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TWO SCI-FI TRAILERS RECENTLY CAUGHT MY EYE, ONE EXPECTED, THE OTHER NOT so much, yet it held my attention far longer than I expected.

I haven’t been a science fiction buff since my boyhood. This world is horrible enough in the present, so why do I need to digest stories about its future? Science fiction is predicated upon either a belief in an Utopian future or the inverse; a continuation of contemporary dystopia as well as technology “porn,” i.e., what cool gadgets are likely to exist.

The former hardly interests me at all. It’s half-baked Rousseauian world view I don’t care for. The latter piques me but rarely enough for me to pursue a movie and certainly not a book. (I love to read but I mostly avoid the genre).

There’s some unknown variable for a science fiction visual project to catch my attention. An x even a y for drawing me towards it. Maybe critical or popular acclaim. Maybe the visuals were too seductive to pass up. Maybe the female lead was too seductive to pass up. Who knows. I’m not a very serious person.

Without further adieu the trailers:

DUNE (2020)

I’m so old I remember the hype for the first filmed version of Dune(1984).

Some of my friends had read the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert as well as the subsequent series–which was the Song of Ice and Fire of its time.

I on the other hand was only lured in by the promise of the presiding power of David Lynch. Coming off the deserved acclaim of another literary or theatrical adaptation(The Elephant Man), Lynch had made his statement as the most original and promising of young American directors. Somehow this country had birthed a figure who seemed to unite H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe with Luis Buñuel, spinning a cinema equally lurid, horrific and yet strangely funny, elegiac and beautiful.

But David Lynch’s Dune pleased no one. The box office returns hindered any notion of it becoming the “new” Star Wars (believe me, that was the hype). The few viewers it had found it muddled and confusing. Lynch’s fans since his unforgettable debut(Eraserhead) worried that Hollywood would quickly defeat this most peculiar auteur, that his moment had passed.

No one knew Blue Velvet was just around the corner…

To paraphrase an old joke about Hollywood which is so au courant, Hollywood makes only two types of pictures: remakes and sequels.

The gross, infantile nature of 21st Century Hollywood ensures a never-ending supply of superhero movies, origin stories and all the other forms of soma they can dispense.

Who was clamouring for another version of Dune? Or perhaps enough time has passed for it to be remade.

The first grating matter about the trailer for the upcoming movie is the amplification of a very generic cover of Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse” which will have Floyd fans cursing. Commercials/television/movies are fond of this type of sheninigans: brandish the power of a popular song for your project yet not use the original recording because it would be too expensive. THEN WHY USE IT?!?

The director Denis Villeneuve certainly has a “pedigree” but there’s nothing at stake for him with this reconsideration of Dune, unlike Lynch with his effort. What’s conveyed here for three minutes of consideration is not so daring, so wholly idiosyncratic it communicates any singular ownership. Anyone currently making big-budget Hollywood sci-fi epics could be its author: from Michael Bey to Luc Besson.

The worrisome influences of The Matrix, Guardians of the Galaxy and Game of Thrones are upon display. Probably The Dark Knight and all those Marvel Comic movies as well. Like every other Hollywood production which flashes my eyeballs this Dune is visually sumptuous, but I remain skeptical about the substance.

The cast is impressive by standards important to some. It’s the usual cheeky Hollywood mix of young “stars”(Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya), veterans of distinction(Stellan Skarsgard, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Rampling, Oscar Isaac, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin), and curiousities(former wrestler Dave Bautista, Jason Momoa)..

I can’t pretend to any enthusiasm about this. Chalamet is a name I know, but whose filmography completely escapes me. I have no qualms about Fergusson. Nor if Skarsgard and Rampling signed on for the paycheck. Brolin has chops and I have enjoyed in some roles, yet he always grates upon me. The same is even more true for Isaac, whom I care for even less.

I don’t want to rant against Zendaya–less from fears of  social media “reprisals” than of my own ambiguous feelings towards her. preternaturally beautiful as a tween star, a budding Brooke Shields who did not capitalize upon her Lolita-esque appeal, she seems predestined to become a star. This has come to pass. Yet what once seemed organic now borders on radical liberal media calculations. Now that every production must be “diverse” or it should be cancelled, what better casting for the lead female role than an attractive mixed-race woman?

Not that Zendaya is to blame. To her credit she never hid her biracial identity(don’t kid yourself, even in 2020 the being half-Black part is the real problem for both Hollywood and White America) and accepted being a role model. But since then the media has made it so thoroughly an essential focus of her narrative  that racial politics oversaturate what it is when we think about Zendaya, to borrow a phrase. “Zendaya is the star “we” need right now” and all that rubbish. Who says? And why not speak only for yourself.

Seeing Zendaya as more than a “quota” is of course my problem not hers, but I can admit to it. Still I would take a million movies with Zendaya for whatever reason she was cast than one with the insufferable likes of Jaenelle Monae, who is an absolute media creation as one can imagine.

Will I see Dune? On someone else’s dime, probably. Who knows? I got hooked on Devs and The Mandalorian which I never could have anticipated.

Speaking of The Mandalorian


Responsible for my favorite television moments of recent years the saga will continue with new episodes in October 2020. It’s about time.

I won’t pretend to any phony “objectivity.” I have watched and rewatched the trailer with childlike bliss! All the boxes for enjoyment based upon criteria gleaned and codified from Season 1 are evident: Mandalorian? check; familiar elements of the Star Wars universe on display? check; some returning characters? check; esoteric statement of a heroic mission? check; Baby Yoda? check check check!

It’s a very smart, engaging trailer. Without campiness it captures something of the feel of vintage Hollywood episodic teasers. It both rewards its fans and hopefully engages the newcomer.

And while it’s unfair to compare Dune(2020) with The Mandalorian–their moods appear to be quite dissimilar, for to do so might be disastrous. One seems grimly enchanted with its own darkness , its own indebtedness to other epics. The other abounds with a Mozartesque deftness and lightness despite being as violent. Take a guess as to which is which.



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