DUNE | Film Review

RELEASED: October 21st 2021
DIRECTED BY: Denis Villeneuve
WRITTEN BY: Denis Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts & Eric Roth
PRODUCED BY: Denis Villeneuve, Mary Parent, Cale Boyter & Joe Caracciolo Jr.
MUSIC BY: Hans Zimmer
STARRING: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jason Momoa, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Babs Olusanmokun & Javier Bardem

REVIEW: I say this as a massive Star Wars fan, but while watching Dune, I thought back to when this movie was in its early stages of production, and director Denis Villeneuve claimed that this movie would be ‘Star Wars for adults’ (which understandably angered a lot of Star Wars fans) and concluded… I can see exactly what they meant. I get it.

Dune follows the noble family of House Atreides after they are given stewardship of the planet Arrakis. An unforgiving world, home to the illusive Fremen, gigantic sand worms and a desolate deserts, Arrakis offers death to those who cannot tame it, and immeasurable wealth and power to those that can, due to it being the source of the incredibly valuable mineral known as Spice. But the harsh sands of Arrakis are not the only thing House Atreides should fear, as their new appointment puts them on a collision course with the planet’s previous stewards – the jealous and relentless House Harkonnen.

As expected of a Villeneuve film, Dune looks absolutely phenomenal. Before we get to the film’s various stars, I think it’s important to take moment to applaud those who worked behind the scenes to make this film the cinematic spectacle that it is: director of photography Greig Fraser, editor Joe Walker, supervising art director Brad Riker, production designer Patrice Vermette, visual effects supervisor Paul Lambert, special effects supervisor Gerd Nefzer and their teams have all done an excellent job crafting the worlds and inhabitants of Dune. The whole film is a series of beautiful shots and fascinating and unearthly designs. From the moment the film starts, science-fiction fans will no doubt be gripped by the awesome majesty of what has been constructed. From the spaceships to the sandworms to the intricate costumes, everything is so filled with wonder and intrigue.

Similarly, the sound design and score are also top notch; bold, weird and tense, it perfectly compliments the spectacular visuals to make this an absolutely resplendent watch.

These visuals and sounds are all tied together by a script that does an incredibly impressive amount of world building. As you may or may not know, the title card reveals that this film is actually not called Dune, but Dune: Part One, and only adapts the first half of Frank Herbert’s science-fiction tome. As such, while there is action and intrigue, the main focus on this film is basically building the sandbox that these characters get to play in later.

But it’s not just a huge exposition dump, instead, the world and it’s details are smartly parsed out across the film’s imposing two-and-a-half hour runtime, steadily taking its time to submerse audiences into the various quirks and ways of Dune, from the politics to the mysticism and everything in between.

Because of that, it’s no doubt a film that will be divisive. Hardcore sci-fi fans will be more inclined to appreciate it, while it’s occasionally slow pace and dense source material may put others off. Especially as this approach means, for me anyway, you could occasionally feel the lengthy runtime. It’s understandable, as this film is unapologetically entrenched in the weirder and more intense sect of science-fiction, and doesn’t try to cater to everyone.

What will likely bring audiences in however is the impressive ensemble cast. Fronted by the intense brooding of Timothée Chalamet, this film presents some solid performances. While we may not dive all that deeply into who all these character are, they are all, in their own ways, charismatic enough to win you over. But a lot of what’s compelling about them is the situations they find themselves in and the allegiances they hold, such as Jessica’s (Rebecca Ferguson) place in the mysterious Bene Gesserit, Leto’s (Oscar Isaac) standing as a noble leader, or Baron Harkonnen’s (Stellan Skarsgård) inhuman appearance and mannerisms.

Many of these actors, I suspect, will no doubt be able to dive deeper into who these character are in the subsequent outing, and I for one look forward to learning more about them.

If I were to pick one flaw, for me, it would be the hand-to-hand action. It’s fluid and intricate, sure, but I often felt like there was very little weight behind it. Never was this more apparent than when Jason Momoa’s dashing Duncan Idaho glides through the air and knocks his opponent over with what seems like a soft tap instead of the powerful kick he’s aiming to deliver. It certainly improves as the film goes on, but that factor left me a tad disappointed, and I hope to see an improvement in the potential follow-up.

But that is but one minor issue in a sea of stellar components. Dune is a great cinematic experience, one that feels tailor made to being seen at the cinema, and although it may not have overtaken my love for Star Wars, as with all Villeneuve films, I appreciated the chance to see something both awe-inspiring and different.

And for that, all-in-all, I give Dune: Part One

Thanks for reading! Dune or Star Wars? Let me know in the comments below!

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