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Dune: Part Two (2024)
Long live the fighters.
Filmmaker(s): Denis Villeneuve

Follow the mythic journey of Paul Atreides as he unites with Chani and the Fremen while on a path of revenge against the conspirators who destroyed his family. Facing a choice between the love of his life and the fate of the known universe, Paul endeavors to prevent a terrible future only he can foresee.

Dune: Part Two (2024)


In my comment on Part One, I noted that the complex charm of the books would in this part be flattened to basically two things: vast engagements with the environment, and action scenes: armies and heroes fighting. This is an action movie, alas, though the setup could be good for a real Dune movie in Part Three.

Our filmmaker has juggled timelines to have three overlapping pregnancies. Chani has Paul’s child, Leto, the only heir to House Atreides. Margot, Lady Fenring is carrying Marie, the Bene Gesserit blessed son of Feyd-Rautha, now sole heir to house Harkonnen, while being married to the sympathetic Count Fenring. Jessica is carrying, Alia, the super witch Kwisatz Haderach.

Princess Irulan is now Paul’s wife, making him emperor, and in control of spice, melange, but facing a universal rebellion. So this film is really a setup — cinematic background.

Contrast these two films in their complex setup of forces with the simple opening crawl of Star Wars, which serves the same purpose in that universe. So even though I have complaints about Part 2 being closer to Lawrence of Arabia than the books, we still have some complex narrative in play. This universe is complex and well reasoned.

Herbert was fascinated by Shia drugs. This was before the LSD fad and Timothy O’Leary, so Herbert had the luxury of history as a template. Our history only goes back say 5,000 years, when a mythical teacher appeared between what is now northern Iran and Afghanistan. His ‘later incarnation’ around 1000BCE, Zoroaster, already found himself in an ancient religion centred on a hallucinogen, Soma. Already, a sister religion in India was similarly (and more widely) using the same drug, they called Haoma.

Soma became central to the subsequent Persian empire (about 500-300BCE), the largest in history by percentage of population, which included Babylon. The Persian kings took proto-Hebrew teachings and synthesised a Jewish religion that they could use to control an essential spice (meaning gustatory in this case) trade route. The influence of Zoroastrianism on the Bible and Temple culture — and the Essene counterculture (from which John and Jesus emerged) was huge. While not a main thread, a holy hallucinogen was still a mainstay in the Christian Gnostic tradition that grew Christianity.

It is fair to say that Shi’te Islam is Zoroastrianism within Islam, and the tradition Herbert used as a template for soma/melage. The Vedic system became Hinduism and Haomo has a god with the same drug. Though in all cases, the original formulary has been lost.

Thomas Harriot incidentally found a similar tradition in Algonquian Pocoon applied topically to the skull, when he wintered in the New World in 1585. He brought that back (with potatoes and tobacco!), as a thujone cordial which became popularised as Absinthe, sometimes blamed for the fall of Napoleon.

In a conversation with Phil Dick, he thought Herbert was unaware of the gnostic/thujone tradition which informed Dick’s own experiments and later writings. We could say that the two greatest science fiction writers grew from drugs in the two great religious traditions, one (Herbert) producing Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and some of the esoteric sects of Buddhism, the other (Dick) from the European cooptation of Christianity.

Spice in the books originates in the mysterious, presumably sexual reproduction of sandworms, themselves part animal and part plant. The juice from this process resides in the younger worms until it is expelled underground, whereupon it starts to react with water and planetary chemicals. An eruption from this reaction brings the proto-spice to the surface where the sun transforms it to the mineable substance.

Herbert was ostracised by ‘hard science’ fiction writers who took some scientific concept and extrapolated/exaggerated a future in that harness. He confabulated a future where that kind of science — which is actually technology — is expunged from his universe, and instead extrapolated a universe built on melange.

Posted in 2024

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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