Dune follows the Atreides family as they move to the desert planet of Arrakis and take over spice production due to the decree of the Emperor. Paul (Timothée Chalamet) begins to have visions as the move to Arrakis grows closer and suspects that he may be the one to fulfill the prophesy created by the Bene Gesserit, a group of women who have the power to influence people obey their commands. Meanwhile, the Harkonnen are plotting to take back control of Arrakis and spice production.
If you didn’t know, Dune is the story that influenced many works, including Star Wars and Game of Thrones. The parallels are definitely there, though the story is different in many ways. I read the novel before seeing the film, and I will say though the book is dense, knowing the source material before seeing the film is a definite help. The book and the film deal with colonization, war, politics, survival, and religious fanaticism.
Director Denis Villeneuve is a master of his craft and that is utterly apparent here. He clearly understands the world of Dune and does an excellent job of world building. Once the Atreides family arrive to Arrakis, I was totally immersed in this world. This may be one of the best book to screen adaptation’s there is. Dune is a space opera that feels epic in a way that not even the latest Star Wars films achieved. The cinematography, direction, acting, scale and score, plus the production and costume design help make this feel like the pinnacle of filmmaking that more blockbusters should try to emulate.
The story is also there, though this is very much a part one to a larger narrative. Villeneuve does an excellent job of explaining and trimming the dense terminology and mythology apparent throughout the novel. There are some aspects of the film that are left vague, such as the culture of the native Fremen people and the “Messiah” figure underlying narrative, but I imagine that will all be explained more in the next installment that we will hopefully get.
The first third of the film is mostly exposition, but the exposition felt mostly organic as the characters are learning more about the Arrakis and the resources and people that occupy the planet. This can make the pacing feel slow, but I felt it was necessary aspect for the world building. Also, the sound design at some points makes it difficult to hear the dialogue.
The acting by Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, and Rebecca Ferguson are top notch, however the Harkonnen feel cartoonish as the villains. I thought Ferguson and Momoa were the standouts of the film. Ferguson serves as a mysterious figure since she is also a Bene Gesserit, but she’s also the emotional anchor of the film as Paul’s mother. Meanwhile, I found that Momoa was very charismatic in his role as the weapon’s master. He’s funny and has a nice relationship with Paul.
The scale of the film is massive and awe-inspiring. I would recommend seeing this film on the big screen as watching on the film on your TV really does not do it justice.
Overall, Dune is a contemplative, methodical film that was executed masterfully by Denis Villeneuve. I won’t say this is my favorite film of his, but I’ll say it is his most technically impressive film. Needless to say not everyone will enjoy Dune as the pacing can be a bit slow at times and the characters are bit difficult to connect to, but its epic scale and beautiful cinematography makes it worth checking out. As stated before, more filmmakers should have this much care and attention to detail in their production since it will make the finished product and movie watching experience much more rewarding.
I give Dune an A-