MOVIE REVIEW — Dune
Arrakis. Desert Planet. Dune. The year is 2021, and Denis Villeneuve’s Dune has finally arrived in movie theaters around the world (as well as onto HBO Max). What a time to be alive. As someone who has looked back fondly at the fall of 2017, getting to see Blade Runner 2049 on its opening weekend in a nearly empty IMAX theater, being one of my favorite moviegoing experiences, I think it might have found its match, funnily enough with it being its own film-sibling…
Before I get into the review, I just feel as if it is worth noting that this film has been one of my most anticipated releases since it was first announced that Villeneuve was even making it. Before the casting, before the footage, before it all, this was something I had been craving since word first broke about it. David Lynch’s Dune is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine, with it not being a very good film, but it is so utterly bizarre and committed to everything it does, that I can’t help but find enjoyment, and similar enough to this new film adaptation of Dune, it also has some absolutely amazing music, albeit from the band Toto and not Hans Zimmer. Seeing this opening weekend in an IMAX theater that had every seat aside from the front row was quite the experience, and it really just felt special.
Anyways, enough preamble, let’s get to it. Let’s talk about Dune…
From its opening moments, Dune holds no punches and leaves little to the imagination as rather than just having its title appear as expected on the screen, the word “Dune” appears by itself for a moment before “Part One” fades in underneath, immediately indicating that this will in fact not just be a one-off film that people clamor for a sequel to forever with no avail.
If that wasn’t clear enough for some… WarnerMedia Toppers Bullish On ‘Dune’ Sequel
From there, the film delivers on what it set out to do, by introducing to some, and reintroducing to others, the world of Dune. Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, by his father, Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) and mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe, a desert planet named Arrakis, to ensure the future of his family and his people, by mining and shipping the most valuable resource in the universe off of the planet, Spice. Under the leadership of Duke Leto, House Atreides seeks to form an alliance with the natives of Arrakis, The Fremen, whom have been hunted down by the former leaders of Arrakis, The Harkonnens. Lead by Stilgar (Javier Bardem), the Fremen play watchful eyes over the impending doom for the Areides, as the Emperor of the Imperium backs House Harkonnen, led by Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård), these forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the spice, which is the key to unlocking humanity’s greatest potential.
I quickly jotted down notes as I waited for my car to heat up last night coming out of the theater, in an effort to make sure I didn’t miss anything when writing this review, but knowing myself, I am firmly positive that I will miss something I wanted to talk about, and will end up beating myself up over it later, but regardless, with the plot out of the way, moving forward, this review is just going to be my thoughts, bluntly and filled with emotions, and more importantly, spoilers (probably). So if you have yet to see the movie, steer clear of the rest of this article!!!
Starting with performances, Denis’ films tend to offer some great acting across the board, whether its Gylenhaal and Jackman in Prisoners, Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro in Sicario, Ryan Gosling and Ana De Armas in Blade Runner 2049, or the entire cast of Dune, the man just gets really great stuff out of nearly everyone in his films. Both Chalamet and Ferguson steal the show here, giving some of the best performances of their careers in my opinion, with Chalamet showing his ability to lead an ensemble film to quite a high degree and Ferguson just flexing how fucking good she really is. The way she plays her fear throughout the film is just a masterclass of acting, and if she and Timothée are not nominated, then the Academy must be on their Tom Hooper shit again. Seriously, two of my favorite performances of 2021 thus far. And if you want to give an award to Stellan Skarsgård for playing a creepy, scary, floating fat man who gets covered in mud, then I’m all for that too!
In terms of what else should be nominated (and should win) in regards to Dune, this film has some of the best Visual Effects I have ever seen, rivaling Blade Runner 2049 for some breathtaking visuals, pairing with some absolutely insane production and set design. While I am 99% sure this sounds incredibly hyperbolic, go watch this in IMAX and come back to tell me I am wrong. I will wait. Seeing the ships of House Atreides rise up out of the oceans of Caladan was just, something else, and the first time we see Giedi Prime, the home planet of House Harkonnen… it shouldn’t even be a contest, just give it to Dune. I don’t have a whole lot to say in terms of describing it, but if you want to toss costuming into the mix, I think Dune at least deserves a nomination.
Hans Zimmer’s score is something to behold. The way this score presents so many different feelings for the different peoples and environments within the film is just so exciting, an orgasm for your ears, if you will. Whether it be the booming drums and bass, bagpipes (!!!), throat singing, synth, or whatever else you can find in the music, Zimmer creates a soundscape that makes the world feel so lived in, and so fresh with some of the best original film music of the year. And in a way, the music itself is its own character or presence for much of the film, with sequences having music overtake every other sound in it all, with an IMAX showing highlighting this with how loud and in your face (or ears) it is. I literally came out of my theater with my ears slightly ringing for a bit, so be warned, this is a very, very loud movie, but in a good way!
The entire Original Score has a lot to offer, but listing some of the standout tracks for me personally would be:
- Gom Jabbar
- Ripples in the Sand
- Burning Palms
- Blood for Blood
- Holy War
- My Road Leads into the Desert
ONE LAST THING ABOUT SOUND… I cannot stress how important it is to see this movie in IMAX, if not for the music, then for the way in which the film uses “The Voice” a power that we see Lady Jessica and Paul use, in a way that I really cannot even begin to describe. I will say that I literally jumped in my seat when Paul finally uses it correctly in the latter half of the film.
The smile that came across my face when “Dune… Part One” appeared really cemented this entire film for me, as when I walked out of the theater, it was the same story for me. I was just happy, overtaken with joy that not only was this film as good as it was, but it exceeded all of my expectations and it became clear that this would not be a single release. Dune, the novel, is something I have struggled with for sometime, having tried to read it on two separate occasions, failing both times, and instead opting for the audiobook format instead. Admittedly, reading isn’t a favorite hobby of mine, which is ironic since I have such a passion for writing, but that, coupled with the lack of accessibility in terms of the content and Frank Herbert’s writing style, it just was never going to happen. And so, that is an area of David Lynch’s Dune that has always been an object that I’ve struggled with, that film choosing to make the dialogue come straight from the text with little to no changes. This film changes that, and while there are moments where lines are lifted straight off the page, this adaptation does what was needed, modernizing it all and making it vastly more accessible to those without prior knowledge or dedication to the original novel. I think that to me, comes off as one of the biggest strengths of this film across the board, and one that will likely lead to more and more people seeing it over time.
The integration of Paul’s dreams throughout the film really felt like another area where they just knocked it out of the park. The film obviously marketed the hell out of the ensemble that they had gathered for the cast, and understandably so, but Zendaya was the one that it became clear was shown without her ever being planned on being a focal point of the film, and yet, she still was. With less screentime that all of the other key figures, Chani (Zendaya), is not really around for most of the film, however she does serve as a throughline for Paul, with her being the first character we see, the first voice we see, in the film’s opening. And by the end, after seeing Paul’s “Holy War” vision-seizure, it felt pretty clear that Chani will become the second lead in Dune: Part Two. I just really personally enjoyed these quick flashes of visually striking images over the two and a half hours that felt like it was putting us right inside of Paul’s head. Cool stuff!
Alright so just some final things… Obviously Dune: Part Two is happening, it is now just a matter of when, not if, and that has me over the moon! That being said, this world is just so rich for exploration, and WarnerMedia has HBO Max… use it! I would be so down for some series’ exploring different areas of the Dune universe, whether it be introducing us to The Emperor, some of the Royal Houses, giving us history on House Atreides, something about the Spacing Guild, I just really want more of this, so yes.
There are also two question marks for me personally heading into a second film, and it is in regards to casting… The Emperor and Feyd both are going to probably be played by big name actors, especially with there being room now that we won’t have Oscar Isaac or Jason Mamoa back, and I have no idea as to who would be best for those roles, but I will be keeping my eyes out for any casting news!
So yea, Dune. It fucking ripped and has officially taken my top spot for my favorite film of 2021, knocking Bo Burnham’s Inside off of the number one seed. For reference, here is my current Top 5 of 2021…
- Dune — Directed By Denis Villeneuve
- Inside — Directed By Bo Burnham
- The Green Knight — Directed By David Lowery
- Judas and the Black Messiah — Directed By Shaka King
- The Mitchells vs the Machines — Directed By Michael Rianda
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