Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Dune Review: A Brooding Dramatic Start For This Series

Release date: October 22, 2021
Running time: 155 minutes
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, Chang Chen, David Dastmalchian, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem
Director: Denis Villeneuve 

Oscar nominee Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Blade Runner 2049”) directs Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ “Dune,” the big-screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal bestseller of the same name. A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, “Dune” tells the story of Paul Atreides (Chalamet), a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive. 

So I will preface this by saying that I never read the books, but what I loved most about this movie is just how unique it felt.  The film is a scifi film with interstellar travel and large space ships, yet it feels low tech at times.  The warriors fight with swords (a consequence of the shield system) and much of the training feels medieval at times.  Additionally, the technology feels well realized here, but with an otherworldly feel at times.  For example, the main fighter planes used to transport around are dragonfly like with high speed vibrating wings that give it a very visceral sense.  And the film has elements of mysticism as well, with visions and other magics at play that give this both a science fiction and high fantasy feel.  It is like some of the darker areas of the Star Wars lore, if those were actually well done in films.

And this technology is well realized with some stellar special effects.  Everything in Dune feels legitimate for the big screen.  There is not obvious CG moments, the effects are so well done that you can just suspend your disbelief and enjoy.  And some of this might also be because of the mix of high and low tech, so you don't have effects all the time.  The fights can be more low tech, and the scenes with the Fremen also have a more low tech style that can help to hide some of the computer generated aspects.  Additionally, the film has some great epic music to set up the story and the gravity of the situation.  It has both an epic and an otherworldly feel that feels right at home in this world. 

The story of Dune is slowly paced, but that gives you a good chance to spend time in this world.  The world building is phenomenal, and the slow pace lets you really get to know these characters.  However, Dune is very much a part one.  Despite it not having that in the name on any advertisements, Dune's splash screen calls it "Dune Part One."  The film spends most of its time building up the world and previewing what is to come, only to then end right when a big revelation happens.  It very much builds up for a second film, and possibly more, and I honestly can't wait to see where it goes. 

Dune is a stunning visualization of Frank Herbert's world, with a great cast, fantastic special effects, and an epic and otherworldly soundtrack that will suck you in quicker than a great sand worm. 

Watch it.

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Dune is in theaters and on HBO Max on October 22, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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