Dune is finally out. Only took it, what, a year? Yay. Frank Herbert fans everywhere are rejoicing. So will everyone else once they see this movie because…wow. It’s uh-mazing.
I don’t want to spoil anything, so here’s the barest synopsis. Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) is preparing to become duke. His planet, Caledan is in control of the universe’s spice supply, which is only to be found on the desert planet of Arrakis, and without which no one and nothing can function. Arrakis was previously controlled by the Harrakans, who were cruel masters, but the Emperor has ordered the planet be turned over to Caledan.
One effective aspect of Dune is that it’s easy to follow even if the viewer is not a Herbert fan, and I’m really thankful the filmmakers didn’t try to squish the entire book into one movie. There’s a little exposition, but not a ton of it, and it allows the characters and the action to play out naturally (And slowly–the movie is two and a half hours long).
The acting is fantastic, especially Timothée Chalamet, who gives off an otherwordly but not innocent vibe as Paul. He and Rebecca Ferguson as Paul’s mother, the Lady Jessica, easily carry the movie. I liked seeing Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto and Zendaya as Chani. Jason Momoa brings a lot of humor to Duncan Idaho, a warrior who’s so famous his enemies talk about him in hushed, jealous tones. Really, there isn’t a single false note throughout the entire cast.
Plus the new film looks visually stunning. There’s a great use of space and shapes, and scenes aren’t crowded with props. A lot of times the action will take place in the middle of the frame or off to the side, accented by the light and shadow around it and punctuated by emptiness. There’s also a lot of saturation almost to the point of being monochromatic, from the beautiful coolness of Caledan to the unrelenting sandy torridity of Arrakis.
This seems to be a trademark look for Villeneuve, who employed a similar approach in Blade Runner 2049 and Arrival: The focus is meant to be on the characters and the action. I highly recommend seeing Dune on the big screen if possible, just to fully take in all the details.
Hans Zimmer’s score is incredible, too. It doesn’t feel like a score so much as an extension of the action, and I think a lot of people will be surprised if Zimmer doesn’t get at least one award nod for it. That’s how good it is. Apparently Zimmer is a big Frank Herbert fan, so this was a dream assignment for him.
My only very small beefs with the film are these: Some scenes aren’t lit very well. It can be hard to see the characters, especially during fight scenes, and that can be confusing until we see who’s left standing at the end. Maybe it was my TV, but who knows. I have a 4K, so the movie should have been pretty clear. On the big screen this may not be an issue, though.
The other thing, and this will probably only be a hangup for those who aren’t familiar with the books, is that it’s easy to miss character names, of which there are a lot. This isn’t a big deal, though, as the film is very methodically and effectively committed to its objectives.
It’s going to be interesting to see what Frank Herbert fans think of Dune, a saga plenty are very much invested in. My guess is that the movie will inspire some healthy debate and no doubt there will be those who prefer the David Lynch version. The rest of us, on the other hand, invariably make out like bandits because Dune is such a treat.
Have you seen Dune yet? What did you think? Feel free to leave a comment below, and I hope to see you on Friday for a look at a famous fifties sci-fi film. Thanks for reading, all…
Dune is currently in theaters and available on HBO Max until November 21st.
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