All Hail Jason Momoa’s Duncan Idaho, the Best Thing About Dune

    20
    0

    All Hail Jason Momoa’s Duncan Idaho, the Best Thing About Dune

    Is Momoa the only actor who could make us care about a guy named “Duncan Idaho”? Maybe!
    This post contains spoilers for Dune.

    So there I was, rooting for a man named Duncan Idaho—a Midwestern potato sack of a name improbably pinned on a character living in the year 10,191. In the sci-fi epic Dune (released a day early on HBO Max, to the extreme displeasure of director Denis Villeneuve), Jason Momoa plays the aforementioned Duncan, a powerful swordmaster who serves House Atreides and is dear friends with its future leader, Paul (Timothée Chalamet). But while the narrative belongs to Paul, Dune is at its best when Momoa is onscreen–operating as both a wise, voyaging soldier and the blockbuster’s cheeky comic relief. 

    Duncan is a high-profile fighter who serves Paul’s father, Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac). He and Paul are close, as evidenced by Paul telling Duncan that he’s been having nightmares about traveling to Arrakis and dealing with the Fremen. Duncan humors Paul, assuring him that everything will be all right, then distracts him by grabbing Paul’s skinny arm and exclaiming that he finally put on muscle. “I did?” Paul asks, excited. “No,” Duncan replies, completely deadpan, walking away from the slender baby duke. 

    The scene crackles with life thanks to Momoa’s warmth—a welcome change of pace, as there’s nothing else very warm in Villeneuve’s epic vision of Dune. That’s Duncan’s modus operandi over the course of the film—bounding in, all heroic and confident, comforting Paul, cracking some jokes, then walking away, his man-bun bobbing up and down behind him. (It’s worth pointing out that in a movie full of Great Hair, including Chalamet’s carefully wrangled dark waves, Momoa easily has the Best Hair. Sometimes it’s a man bun. Sometimes it’s a romantically wispy French braid. Sometimes it’s tousled bedroom waves. Always, it’s good.)

    Though his introductory moment is an instant highlight, Duncan’s best scene arrives in the middle of the film—when the furious Stilgar (Javier Bardem), the leader of the Fremen, comes to visit Duke Leto. He spits on the ground in front of him, a cultural sign of respect that catches Duke Leto off guard until Duncan interjects and shows him how to respond in kind. “Thank you, Stilgar, for the gift of your body’s moisture,” he says, a perfect line that comes directly from the book. “We accept it in the spirit in which it was given.” Then he spits back—a move that is sure to inspire a wave of thirst tweets from the “spit on me, hot celebrity!” crowd. 

    But it’s also this gesture that makes Duncan Dune’s most empathetic through-line. Though he’s from Caladan, like Paul and Duke Leto, he’s one of the few elite members of House Atreides to spend genuine time with the Fremen of Arrakis and to respect their culture, rebuking the colonizing, “look at these savages!” mentality of his fellow swordsmen. Duncan stands in the middle of both worlds, learning the ways of the Fremen while also remaining doggedly loyal to House Atreides.

    He pays for that loyalty toward the end of the movie, when Sardaukar troops lay siege on House Atreides, launching an attack in the middle of the night. Duncan storms down the hall in a billowing white blouse, looking like a futuristic Fabio who just leapt off the cover of a harlequin romance novel. (Handsomely barging into battle is a specialty of Momoa’s, a canonized part of his skill set after playing the vicious Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones.

    There are few cinematic tropes as instantly pleasing as Heroic Character Accepting Certain Death, sacrificing themselves for the ones they love. Duncan gets a fairly glorious, vengeful send-off in this vein, singlehandedly killing several Sardaukar troops before they finally take him down…only for him to to get back up, pull out the sword they sunk into his chest, and kill a few more Sardaukars for good measure. Not bad for a guy whose name sounds like the human equivalent of sticking a piece of wheat in your mouth after a long day on the farm. (“Finally,” Johnny Utah thinks to himself, “a worthy nemesis.”) 

    Should a Dune sequel materialize, it’s a tragedy to think Duncan won’t be there to brighten up the screen. Unless the film hews closely to the book…which, without spoiling too much, knows better than to give up on a beloved character just yet. 

    More Great Stories From Vanity Fair

    — Aaron Sorkin on Scott Rudin: “He Got What He Deserves”
    — The Controversy Behind the Scenes of Dallas Buyers Club
    — Steven Van Zandt Talks Making, and Ending, The Sopranos
    Love Is a Crime: The Rise and Fall of Walter Wanger’s Cleopatra
    — Matt Drudge’s Impeachment Debut and Strange Origin Story
    Squid Game: The Perfect Show for Our Current Dystopia
    — An Oral History of Zoolander
    — Which James Bond Star Is the Ultimate 007?
    — From the Archive: The Epic Folly and Scandalous Romance of Cleopatra
    — Sign up for the “HWD Daily” newsletter for must-read industry and awards coverage—plus a special weekly edition of “Awards Insider.”

    Published at Fri, 22 Oct 2021 22:16:15 +0000

    https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2021/10/dune-jason-momoa-duncan-idaho

    Previous articleFacebook Was Not Prepared to Deal With Jan. 6 Insurrection, According to Newly Leaked Documents
    Next articleBrexit Is Still a Hot Mess