In Reviews

October 22nd, 2021




The hype, the build up of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune has reached a breaking point, ready to explode, with a massive cast, and visual effects on a scale grander than anything ever projected at an IMAX movie theater. The background history on Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel being adapted to film has its own mythology, with a legendary rolodex of directors that were considered to attempt or create the futuristic story of spice and sand worms, which includes Ridley Scott, David Lean, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and ultimately landed on David Lynch, who brought his vision to life in 1984 to very little praise. Although it has its share of fans, the technology may not have been the right time to make Dune in 1984, but in 2021, and through the advantageous mind of Villeneuve, this Dune is the genuine article. Believe the hype, because Denis Villeneuve has achieved something groundbreaking with his vision, making a sci-fi epic unlike any other, which is hopefully just the beginning.

I say just the beginning because an important fact for audiences to know is that this is Dune: Part I. It’s because of this information that I’m not fully committed to a 4-star rating, especially because the argument can be made that this Dune is slightly incomplete, but not without purpose. With a run-time of two hours and thirty-five minutes, co-writers Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts, and Eric Roth have a tight grasp on the text, yet condensing such a grand sci-fi story is not possible. The action begins with the valiant hero Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet), the only son of Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) and his mother Lady Jessica Atreides (Rebecca Ferguson), where Paul is in his preparation for when he will take over the throne of House Atreides. In his sleep, Paul has visions, some involving the planet of Arrakis, which is a planet that is a major source of intergalactic conflict, due to the planet’s source of spice, a powerful element in the golden sand covered surface. The Emperor calls upon the House Atreides to take over Arrakis, bring peace to the land, along with the Fremen people living there, and continue to mine the spice. This plan is quickly ambushed by the evil group known as the Harkonnen- led by the snake-like Baron Vlad Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard) and his mass of armies, creating a catastrophic interstellar war. The major themes of Paul stepping outside his fears, becoming the leader he was born to be coincides with when the battle begins, and Dune expands beyond the characters internal struggles. The fight is riveting from the minute it begins, as we start to see the true power that Paul Atreides holds.

Digging deeper into who these characters are would start to become a book about Dune and not just a movie review, but that is also why Villeneuve’s accomplishment is so great. The special effects are unlike anything I have ever witnessed, with ships larger than bodies of water, hovering above the sky, and casting a shadow among the sand. The cinematography by Greig Fraser has visuals inspired by Blade Runner, with minor aesthetics similar to what Roger Deakins did in Blade Runner 2049, but nothing about Dune looks manufactured. It’s hard to see the Hollywood seams. The costumes look made in the year 21010, the overpowering score by Hans Zimmer never stops the walls from shaking, while the fight turns up with Jason Momoa’s Duncan Idaho stealing the show, fighting with courage, while he has a devilish grin in the face of all Harkonnen warriors. It’s all made possible by the gorgeous leadership from Denis Villeneuve, who has no limit to what can be made possible with the art of cinema.

This is not to say Dune will be an overwhelming success in the eyes of all, where the density of the science fiction will confide those unaware of what Dune is. The gorgeous faces of Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya may attract the fans of Euphoria or those who fell in love with the Call Me By Your Name star, but it’s much more for a deeper sci-fi nerd. Those are just warning signs, as Dune submerged me into this entire universe. The sand surrounds us, which will have audiences rubbing their eyes to clear grains that are not really there, covering enormous worms that shake the ground, arriving like an earthquake of destruction. And as each character receives more time on screen, the greater the collective cast becomes. Chalamet is perfect for the role of mysterious young man, afraid of his true potential, and haunted by a woman in his dreams. Ferguson subtly steals all the thunder, both as a mother afraid of what could happen to her son, but also as a character that has more depth than what we are seeing on the surface. The rest of the group is just as great- Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista- all actors that Villeneuve seems to have truly known would fit perfectly into this Dune universe.

There’s genuinely not enough that could be said about Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. The runtime may be long, but it’s not even a factor, as every second, every inch of the screen injects energy into the viewers eyeballs. It’s something that George Lucas always dreamed of making when he first conceived Star Wars, it’s an adaptation that David Lynch was unable to fully realize, and it’s one of the biggest science fiction achievements in the history of the genre. Dive into the sand and dance with the worms. Dune is absolutely spectacular.


Written by: Leo Brady

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