level almost every aspect of his story, its themes, and its worldbuilding. How Herbert interacts with those influences in his novel is cause for frequent discussion, and how that resonates with MENA and Muslim readers is a matter of personal opinion, but that those influences exist is indisputable. Villeneuve’s adaptation makes little effort to engage with those influences beyond a surface-level, which is disappointingly predictable given that no MENA and Muslim writers worked on the film.

Even in front of the camera, MENA people are relegated to background roles on Villeneuve’s Arrakis, while their cultures and languages are used to embellish the film’s aesthetic and exposition-heavy dialogue. There are a few prominent roles for actors of color, including Sharon Duncan-Brewster as the intrepid ecologist Liet Kynes and Chang Chen as House Atreides’ personal physician Wellington Yueh, but their presence doesn’t make up for the absence of MENA talent onscreen.

So who is onscreen? Timothée Chalamet is mesmerizing as Paul Atreides, crafting a character here who is equal parts as boyish and charming as Luke Skywalker, imbued with the ethereal elegance of Frodo Baggins, and wracked by an inner darkness that is all his own to bear. Interestingly, neither Mark Hamill nor Elijah Wood was a particularly seasoned actor when they took on the defining roles of their careers, but Chalamet is already at a point where he’s capable of bringing out all of the nuance and fiery emotion required from his Paul with delicate skill and precision. Chalamet and Ferguson make for a convincing mother-son duo who are at their most formidable when bouncing off each other.

Other highlights include Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides, who can’t help but heat up the whole movie with his natural warmth and charisma, and that’s even before he gets fully nude (though to be honest in the rigid pose and harsh lighting that the scene requires, his body has a certain El Greco quality that emphasizes Isaac’s sinews over his sexuality). Jason Momoa’s bearish build and easygoing attitude makes him a comfortable fit for the character of Duncan Idaho, although some of his line-readings feel stiff. Charlotte Rampling is a powerhouse as the enigmatic Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam. And David Dastmalchian makes a strong impression in the small role of Piter de Vries, a human computer programmed with a strain of Harkonnen cruelty.

In an ensemble cast this large, there’s always going to be one or two actors who aren’t given space to exercise their talents to the fullest, and in Dune: Part One sadly that’s Josh Brolin. His Gurney Halleck is largely a blank slate throughout the film, and Brolin doesn’t bring much personality or vigor to the role, which was previously filled by Sir Patrick Stewart in the 1984 adaptation. Stellan Skarsgård, meanwhile, is unable to elevate the villainous character of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen above a kind of grotesque caricature, which robs the incomplete story of a particularly compelling antagonist; the Baron’s nephew Beast Rabban, played by Dave Bautista, is a generic muscly henchman.

And despite being hyped up in all of the marketing for this film as Chalamet’s costar, Zendaya is hardly in Dune: Part One at all. Her role as the Fremen warrior Chani is mostly stitched together from several scattered dream sequences, and an opening voiceover in which she concisely lays out the troubled history of Arrakis, making her appearance here little more than a glorified cameo. Going forward, Zendaya will have plenty of opportunities to shape Chani into a fully three-dimensional character onscreen, but she’s only just getting started.

Dune
Chani | thecrimson.com

And so is our journey as fans. Dune: Part One is only a sample of what Frank Herbert’s world has to offer. Like the back-cover blurb on a novel, it exists to entice you into the story with a lot of tantalizing hints, partly sketched-out ideas, and bold promises, all designed to leave the viewer urgently wanting more, but it’s not a satisfying stand-alone story of its own. And when Villeneuve’s Dune saga is finally complete and available to be viewed in its totality, whether or not it’s the masterpiece of sci-fi cinema that I believe it can be, I’m not sure yet if anyone will choose to watch Part One separately from the others, or that it will be beloved purely on its own merits. Everything there is to love about this movie (and make no mistake, there’s a lot) is stuff that I hope to see expanded upon or even improved upon in the sequels, whenever they come.

Movie Rating: 8.9/10

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” 1st Trailer Review!

Considered by many the Holy Grail of long-awaited movie trailers, the first official teaser for Spider-Man: No Way Home finally dropped last night after several tiresome months of pleading from fans; and much like the Holy Grail itself (at least if Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade is to be believed), it’s maybe not the flashiest thing in the world. Not, in my opinion, deserving of all the drama that surrounded its release and its premature leak. But at this point, I honestly don’t think the content of the trailer mattered that much. This thing was going to be big no matter what, simply because of the hype that had been built up around it, and the potency of name recognition.

Spider-Man: No Way Home
Peter Parker and Doctor Strange | usatoday.com

Now, as sacrilegious as it may be to write these words, Spider-Man: No Way Home is not one of my most-anticipated MCU movies; not even close. I’m excited for all the Multiverse stuff because that’s more my groove, but it’s the thought of everything in between involving the unrealized potential of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker that gives me pause. I’m happy for everyone who’s happy to see that version of the character again; I’m just more intrigued by the possibility certainty of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield appearing as Variants of Peter Parker pulled from their own universes into the MCU timeline.

And this trailer gives me just enough of what I needed to hold my interest in No Way Home – Multiverse shenanigans involving all our favorite past iterations of iconic Spider-Man characters who have somehow never been reinvented for the MCU. Alfred Molina returns as the 2004 version of Doc Ock from Spider-Man 2, looking just as fabulous as always even though his mechanical tentacles are very obviously all CGI this time around, and we don’t really get a clear shot of them. We can hear Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin laugh for the first time since 2002’s Spider-Man, and he’s even still using his original pumpkin-bombs. There’s hints to Jamie Foxx’s Electro, Sandman, and a blurry shape that is possibly Lizard.

That’s a pretty awesome team of super-villains right there, just one member short of a true Sinister Six line-up. For Tom Holland’s sake, I hope one of his own villains completes the team; preferably Mysterio. It would be kind of awkward if in two whole solo movies he didn’t have a single villain worthy of making the cut. But that could be attributable to the fact that the MCU uses Spider-Man mostly for crossover events, and doesn’t put nearly as much effort into fleshing out his own corner of the universe. Even his solo movies have become crossover events, and Spider-Man: No Way Home is going to be the biggest one yet.

Spider-Man: No Way Home
Doc Ock | screencrush.com

And unfortunately, Peter Parker had to go and rope Doctor Strange into his mess. The danger of crossover events is that directors and writers get to take a stab at characters they don’t usually direct or write, and it leads to…very weird inconsistencies. Like Doctor Strange apparently risking the stability of the cosmos for the sake of a teenager whom he vowed he would kill if it meant ensuring the stability of said cosmos just a few months before this film is set. And I genuinely cannot believe the number of people I’ve seen defend this plot point adamantly, claiming that it makes sense because Doctor Strange…texted while driving in his first movie. It’s funny, because I seem to remember that moment being the impetus for a whole lot of character development that pushed him to become the antithesis of everything he had been, but I guess that can all be ignored now?

On the flip-side, you can just have fun and make wild theories about how this Doctor Strange is possibly a Skrull shapeshifter, or Mysterio disguised by one of his illusions, or the evil Doctor Strange Variant whom we’re about to meet in What If…?, or even Mephisto (who at this point has become so widely-known, even among general audiences, that I think Marvel has to use him somewhere down the line). That’s what I plan on doing, because the thought of Doctor Strange actually having his entire personality rewritten to suit the plot of a Spider-Man movie is disheartening.

But I wouldn’t put it past Jon Watts to do that. His weak direction and lack of vision is consistently a major problem with the MCU’s Spider-Man franchise, and that’s what terrifies me about the future of the Fantastic Four under his guidance. I really liked Spider-Man: Far From Home when it came out, and I’m sure that somewhere on this blog you can still find a review where my younger self rambled on for hours about how it was the best MCU movie of all time, but…my thoughts on that film have changed somewhat in the intervening two years. I still think Tom Holland is very well-cast, but the writing he’s burdened with does him no favors.

Spider-Man: No Way Home
Spider-Man | gizmodo.com.au

And all that being said, I’m still excited to see him share the screen with Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, because he’s still Spider-Man. The thing about the Spider-Man brand is that no matter how many iterations of the character there may be (and there have been a lot), the iconic image of the webslinger is already too firmly etched into the public consciousness to be disrupted by even the worst film adaptation. We all have our own version of Spider-Man that comes closest to matching that timeless ideal – for me, it’s probably the version who cameoed randomly in old episodes of The Electric Company – and that’s a wonderful thing. So celebrate it, and enjoy the trailer.

Seriously, it’s got Doc Ock. If nothing else, celebrate that.

Trailer Rating: 7.5/10

“Dune” 2nd Trailer Takes Us Back To Arrakis

If The Lord Of The Rings was once considered unfilmable, then the same is doubly true of Frank Herbert’s Dune – a sprawling novel which is (arguably) to sci-fi literature what The Lord Of The Rings is to fantasy. Dune is a searing deconstruction of the hero’s journey, a complex, multi-layered, and not entirely successful non-comedic satire of the white savior narrative and its weaponization by imperialist forces and Christian missionaries, and besides all that it’s also an extremely dense and literary book, which is probably most popular outside of its actual readership because of the imagery of giant alien sand-worms, which the 1984 adaptation helped to make iconic to a larger audience.

Dune
Paul Atreides | screencrush.com

But Denis Villeneuve’s new adaptation of Dune for Warner Brothers (and HBO Max) seeks to make the classic story mainstream – and if that goal is at all attainable, then the newest full-length trailer for the film, released today, ought to do the trick. It’s clearly trying to divide its focus between satisfying fans of the original novel and luring in general audiences who just want a fun sci-fi movie. Unfortunately for Warner Brothers, the words “fun” and “Dune” are hardly synonymous, which is why I think this trailer very carefully highlights all the VFX-heavy shots of spaceship battles and cool fight sequences, without providing much context about what fills the gap between those scenes. The answer? Lots of weighty conversations about theology, geo-economic warfare, and intergalactic geopolitical strategy.

Oh yeah, and the aforementioned giant alien sand-worms, known in-universe as the Shai-Hulud; but those go hand-in-hand with the subject of geo-economic warfare (and environmental degradation hastened by human interference) for…reasons. Without getting into spoilers, let’s just say the Shai-Hulud are important to the plot and themes of Dune, but they’re also not in the book anywhere near as frequently as the cover art would likely lead you to believe. And to be honest, I don’t know if they’re gonna be in the movie that much, either. We see the same one from the first trailer, rising above Paul Atreides in the desert at night, and one or two in a battle from near of the end of the movie, but that’s it.

(And not to sound too down on this movie, but the design of the Shai-Hulud isn’t really doing anything for me. Maybe I’ve just seen too much incredible and creative artwork of the sand-worms at this point for Villeneuve’s baleen whale/lamprey hybrid approach to seem fresh to me, but I don’t know…I expected something a little more majestic).

Dune
Chani | nerdist.com

Honestly, if anything’s going to get general audiences into theaters to see Dune, it’s the film’s ensemble cast. Almost everyone here has their own legion of adoring fans, with stars Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya being exceptionally strong in that regard: it’s unsurprising that Zendaya’s character, the warrior Chani who falls in love with Chalamet’s Paul, appears to be the second-most important character in the movie – a deviation from the book, where that honor arguably goes to Paul’s mother, the Bene Gesserit sorceress Lady Jessica. But Rebecca Ferguson need not fear that her character will be entirely sidelined: a Dune spinoff series focusing on the Bene Gesserit is still in production at HBO Max, and just picked up a new showrunner in Diane Ademu-John. It will explore the efforts of the Bene Gesserit to plant the seeds of a messiah myth on the desert planet of Arrakis that will manifest itself in Paul Atreides.

Hopefully, that gives you some idea of why this book is so very controversial, and why the movie has to be responsible in the way it depicts both its “hero”, Paul, and his followers, the indigenous Fremen of Arrakis who are explicitly MENA (Middle Eastern and North African)-coded, and draw influences from vastly disparate cultures across the world, including those of Native American peoples. Is Dune a white savior narrative, or is that only a surface-level reading of the story? But even if it isn’t, does it ever do enough to dismantle the white savior narrative it props up in parody, or expose the root issue of white supremacy? In depicting the Fremen as victims of their own superstitious beliefs, who is Herbert calling out? These are just some of the complicated questions one could raise about Dune, and the answers are bound to vary depending on who you ask.

One thing is clear, though: that too much of this story is too deeply rooted in the (intentional and at least theoretically critical) appropriation of MENA culture and particularly religion for the film to not recognize or respect that either in front of the camera or behind the scenes. There are no MENA actors in major roles, and no MENA writers working on the script. That kind of oversight is concerning regardless of the source material, but it also suggests that Villeneuve isn’t really interested in exploring what Dune has to say about white saviors, or refining it any further by centering MENA perspectives in this adaptation. And that’s especially frustrating.

Dune
Paul Atreides | freshfiction.tv

It’s unfortunate, too, because Dune looks incredible otherwise – the kind of visionary epic that could redefine the sci-fi genre of film for a generation, just as the original book did for literature. Villeneuve had at one point detailed his plans for a trilogy of Dune films matching the vast scope of Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings, and I can only hope that if this franchise is allowed to expand (that will depend on its box-office performance and success on HBO Max, of course), that he takes great care to renovate parts of Herbert’s books which are not perfect and can be improved upon.

Trailer Rating: 8.5/10