Thursday, October 21, 2021

Dune - Review

A few have attempted (and failed) to successfully adapt this epic science fiction story. From the proposed 14 hour epic by Alejandro Jodorowsky that stalled out in the 70s to the less than stellar adaptation in 1984 by David Lynch, Dune has often been considered impossible to film. While that was once the thought, Denis Villeneuve proves that just isn’t true, crafting a film with such ambition and scope that it’s truly astounding no one thought to give this man the reigns to this story long ago. 

Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet's exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence, only those who can conquer their own fear will survive.

If you’ve seen a single promotion image or video for this film, it’ll come as no shock that the visuals here are astounding. Director Denis Villeneuve is no stranger to crafting visually pleasing films, but Dune adds massive scale to that, like none of his films before. Villeneuve plunges the audience straight into the world without hesitation, and trusts us to find our way through the sand. 

It certainly helps to have a talented ensemble that can stand up there with the best of them. Timothée Chalamet is the ideal lead for Dune, as he sells the confusion and anguish of the young Paul, but never quite steps into the messiah role that’s destined for him.  Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa slide perfectly into the tough and legendary fighters they’re supposed to be. Zendaya and Rebecca Ferguson give all they can in roles that will clearly have more impact as the story continues. And Oscar Isaac is always spectacular, that’s never even a question at this point. Throw in some eery scenes with Stellan Skarsgard’s Baron and you have an ensemble to anchor this sci-fi epic.

It must be said that Dune very much feels like a part one. That’s not a bad thing, the film’s title card says as much, but for those expecting the story to wrap up nicely with a bow on top should know what to expect. There’s a lot of exposition here, setting up the stories to come and the characters that will play a part. But what it lacks in story, it makes up for in world building. Villeneuve weaves together so many interesting ideas in the lore and the worlds that it often feels like a real place in the distant future. And with a narrative that’s sometimes complex, nailing the setting and feeling of the universe goes a long way to making the film cohesive. 

Dune is a sprawling, grand science fiction epic with interesting characters and a fascinating narrative that encapsulates so many story pieces into a film that’s not difficult to follow. It’s definitely the first piece of a larger puzzle, but if Villeneuve can bring his filmmaking talent to the other entries, then we may just have another saga for the ages on the our hands.

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