LB: Paul Krugman speaks ‘Of sandworms and social science’

pic from Warner Bros. & The New York Times

by Larry Brody

Paul Krugman isn’t someone whose name is associated with film/TV criticism, but he’s written a wonderful review of Dune calling it “…the Movie We Always Wanted” in the subscriber-only newsletter of none other than the illustrious New York Times that actually made Gwen and me ante up and watch the film.

Since the newsletter may not be accessible to all of you, I’ll quote the more salient points (defined as, “well, hey, they impressed me) here:

What makes “Dune” more than an ordinary space opera are two things: its subtlety and the richness of its world-building.

Thus, the Bene Gesserit derive their power not from magic but from deep self-control, awareness and understanding of human psychology. The journey of Paul Atreides is heroic but morally ambiguous; he knows that if he succeeds, war and vast slaughter will follow.

And the world [Frank] Herbert created is given depth by layers of cultural references. He borrowed from Islamic and Ayurvedic traditions, from European feudalism and more — “Dune” represents cultural appropriation on a, well, interstellar scale. It’s also deeply steeped in fairly serious ecological thinking.


The great thing about Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune: Part I” is that he respects the audience enough to retain the book’s spirit. He trimmed the narrative to reduce it to filmable size — and even so, his two and a half hours cover only the first half of the book — but he didn’t dumb it down. Instead, he relies on spectacle and spine-tingling action to hold our attention despite the density of the story. In so doing he made a film worthy of the source material.

Another salient point, which I’m trying to make here in my, um, review of Krugman’s review:

My wife, Gwen the Beautiful, who regularly rereads Herbert’s book every few years (I estimate she’s read it at least ten times during our marriage) was disappointed by some of the cuts and, like so many other longstanding fans, the ending.

I OTOH, who have read it exactly once, serialized in the pages of Astounding Science Fiction back in my high school days, was pretty much delighted. Especially with the portrayal of Duncan Idaho, who has been one of the most important heroic figures in my reading life. Go, Jason Momoa!

The only thing that bothered me enough to talk about is that in the film Paul is presented fully formed with combat and psychic abilities and the absolute knowledge that he is a messiah.

Because of this, I couldn’t for the life of me find any reason to worry about or root for him. Other than the fact that, “Dammit, he’s right, so why don’t those mofos shut up and do what he says?”

And that’s probably because I’ve been thinking that thought for most of my life…about, you know, the people around me.

NYTimes.Com is HERE

If yiou can get beyond the paywall, Paul Krugman’s thoughts and full opinion about Dune (and also the TV version ofAsimov’s Foundation, which he hates) are findable HERE

Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.

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