...another spectacular outing by Villeneueve
Some may disagree but in all truth, Denis Villeneuve has yet to deliver a film I haven’t fallen completely head over heels for. I must admit that beyond the initial trailer for the film I was wary about the filmmaker tackling yet another large science fiction property because of how right he got Blade Runner 2049, a property like Dune, especially split into several films could be an absolute slog, catching literal sand blowing in the wind. Luckily what we received was yet another spectacular outing by Villeneueve.
Denis Villeneuve delivers a world originally brought to us back in 1965 by Frank Herbert and then attempted to be brought to the big screen back in the 80s and even the small screen back in the early 2000s. Now with revolutionary technology and a director with a true passion for the craft, we have a film that navigates you into this world of Arrakis and traps you there with the only way out being the darkness of the credit roll allowing you to leave its trance.
Presumably translating half of a 617 page novel into a 155 minute runtime can be quite the challenge (with shortcuts I’m sure throughout) but writers Eric Roth, Jon Spaihts, and Denis Villeneuve seem to bring justice to the source material while taking some liberties along the way. With such a bleak setting and little hope in sight, you have to provide your own faith that the newly appointed rulers of Arrakis will survive the competitive nature of the fellow beings residing on the planet. Political talk does occur and in the bigger picture the film is based on political warfare but with or without understanding the details you can observe the world of Arrakis attempting to kill its inhabitants at every turn - you can help but root for a party to overcome and conquer the planet in which they reside. For part one of the story of Dune - we focus first on politics but soon after on survival.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The dialogue can be a bit bunch at times, while it is mostly transferred almost directly from the page when it can. There is a large assortment of dialogue that never manages to be understood due to the atmospheric noises or just the actor in question saying the line too quietly or awkwardly for any normal audience member to understand on first watch. You learn to accept these moments and make up your own lines of dialogue to make the conversations make sense but it’s truly a fault of the film for not being aware of this confusing element. All the actors are admirable in their respective roles, however with this being the first part in an epic, many actors' roles are cut far too short either due to the separation of the parts or a character's fate happening far too soon. Nonetheless when all the actors are on screen you can’t help but be invested in their individual stories and be in awe of the world around them. Not being an overwhelming fan of Timothée Chalamat prior to this I can safely say now that I love him in this role as a soft spoken but brutal warrior when he wants to be. Rebecca Ferguson might be one of the weakest pieces of the film - being involved with almost the exact amount of runtime as Timothée’s Paul, and yet she still provides a compelling performance with minor flaws that don’t capture the visual offered by the novel. Jason Momoa is unexpected and is one of the more riveting performances in the film - acting as an older brother to Paul and a protector - his scenes garner some phenomenal action that showcases the unique sci-fi elements of the story, such as the shields and weaponry. With part two more will certainly be doven into the plot of the villainous Harkonnen and the deceiving, yet never seen Emperor of Arrakis. As well as the Beast Rabban Harkonnen (Dave Bautista) being one of the few lost in the shuffle of the divide between films. Zendaya and Javier Bardem share similar fates as the Freman people serve more as a glimpse into the possible futures of Paul and company rather than a prominent role in part one.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Going into Dune you will be given some of the most striking visual choices in recent memory - especially sci-fi. The more you watch the dazzling visuals the more hypnotic they become, investing yourself not only in the characters’ survival but the world itself. Cinematographer Greg Fraser, known for the gorgeous Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) and Lion (2017), delivers an awe-inspiring view with every scene, who would have guessed that a world of only sand would be so remarkably beautiful. From the minute you lay eyes on the ships unlike anything you’ve ever seen on screen before you can’t wait to see what else Fraser and Villeneuve have in store.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Hans Zimmer composes a score that seems almost entirely unlike him. While the score does have a few details that resemble the likes of what the brilliant composer has delivered over the years - Dune’s score has something incredibly cinematic and mesmerizing. The sound design surrounds you and absorbs you into the alien landscape, it’s almost like you’re in a documentary of the planet Arrakis rather than watching a fictional tale. One pivotal scene involving an attack had some of the greatest visuals and sound I’ve ever witnessed in a movie theater - just another reason to see this one in cinemas.
Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is nothing short of an unfinished masterpiece, leaving us hanging on a cliffhanger that without a sequel could leave this epic with an unsatisfying conclusion.
DUNE Will Arrive in Theaters - October 22nd | HBO MAX - October 21st