Dune (2021) Movie Review
Even as a person who writes approximately films for a living, I should admit that I turned into in no rush to go back to a brick-and-mortar theater. It were 18 months when you consider that I’d closing visible a movie at the huge display screen. But occasionally exceptions want to be made, that’s how I determined myself sitting down (as an alternative nervously and double-masked) withinside the too-packed confines of Alice Tully Hall for the New York Film Festival’s best of Dune. Within ten minutes, now no longer best had I absolutely forgotten approximately the complete white-knuckle terror of being front-row at a capability super-spreader event; I turned into absolutely swept away via way of means of Denis Villeneuve’s eye-sweet vision, completely satisfied that I turned into looking the first-class sci-fi film of the decade. Yes, it’s that good.
Villeneuve is, of course, no stranger to the mind-bending style of Asimov and Heinlein. Nor is he a few reasonably-priced Hollywood dilettante. Prior to Dune, he already gave us the one- sci-fi punch of 2016’s Blade Runner 2049 and 2017’s Arrival— shoot-the-works epics that wrestled (as an alternative successfully) with grand visible spectacle and Big Ideas. Still, not anything on his resume so far has hinted on the sheer scale and narrative intensity that he brings to Frank Herbert’s notoriously knotty 1965 novel.
Last summer, the French-Canadian auteur attempted to make the case that Dune had to be visible at the huge display screen (it debuted on HBO Max in the future earlier than its October 22 theatrical release). And on the time, his argument sounded greater than a touch tone-deaf because the Delta variation turned into spreading like a brushfire throughout the country. Irresponsible? Perhaps. But here’s the issue: He isn’t wrong. In truth, Dune can be the primary film of the pandemic technology that definitely begs for the immersive wide-display screen treatment. It’s a huge—and hugely ambitious—wannabe blockbuster that merits to be skilled on the grandest scale that your immune gadget will allow. It swings for the fences…and clears them with ease.
For die-difficult fanatics of Herbert’s cherished novel, the injuries from Tinseltown’s closing try to adapt Dune will possibly nevertheless experience particularly fresh, like a phantom scar that refuses to heal. Directed via way of means of David Lynch, this thicket-y 1984 saga approximately dueling intergalactic clans (or “houses”) vying for manipulate of the wilderness planet Arrakis and its valuable herbal resource (“spice”) turned into became a cartoonishly oblique, phantasmagorical mess. In Lynch’s movie, Herbert’s mythology turned into each overstuffed and undercooked. It turned into just like the director turned into looking to stuff ten kilos of tale right into a five-pound bag.
To his credit, Villeneuve (and his deep-pocketed shoppers at Warner Bros.) accurately determined that the best manner to well inform this tale turned into to cut up it into more than one films, an awful lot withinside the manner that Peter Jackson approached The Lord of the Rings and George Lucas anticipated Star Wars. Those comparisons aren’t idle ones. Like the ones in advance generation-defining tentpoles, Dune is, deep down, a hero’s journey, albeit one with messianic overtones and wealthy allegorical layers approximately fossil fuels, the environment, colonialism, and religion. Does it assist to return back into Villeneuve’s movie with a previous understanding of the Dune mythos? Sure. Esoteric gobbledygook is tossed round like verbal confetti. But it’s infrequently mandatory. I got here into it bloodless and determined it smooth sufficient to follow.
Anyway, Villeneuve’s pre-credit creation does loads of Dune’s expository heavy lifting—and does so with economic system and clarity. The 12 months is 10191, and Duke Leto Atreides (a note-ideal Oscar Isaac), his clairvoyant concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson, ditto), and their son Paul (Timothée Chalamet) have simply been given the inexperienced mild from the bloated, bizarro Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård searching like a manatee below Jabba the Hutt latex) to colonize the cruel wilderness planet Arrakis and mine its psychedelically shimmery spice (“the maximum precious substance withinside the universe”). To do this, they’ll should first make peace with the planet’s local inhabitants, the Fremens—a Bedouin-like tribe of sand people (along with Javier Bardem and Zendaya) with Windex-blue eyes and an innate hostility towards outsiders who’ve a protracted records of strip-mining their domestic for its mineral wealth with out giving shits approximately both their private welfare or mystical beliefs.
Chalamet’s Paul, who before everything comes off as a petulant Luke Skywalker-kind hungry for journey, is speedy discovered to have positive gifts. He has portentous visions of Arrakis earlier than he’s even stepped foot there, and the screenplay from Jon Spaihts, Eric Roth, and Villeneuve guidelines with out hitting you over the top with a cudgel that he will be The One—the Christ-like savior that the Fremen have lengthy been ready for. The truth that his mom is a member of an ancient, all-lady order known as the Bene Gessirit Sisterhood appears to quite an awful lot seal the deal. A deliciously creepy Charlotte Rampling, face cloaked via way of means of a witchy black lace veil, is a showstopper because the terrifyingly cold Mother Superior who places Paul via a check to decide whether or not he aligns with the prophecy. It’s additionally at some stage in this collection that any Chalamet skeptics will should concede as soon as and for all that the younger actor is greater than only a taste of the month, fashion-aware continental waif. In a function that might have made loads of actors appearance silly (simply ask Kyle MacLachlan), he proves he’s the actual deal, with each vulnerability and air of secrecy to burn.
With a movie so jam-full of baroque backstory, Dune’s first hour seems like a important little bit of international building. But it’s in no way perfunctory…and what a international it is! Villeneuve refuses to dumb matters down, and his fetishistic interest to sci-fi element is poetic and jaw-dropping, in no way getting withinside the manner of the tale he’s looking to inform. For example, the movie’s creation of Arrakis’ resident beasties, the sandworms, is a masterclass in action, tension, and breathtaking CGI monster mayhem. These huge subterranean predators are numerous football-fields lengthy and explode out of the sandy panorama like Cronenbergian kaiju replete with razor-toothed, vagina-dentata maws and the unquenchable appetites of slithering Sarlacc Pits. An armada of future-surprise helicopters with dragonfly wings produce the equal gee-whiz goosebumps you would possibly have felt the primary time you noticed an Imperial Cruiser in A New Hope or one of the Spinners in Blade Runner. Meanwhile, Hans Zimmer’s haunting rating feels as enormous (in a great manner) as what you’re soaking in together along with your eyeballs.
Dune is a movie of overall sensory grandeur. And if there’s a nit to pick, it’s a minor one. Namely, that even in spite of its prolonged 155-minute jogging time, the movie ends as an alternative abruptly—and simply because the actual journey appears to be beginning. Still, it feels just like the proper area to pause and seize our breaths. Jackson concluded the primary bankruptcy of his Lord of the Rings trilogy in a comparable fashion, so it’s difficult to get too churlish approximately it or the lengthy wait we’ve in advance folks for component. That is, if it ever comes. After all, Dune wasn’t a reasonably-priced movie to make. Its finances is stated to be someplace withinside the community of $a hundred sixty five million. So component one will should make loads of dough and trap loads of sci-fi agnostics for Warner Bros. to need to whip out its checkbook and bankroll the sequel. But in an age that’s already awful with pre-offered Marvel sequels, prequels, and sidequels, it might be a disgrace to assume that a tale this clever and considerable and advised with a lot ability may cross unfinished. So yes, cross watch Dune on a huge display screen in case you can. But greater importantly, simply watch the rattling issue so we will see how this extraordinary area odyssey ends. I’m begging you.