Praise Shai-Hulud: Dune Is Coming Back To HBO Max Next Month

I have seen Denis Villeneuve's "Dune" three times so far, and that is not enough. When I saw the news that "Dune" will return to HBO Max on March 10, I told all my friends that I won't see them again for a while, because I had to declare my allegiance to Shai-Hulud every day until it leaves again. They know me. This was not a surprise. 

If you haven't yet gotten a chance to see it yet, call in sick. Inform your neighbors that there are going to be some deep bass noises coming from your speakers and settle in for a treat. "Dune" was nominated for an epic 10 Academy Awards, so you're not just taking my word for it. How often do we get to see a sci-fi film on the Best Picture list? It's not something I would have thought of for the 1984 David Lynch film, that's for sure. I may be a little blah on awards shows, but that is something I won't miss, no matter what!

If you need a reason to watch, let's start with how beautiful "Dune" is. Villeneuve captures the stark beauty of the desert in a way I didn't think was possible. I live in Los Angeles and I do love the desert. It's just that when I read the book, I didn't have this need to visit the place. I didn't "feel" the heat like I did watching the film (in a cold theater, no less). I didn't get a sense of the vistas, the rock formations, the stark beauty of the place — the way I did with the film.

Fear is the mind-killer

Honestly (and I know I'll get a ton of hate for this), I didn't love the book "Dune." I very much appreciate the world building, but it feels like Frank Herbert abandoned the incredible women he wrote about right at the end. No spoilers, because the Villeneuve film is only half of the first book, but Herbert abandoned a whole lot more, actually. He built up this character of Paul (played by Timothée Chalamet in the film) and then just turned him into some sort of zombie with a purpose but no feelings. He lost all his humanity. Chalamet's portrayal of Paul is so much more nuanced than the Paul in the book (and less goofy than the Paul in the 1984 film). You can see him feel things in a way that his book counterpart didn't. 

The same goes for Rebecca Ferguson's portrayal of Paul's mother, Jessica. She feels more real and has more emotion than book Jessica. You care about her for more reasons than a way to explain some magic powers or get out of dangerous situations. Watch for the scene with Jessica and Paul in the tent, speaking about a death. It's heartbreaking. Even Duncan Idaho (I still don't understand how that name fits into the rest of the book names) played by Jason Momoa feels more fleshed out. His corridor fight had me in tears. 

This version of "Dune" just feels so much more grounded in a real place with real people than I expected it to be. I should have expected it with Villeneuve at the helm, I suppose. Whatever you thought of "Blade Runner 2049" — and I loved it — there is a depth to it, a pacing that allows you to connect with the characters that is very Villeneuve. You feel like you could sit and speak with them outside of the film.

I serve only one master — his name is Shai-Hulud

Even characters with smaller roles like Dr. Liet Kynes (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) pack a powerful punch. When she says of the sandworm, "I serve only one master. His name is Shai-Hulud," you feel that. You understand her devotion. I know we only saw a small part of Zendaya as Chani, but if you haven't read the book, trust me when I tell you that she is hugely important to the story, and that I trust the way Villeneuve will handle her. 

On top of all of this, Villeneuve managed to take a story that has inspired so many filmmakers and keep it from feeling derivative. It's a rough thing to do, taking something whose imagery has been used in so many sci-fi films and shows (think of the spice in "Star Wars"), and go back to the source material without everyone thinking they've seen it all before. 

It's a big film, full of spectacle, but it never comes across as nothing but a glossy CG flick. Even the sandworm emerging from the dunes feels incredibly real. It's helped by a score with so much deep bass that your seat rumbles as it happens. Getting to feel a second of the panic that Jessica and Paul feel in that picture is as much a function of the score as it is of the visuals. 

"Dune" will return to HBO Max on March 10, 2022. Fun fact: Reciting the "Fear is the mind-killer" speech is a great way to time your handwashing, as I learned early in the pandemic.

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."