To anyone familiar with Dune, this film has been a long time coming. The idea for the original movie, based on Frank Herbert‘s novel of the same name, was suggested in 1971. Then, as most sci-fi fans can tell you, what followed was over a decade of fumbles, foils, and just overall bad luck. Finally after three directors, bankruptcy, infections due to poor working conditions and much more, Dune was released. Unfortunately the film was often confusing, with characters appearing and disappearing with little to no purpose. The story, deep and elaborate when told over the course of a 850 page novel, felt rushed and bloated. This is not to say it was all bad. The movie looked really great for the time, and the care and for sets and design was apparent. However this was not enough to save it’s lack of cohesive narrative.
The new Dune however, is truly the spice of life.
From the start of the movie, I am astonished by how gorgeous it looks. There is such an outstanding level of commitment to ensuring that information was delivered through the scene and setting. It is easy to decipher friend and foe, and as well be in awe of the outstanding technologies in this far future tale. Though nothing rang to me quite as well as the planet Arrakis (Dune) itself. Arrakis’ importance is many fold, as it is the source of spice, which is what allows for intergalactic travel in this universe. Yet the planet is more than just a growing chamber for this substance, the movie portrays it almost like an entity in itself. Spice is after all, a life-giving substance, yet to harvest it, countless lives have been lost.
The movie is jam packed with character, interspace politics and worldbuilding.
From betrayals to coups, assassinations, epic battles and even gigantic sandworms. The movie itself however moves very narratively slow. It takes its time to establish the characters and really plays the fact that this is not the entire Dune book, but only the first half. There very slow conversations and moments of quiet reflection. With every drop in exposition the audience is allowed some breathing room before the next bombshell. This pacing is essential though, as there are a multitude of characters and factions established quickly, and lack of time is what destroyed the original Dune.
The cast also contains an outstanding array of A-list movie stars. Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson and Javier Bardem just to name a few. While some of the cast is undoubtedly in the movie for a small amount of time and used to set up the sequel, the chemistry is there. Paul and Leto (Chalamet and Isaac respectively) stand to me as some of the best character pairings in this film. They have a loving and communicative father and son relationship, that builds both the emotional stakes of the film but also deeply ingrains what kind of man and leader Leto is, and is raising his son to be. The cast overall is like an orchestra in that each of them elevates the other’s performance to its maximum.
Additionally one special high point for me is the score. Hans Zimmer is a master of creating environments with sound, and he does it yet again here. There are grand majestic scores, as well as soft and mysterious thrills, all enhancing each scene with mastery. His musical prowess coupled with Denis Villeneuve’s directorial vision, made the movie into a feast for the eyes and ears.
In conclusion, this film while grand and gorgeous, does truly require a sequel, as all the events act only as a set up to what is to come next.
However, I truly believe it fulfills on a 40 year journey. Both in audience scores as well as box office numbers, Dune is an absolute hit. I have even heard of it being touted as the next Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. Though I think there is some truth to this comparison, I also believe that Dune really stands on its own. It took time, technology, new visions, and a boatload of money, but Dune is finally out, and I’d gladly face a sandworm for another viewing.