Quinn Looks at the Rave Reviews for Dune

Here’s a bit of fun to kick off Sunday. Quinn, the man behind the aptly named ‘Quinn’s Ideas’, is a Black American SF/comics writer and creator. He has a taste in classic SF tales of star-spanning galactic empires extending over centuries and millennia, intelligent stories that are part of the tradition of SF as ‘the literature of ideas’. Books like Asimov’s Foundation series, Dan Simmon’s Hyperion and especially, Frank Herbert’s Dune. Dune has now been adapted by Denis Villeneuve, the French-Canadian director behind Blade Runner 2049 and Arrival. Dune opens in America the end of October. I think it might the 20th, but I’m not sure. However, the critics have seen it, and the reviews are in. They rave about it!

Quinn wonders if his audience can tell that he can hardly contain his excitement. Well, it is noticeable. He’s almost shaking with joy and expectation. The critics have loved the film, including the musical score by Hans Zimmer. Amongst the praise, one critics compares it to the moment audiences first saw 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars. This is high praise indeed! 2001 has dated, but it still one of the great SF films of all time. I was a junior school kid when I first saw Star War, and it completely blew me away. Michael Frayn, the literature professor and broadcaster, said in an interview about his favourite movies that he saw it, and the first moments immediately seized and amazed you. This was the moment the star destroyer appeared in pursuit of the princess Leia’s rebel ship. It appeared and grew and continued growing.

Quinn hopes the film lives up to this hype, as he wants it to be remembered as the cinematic version of Dune, not the 1980s David Lynch version. This took liberties with the book. One of these was the portrayal of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. He was presented as a stupid, screaming madman. As Quinn says, the Dune miniseries was much better, although it had a much lower budget and the costumes were ridiculous. I have to differ from him here. I do agree with him that the Dune miniseries is an excellent adaptation, especially in the portrayal of the Baron. He’s closer to the character in the book, camp, but intelligent, subtle and cunning. I don’t know about the book, but the miniseries made him a kind of Shakespearean villain. He hated the Atreides because of the way that House looked down upon his family for generations. It recalled the line from King Lear where Edmund rants about how he is marginalised and excluded because he is a bastard, and so excluded from the throne. The Baron in the miniseries also versifies, celebrating his coming victories in rhyming couplets or haikus. Where I disagree is that I don’t think the costumes are ridiculous. I think the costume designer took his inspiration partly from 16th century Europe, shown in the uniform of the emperor’s Sardaukar shock troops, and also east Asia. The Harkonnen armour looks very much like it was inspired by Japanese samurai. Of course, it’s space age version of sixteenth century and Japanese armour and fashions. The costume of the guild ambassadors with their curiously curved headgear looks like it was inspired by some of the weird hats in Moebius, such as the one worn by his hero Arzach. I do, however, dislike the Fremen costume. I realise this is supposed to be clothes worn by harassed, persecuted desert-dwellers, but it’s tough rough and crude. The traditional clothes worn by modern desert peoples, like the Bedouin, are of much better quality even though these peoples may also be poor. I also found the miniseries’ version of the still suits, which collects the characters waste fluids from sweat, urine and faeces, and reprocesses them into drinkable water so that they can survive in the desert, disappointing. But then I don’t think they could ever match up to the stylish suits in the David Lynch movie.

I’m really looking forward to the new Dune movie, and hope to see it at the movies here, lockdown permitting. The trailers look superb and selected critics, including Quinn himself, were invited to special screenings of the first ten minutes of the movie. This massively impressed them. I’m a fan of both David Lynch’s Dune, which I consider to be a flawed masterpiece, and the miniseries. But I really hope Villeneuve’s version lives up to the hype. As Quinn’s commenters point out, what impresses the critics and the ordinary person in the auditorium are two different things. Blade Runner 2049 impressed the critics, but audience were much less impressed. It may be the same with his Dune, though I sincerely hope not. Any way, here’s the video he posted, so judge for yourself from his comments.


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6 Responses to “Quinn Looks at the Rave Reviews for Dune”

  1. Brian Burden Says:

    I’m afraid I have an aversion to genre SF. The sort of SF I like can be judged by the same criteria as can be applied to mainstream lit. I am an enormous admirer of H.G.Wells’ big five Scientific Romances (as he calls them) and the short stories which he wrote at the end of the nineteenth century. I enjoy Ray Bradbury’s fantasy-SF (though, when he gets too self-consciously literary, he tends to be pretentious). I much admire the script he wrote for the Gregory Peck film of Moby Dick. My favourite 20th Century SF writer is P.K.Dick, though his genius has been ill-served by his film and TV adaptors. Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is a brilliant film as a film, though as a faithful adaptation of Do Androids Dream..? it falls down by its total omission of the religion of Mercerism, which is central to Dick’s novel. The recent series of TV adaptations was a tedious insult, with the adaptors evidently straining to demonstrate how very much cleverer they were that PKD himself and simply succeeding in being mind-numbingly boring!

    • beastrabban Says:

      Mike read ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ back in the 1980s after Blade Runner came out, and I got the impression that the two are very different. I’ve read a couple of Dick’s novels, ‘Clans of the Alphane Moon’, ‘Now Wait for Last Year’ and another one, which I can’t remember at the moment. The only one of his short stories I’ve read is ‘Beyond Lies the Wub’, which seems to have been a favourite amongst anthologists back in the 1980s, as it’s been in at least two SF collections. I watched the recent TV adaptation, and was disappointed. It was boring. I read on the web that it may have been intended as a competitor to ‘Dark Mirror’, which would make sense. I watched it hoping it would get better, but it didn’t. I think there are a lot of excellent SF short stories from classic writers like Dick, Heinlein, John Wyndham and so on, but it’s interesting producers and network bosses. I’ve heard that one of the problems is that British TV executives, at least in the Beeb, really don’t like anything that’s two SF as they’re afraid audiences won’t understand it. Which means that they underestimate the intelligence of the British public.

      • Brian Burden Says:

        Dick’s early output varies very much in quality, much of it written on speed for pulp magazines. Thankfully, I didn’t see the TV travesty of The Wub, which I like. I would call Alphane Moon a potboiler. Rather than give a long list, I’d recommend the short story Nanny and the novels A Scanner Darkly, set in 1994 (some years ahead of when it was actually written) and inspired by the drugs culture of the nineteen sixties, and A Maze Of Death, which is based on the premise that God might exist and be active in the universe. He also wrote “straight” novels. A good one is his last novel, The Transmigration Of Timothy Archer.

      • beastrabban Says:

        There was a film of A Scanner Darkly a few years ago. It was unusual in that it was rotoscoped, a form of animation in which the artists draw over real actors. It was used by Ralph Bakshi in his ‘Lord of the Rings’ cartoon was back in ’70s/’80s. It sounds interesting, but I’ve always been in two minds about seeing it although it is available on DVD. I didn’t know they’d adapted Beyond Lies the Wub for television. If it’s as dire as it sounds, I’m glad I missed it. I can’t say it’s one of my favourite SF stories. As for the novels, I’m intrigued by Martian Timeslip, which sound interesting though I have been put off by some of Dick’s anti-Communist/ anti-socialist tone.

      • Brian Burden Says:

        I think the anti-socialist asides are more or less de riguer for American writers. Dick doesn’t come across as a right-wing ideologue. I think the cartoon treatment of Scanner is misconceived. Precisely because it deals with drugs and illusion, any treatment of the novel needs to be firmly grounded in reality. My advice: read the book and ignore the film. Definitely read the book first.

  2. Brian Burden Says:

    Correction: I think that should be “1998” My edition misprints it as “1948”.

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