Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Zendaya, Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista,
“This is just the beginning,” says desert nomad Chani (Zendaya) at the end of Dune, the highly anticipated adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel by French-Canadian writer-director Denis Villeneuve. Since this 155-minute epic takes up about half the story told in the book’s hundreds of pages and is explicitly framed as Dune: Part One at the outset, it leaves the audience on a climax for a second part.
The story centers on two families, the Harkonnens and the Atreideses, who battle for control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only known source of a prized substance called spice. This substance is needed to fuel interstellar travel and acts as a kind of performance-enhancing drug. Thanks to their exposure to “herbs”, the desert-dwelling Fremen people of Arrakis have terrifying bright blue eyes, exceptional fighting abilities and, it is implied, psychic powers.
At the heart of the story set in the year 10191 is Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), the teenage scion of the powerful Atreides clan. He is the son of Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), who has been appointed by the Emperor to lead the troops colonizing Arrakis. The decision does not go down well with the Harkonnen family, who have controlled the planet for more than 80 years. Paul’s mother, Lady Jessica, (Rebecca Ferguson who is part of a secret priesthood) trains him to become one of the best leaders. She has some highly developed supernatural abilities; for example, they can even force their enemies to do their bidding with an eerie digitally amplified voice.
Cinema is there to evoke. That’s the primary goal, and Dune breathlessly, relentlessly, gloriously takes over our brains as we watch the sizzling story. This is mainly due to the film’s absolute and inspiring level of clarity. Unlike most theatrical films that rely too much on computer-generated effects, Miller’s new film decides to use mostly practical stunt work, combined with the complexity of the action sequences that use VFX, making the audience constantly aware of the sprawling epic unfolding on the screen. From dragonfly-like spaceships to a fly-shaped needle made to kill and even the giant sandworms, Villeneuve shows why he is slowly becoming the master of sci-fi cinema, as he previously proved in films like Arrival and Blade Runner 2049.
There are so many details to gawk at, and so lovingly the director shows it all, the film oozes originality in every pore. Villeneuve is demonstrating his confidence in picking up on such a beloved story, building on it and giving us some more polarizing plot points that would be discussed in years to come. He also skillfully combines the key elements of filmmaking – the most obvious being Greig Fraiser’s absolutely stunning cinematography. The soundtrack was another essential element and maestro Hans Zimmer does full justice to the film.
Much of the film—beautiful, breathtaking, and mind-numbing—enjoyed asking questions about life and love and humanity without bothering to answer them. It made us wonder and doubt and argue.
The only problem I had was that the story ends abruptly. Warner Bros. has yet to formally give production on the second and final installment, and Villeneuve has said that would only happen if the film does well in theaters and also on HBO Max, the two platforms where it will be released simultaneously. Villeneuve’s sheer awe-inspiring execution deserves to be watched on the biggest screen near you.
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