Tag Archives: Denis Villeneuve

Dune “Main Theme” (1984)

With the Denis Villeneuve adaptation of Dune on the way, it only makes sense that I’d have all things “Dune” on the brain as of late, and that includes the music of the 1984 film that did its best but ultimately fell short of being a satisfying adaptation. Despite its flaws, I maintain that the 1984 adaptation of Dune is a fairly satisfying film, not least because of its musical score from Toto and Brian Eno.

One of my favorite musical moments in Dune is the main theme, which opens the story and recurs at pivotal moments. Take a moment and listen to the main theme of Dune below:

I love this theme because of how effective it is. It’s a simple enough melody but by thrumming up in the strings and brass it communicates the idea of power and growing tension, both themes that can be found throughout the story of Dune (as controlling Arrakis and the spice grants power and there’s unending tension between the Atreides/Fremen and the Harkonnens throughout the story).

It also, as I said before, recurs at pivotal moments throughout the film, and I’ll look at two of those moments as examples. The first example comes when Paul is summoning a sandworm for the Fremen. The theme begins when the massive sandworm is first seen rising up from the endless dunes. The placement of the music and visual image is pretty brilliant here, as the music rises up in conjunction with the worm, really making you feel the appearance of shai-hulud (the Fremen name for sandworms).

Notably, the main theme continues in a higher register once Paul has control of the sandworm, ending on a triumphant tone as the scene ends. This is one of my favorite scenes in the entire movie, and it’s all because of this wonderful music.

The second example I’d like to look at is at the end of the film, when Paul demonstrates his power as the Kwisatz Haderach. As Paul exerts all his power to cause rain to fall on Arrakis, the main theme recurs yet again. Now, instead of the sandworm’s power being highlighted, it’s Paul and his power that we’re being drawn to by the music. He’s doing something that no human has ever done before, he’s causing rain to fall on a desert planet that likely hasn’t seen a rainstorm in a hundred generations, if ever. It’s set up as a fairly powerful moment and I feel the music is what makes it so. Check it out below:

Now, unlike the first example with the sandworm, this example uses the music in an entirely different way. The scene with the sandworm almost vibrated with raw power. Here, at the end of the film as Paul assumes absolute power, the music assumes a higher register, even including a choir at one point to highlight the awesomeness of what Paul is doing. This is a profound moment, so the music, though the melody is the same, has to be that much different to carry the point across to the audience. This is the ultimate expression of the main theme, nothing will ever surpass this (or at least that’s the intention).

Yes, it’s true, Dune has many, MANY flaws, but the music is not one of them, as I hope these examples with the main theme show. I really believe this score is underrated and should be given more attention. I hope you enjoyed listening to some examples of Dune’s main theme.

Let me know what you think about the main theme of Dune in the comments below and have a great day!

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My thoughts on: Sicario (2015)

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I was inspired to watch Sicario after seeing the trailer for Sicario: Day of the Soldado (scheduled to be released on June 29th). I’d been warned by multiple friends and fellow bloggers that the film had some exceptionally violent moments in it, but I decided it was worth the risk to my psyche to see what this film was all about (it would also help me determine if the sequel was really worth seeing).

And my first thought after the credits rolled was “Oh yeah! That sequel is DEFINITELY worth seeing!”

I would be completely lying if I said parts of Sicario didn’t shock me to the core (I literally jumped at the beginning when that explosion happened and the “house of horrors” before that nearly did me in) but the story pulled me in deep enough that I needed to see where it was going despite my initial discomfort.

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If you haven’t seen it, Sicario was directed by Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049, Arrival) and follows FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) as she is suddenly sucked into the dark world of the Mexican drug cartels and the forces working to take them down by any means necessary. Her boss recommends her to a task force led by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and his partner Alejandro (Benicio del Toro). The assignment, she’s told, is to apprehend Manuel Diaz (Bernardo Saracino), a top lieutenant in the Sonora cartel. The truth, however, of what is really going on, is far more complicated.

An ongoing trope in Sicario is that things are not as they appear to be, there is something very dark and ugly at work and if you keep digging you’re going to find some very uncomfortable truths. Kate learns this the hardest way possible, even though she questions the assignment from the beginning, her desire for justice leads her along until she is in way over her head (and it nearly gets her killed several times). Kate is obviously the audience surrogate for this story (though she handles it way better than I would’ve).

My favorite character in the film is actually Alejandro Gillick, Graver’s “bird dog.” He doesn’t talk much, but once he’s introduced he’s a near-constant presence on the screen. And when he does talk, or really, when he does anything at all, it’s usually something of consequence to the story. Alejandro is initially presented as an assassin/enforcer type who is only doing this because he is ordered to/wants to. But it eventually comes out that everything he’s done for the last number of years is all part of his plan to get revenge on the cartel for murdering his wife and daughter. I think deep, deep down, Alejandro doesn’t like what he’s become, but now that his family is gone he doesn’t care anymore, he just wants revenge. Benicio del Toro blew me away with his performance and he is why I’m excited to watch the sequel this summer. Knowing that he lost a young daughter, it makes sense why (in the trailer) he’s so unwilling to kill this young girl (but I digress…).

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Besides the “house of horrors” at the beginning of the film (I’m talking dead bodies literally stuffed into the walls), there are some truly shocking moments throughout the film. For instance, when Kate is headed into Ciudad Juarez with the task force, there’s a shocking moment when we see several dismembered bodies hanging from a bridge. Then there’s a moment where a would-be love scene between Kate and a new acquaintance turns into an almost-murder scene in a matter of seconds (I admit I was not prepared for how vicious that scene got). The scene that bothered me the most though, was near the end when Alejandro confronted the boss of the cartel who was at dinner with his family. I knew he was going to kill them all, and I even understood why (they took his family, so he’ll take away this family to get even) but I still really didn’t like it. I mean after all, what did the kids do? They didn’t do anything, but then again that’s the point. In the world of Sicario, you don’t have to have done anything wrong to wind up dead. Simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time is reason enough.

Before I forget, there is one scene that bothered me and that’s what happened at the border crossing. As the team is escorting a prisoner into the United States from Mexico, they’re caught up in traffic just over the border and note several cars tailing them (armed to the teeth with guns). In short order, a lot of cartel members wind up dead surrounded by cars full of regular civilians, yet I never hear anyone reacting to what happened (no screams, no one else gets out, etc.) Yes I know the team is armed with military grade weapons, but shouldn’t someone have reacted to what happened besides Kate? Maybe I’m missing the point, but that part bothered me.

I did enjoy Sicario; it’s a thought provoking film about the lengths people are willing to go to get justice or control certain situations and what that does to certain people in the meantime. I mean, from a certain point of view, Matt Graver and his team are just as bad as the cartel (in terms of killing and violence). I can’t wait to see what happens to Alejandro in the sequel.

What did you think of Sicario? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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