Dune is a story planetary conquest and control. The hostile desert planet of Arrakis is home to the most valuable resource in the world: spice. When members of House Atreides including the Duke (Oscar Isaac), his wife Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), and son Paul (Timothée Chalamet) are charged by the Emperor to overtake Arrakis’ mining operations, an elaborate plot goes into motion to destroy the family entirely. Now on an unfamiliar planet hunted by beasts, external armies, and natives House Atreides must find a way to survive.
What works in Dune is the dedication by all involved to create the most faithful and stunning adaptation possible of Frank Herbert’s seminal book series. Serving as both director and a writer, Denis Villeneuve exhibits incredible respect to the source material down the very last detail. The experience is epic in scope, thanks in large part to the blending of cinematography by Greig Fraser and score from composer Hans Zimmer who bring the fantastical universe to life. And finally, the cast is simply outstanding. In particular Chalamet shines as a boy suddenly forced to grow up quickly, grappling with his responsibility and power. Similarly, Jason Momoa adds a healthy sprinkling of charisma to the proceedings as Duncan Idaho, a soldier loyal to House Atreides.
Those unfamiliar with the Dune novels, or individuals who don’t appreciate long dramatic sagas, may not enjoy Dune as much as others. The film relies heavily on the concept of world immersion. This results in long, sweeping shots of the landscape and extended close-ups on the actors in between the action. While some individuals might enjoy the thoughtful pace, others may feel that the proceedings drag. Furthermore, Dune has unusual issue of having a lot of exposition but is still difficult to keep track of all the characters, plot lines, and “rules” of the world. Finally, patrons should be aware that this film is only the first part of the story: the movie ends rather abruptly, paving the way for its possible sequel.
Dune will be divisive. Diehard fans will likely admire Villeneuve’s efforts to create this narrative, and by all accounts he’s successful in his adaptation. But for casual moviegoers, Dune will feel like a lot to consume, and the payoff may not be as satisfying.
Recommended if you Enjoyed: John Carter, Lawrence of Arabia
Final Grade: B+