I saw the new Dune film this week, which turned out to be an exquisite adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel. The visuals, art direction, and directorial style combine to produce one of the finest examples of cinematic worldbuilding I’ve ever seen. As he did with Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve has crafted an entirely convincing universe that seems to impact all your senses. You feel the grit of Arrakis sandstorms, you taste the acrid fumes of explosions, and you shiver at the ominous vibration of an approaching sandworm. Dune fully invests in its vision in a way few sci-fi films ever achieve. It possesses a sense of identity, and skillfully differentiates between the many factions which contribute to that.
While I still have reservations about the decision to split this into two films, the alternative would have been to have a five-hour movie (or to do this as a miniseries, which was done 20 years ago as a not-too-shabby Sci Fi Channel adaptation). The result is somewhat anticlimactic, though it does leave you wanting more, and there’s enough material left to cover that Part II could be one of the finest sci-fi films of the past couple decades. Of course, there’s never a guarantee that a sequel will be any good even if all the original cast and crew are involved (I’m looking at you, It Part II). Hope springs eternal.
If I’m being nitpicky, I was also slightly disappointed by the depiction of Baron Harkonnen. He’s sinister and ominous, and there’s nothing wrong with Stellan Skarsgard’s performance on its own merits. The issue is that considering the character’s history and appetites, he comes across as an overcorrection from the “we-just-discovered-latex” version to be found in the David Lynch adaptation. The result is a little too sanitized, and a little too off-screen. I hope Part II digs deeper into the monstrous nature of House Harkonnen.
That aside, this is a highly recommended film. And the various ship designs are worth the price of admission.
Speaking of strange ships on film…
People are still abuzz about the recently “declassified” footage of UFOs, which contrary to what Tucker Carlson or 60 Minutes insist, does not in any way prove the existence of aliens.
The unidentified blurry shapes on grainy infrared video are…
That simply means we can’t definitively say what is being shown (hardly a shocker considering murky and indistinct blobs with little to no frames of reference). Before leaping to the timeless “It’s aliens!” trope, there are many, many more plausible factors to evaluate. There’s visual artifacts produced by camera lenses. There’s zoom rates which can trick the viewer into assuming aerial maneuvers that aren’t actually happening. There’s drones, balloons, and questions of image rotation and optical glare. There’s the well-documented parallax effect that wildly messes with our estimates of speed and distance.
And there’s the fact that blurry shapes have characterized the history of ufology since before most of us were born. (The fact that they continue to be blurry in an era of ubiquitous high-def cameras is pretty damning.) Even one of the pilots involved with this (Lt. Commander Alex Dietrich) has cautioned against people jumping to extraterrestrial assumptions.
Inevitably in public conversations on this topic, someone will say, “It’s arrogant to think we’re the only life in the universe”, but this is a straw man. Personally I think it’s highly likely that alien organisms exist somewhere in the cosmos. I suspect most people would agree. But jumping from that to the idea that they’re joyriding through earthly skies is a separate discussion… one that requires compelling hard evidence, which we just don’t have yet.
That’s not to say there aren’t intriguing cases. For me, the most fascinating evidence goes back to 1977 with the famous Wow! signal. We still don’t have a good explanation for what caused that, and there are features of the signal that remain tantalizing. Yet even there, premature conclusions are unwarranted.
The bottom line: We simply don’t have enough data. That may not be as sexy as “The truth is out there”, but rushing to declarations of certainty before evidence is evaluated is always the wrong thing to do.
The right thing to do was going to my brother’s fully vaccinated wedding in Port Jefferson, New York. Lots of love and laughter, dancing and drinking, friends and family to honor a truly one-of-a-kind evening. My brother has never been one to do things normally. The ceremony was part standup comedy, part dance-off, and all happiness.