Image Credit: Variety
Dune is a film directed by Dennis Villeneuve, as well as an adaptation of Frank Hebert’s 1965 novel of the same name. This film marks the third attempt to adapt Dune for the big screen. Before this adaptation, we had David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s canceled adaptation before that. This adaption of Dune has a big cast attached to it, including Hollywood A-List names like: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Jason Momoa, Oscar Isaac, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, and Javier Bardem.
Dune is a sci-fi story that takes place thousands of years in the future on the desert planet known as Arrakis, which is known to be one of the most dangerous planets in the universe. We follow Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), heir of House Atreides, as Paul’s father Leto Atreides (Oscar Issac) is head of house Atreides and is sent by the emperor to Arrakis to be its ruler. This is done so the empire can attain a large production of spice, a substance that not only can heal but is necessary for interstellar travel. Now, all of House Atreides must follow Paul to Arrakis- including his son, Paul, Paul’s mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), and his entire army, including his elite soldiers Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) and Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin). Paul follows his family as the heir of House Atreides; however, Paul is special in another way. His mother is a part of a religious group that has psychic powers such as visions of the future, as well as being able to use their voice to command others. Before Paul’s birth, only women of this religion were able to use these powers. Paul is special in that he has visions of the future while going on an important journey on Arrakis, during which he meets a strange woman named Chanj (Zendaya).
Dune’s world is insanely detailed, and you can tell this was a story that the filmmakers wanted to get right. After all, the original book was an inspiration for other media like Game of Thrones and Star Wars. The film does a great job at showing you things like how its technology works, from the ships to its weapons. There is even this nice mix of 1960s retro with some dash of medieval Europe and Middle Eastern aestheticism thrown in there when it comes to the design of sets and props. This unique combo of design gives the film a distinct look and makes the world feel alive.
The film cinematography is, simply put, incredibly well shot and directed. I would say it’s a shoo-in for best cinematography and best special effects at the 2022 Academy awards. The film also has a great score provided by Hans Zimmerman. I can be sure that while this film is on HBO Max, you would be doing yourself a disservice by watching it by streaming instead of watching it at the theater.
As for the performances, Timothée Chalamet gives a cold and calm performance, and it’s something strange at first, but works in the long run. You get the sense that Paul is trying his best to not fall under pressure for someone as special as he is, but wants to live up to it. However, at the same time, you get the idea that he might not have the best of intentions at times. Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica gives the best performance of the film. You can tell she is torn between her religion, being a loving mother to Paul, and being a devoted partner to Leto. A big example is near the beginning of the film, where a leader from her religion is testing Paul by putting him through a life-or-death situation. It cuts to Lady Jessica’s perspective a couple of times during this scene, and you can tell she is distraught and stressed out about her son’s life, but her religion prevents her from interfering with it- truly a winning performance. Oscar Isaac also gives a solid performance as Leto Atreides; you buy the fact this man is the duke of an entire house, that he cares for both his family, as well as the people of his house, but most of all his legacy. As for the others, Jason Momoa as Duncan was fun in a way we all expect from Momoa. Though others like Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, and especially Zendaya aren’t given much screen time. All of them did a fine job with what they were given.
Now, this is where my biggest problem in the film comes up. At the start of the film, it opens with a title card calling the film Dune Part 1. This film, despite being 2 hours and 35 minutes long, only adapts half of the original Dune novel. Now, this practice of splitting the book into two films is not unheard of as seen with It, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Hunger Games Mocking Jay, and Twilight Breaking Dawn. However, Dune Part 2 has yet to be officially greenlighted by Warner Brothers and its entire fate depends on how the first movie performs. This is very worrying as Villeneuve is not known for making Box-office smash hits- just look at Blade Runner 2049 bombing in theaters back in 2017. Thankfully as of the time of this publication, the film had a decent opening weekend in North America and had a great performance in Europe. This is something worth noting, as even if Dune Part 2 is greenlighted by the time this review goes up, then it will likely take a couple of years at least before we get the second half to this story.
Now with that elephant in the room addressed, Dune is worth watching. If this review at all piqued your interest in seeing it, then please do so. This is easily one of the best films of 2021, and could use all the support it can get so we can affirm the making of Dune Part 2, making sure we don’t have to deal with possibly the biggest cliffhanger in the history of cinema.