After being pushed back numerous times, Denis Villeneuve’s latest film “Dune” is a beautifully shot, sprawling epic that is restrained by an incomplete story that ends on a cliffhanger.
While also available for streaming on HBO Max, this film is one of the few reasons to visit a local movie theater this year. Like many of Villeneuve’s films, “Dune” is a visual masterpiece, and an epic journey that is essentially a grown-up version of “Star Wars.”
Despite its amazing visuals, the narrative suffers by only adapting roughly half of the Frank Herbert novel that it was based off of. It was a novel that inspired George Lucas to create his own space epic which is why “Star Wars” is quite similar to this franchise. This film contains a complex, dense narrative that is probably the reason behind splitting the film into two parts.
The story follows Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), a young heir to the House of Atreides which is led by his father Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Issac) and mother Lady Jessica Atreides (Rebecca Ferguson).
Paul has mysterious recurring dreams of Chani (Zendaya), a member of an alien race known as the Fremen who inhabit the planet of Arrakis, where spice is produced.
In this world, spice is a drug that has numerous health benefits, such as psychotropic properties and time-alerting abilities. Paul accompanies his family to Arrakis after they’re tasked by the Emperor to take control of spice production from House Harkonnen, led by Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) which results in an all-out war. Paul’s visions, however, spelled out doom for his family.
With a runtime of two hours and 35 minutes, the film is driven by its amazing visuals, fantastical science-fiction elements and a fantastic ensemble cast.
Villeneuve has established himself as one of the great contemporary directors with films like “Arrival” and “Prisoners.” His work with major franchises like “Blade Runner” has been handled with such care and love for the original works, which comes through in each frame.
The film’s narrative may feel incomplete by the time it ends, but Villeneuve manages to set up the pieces on the chessboard for the next film in an exciting way. Fortunately, the drama between House Atreides and House Harkonnen is engaging enough to drive the long runtime.
For newcomers, there are plenty of shocking moments throughout the film that make for great drama once the action kicks into gear.
Hopefully, this film displays enough success for the studio to greenlight a sequel.
What’s a bit of a bummer is that Chani doesn’t meet Paul toward the end of the movie. Instead, her screen time is relegated to Paul’s recurring visions despite playing a prominent role in the film’s marketing.
Another bummer was Chalamet’s portrayal of Paul, which pales in comparison to that of Kyle MacLachlan, who played the role in David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation. This version of the character feels so emo while the original had a sense of playful enjoyment.
Another thing missing for fans of the 1984 adaptation is the wicked Guild Navigator, which is one of the most insane creature special effects in the history of the genre. Where it’s lacking in the creature department for the Guild Navigator, however, it delivers extra when it comes to the enormous sandworms that inhabit Arrakis.
One of the breathtaking visuals of the film, seen in the trailers, is a narrow escape from a sandworm that consumes everything in its path like a black hole. Moments like this make the movie a real treat to see on a large IMAX screen.
Fans of the franchise may have mixed feelings about this adaptation, but newcomers are welcomed with enough explanation and introduction to the fantastical elements that it never becomes too difficult to understand what’s going on.
“Dune” is now playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max. The film is rated PG-13 for some disturbing images, sequences of strong violence and suggestive material.