We’ve been down this path before. You get a visionary filmmaker that wants to take on the hefty material of Frank Herbert, and then they give a beautiful visual feast. The first time around we would have have Alejandro Jodorowsky‘s nuts take on the series. That didn’t get off the ground, but we did get David Lynch‘s version in 1984. Depending on who you ask, that version is either a complete mess or a functional film that’s worth watching. Now, we finally have the Dune that people have wanted since the novel was published in 1965. Director and Screenwriters Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth, and Jon Spaihts bring the book to life in more ways than one with this film.
It stars Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley, Jason Momoa, Zendaya, Javier Bardem, among others. It releases in theaters on October 22nd, and HBO Max on October 21st. If you’re not too into the story of Dune, it tells the story of the battle between House Atreides and House Harkonnen. Chalamet plays Paul Atreides, who is the son of the Duke of Atreides. They’re thrust into a war for the planet of Arrakis, which holds the most valuable resource in the Universe, Spice. On that planet, there are native people known as the Fremen. They battled back the Harkonnen and forced the Emperor to order their retreat from the planet.
Now that we have the dense material out of the way, let’s get to some more dense material involving the actual film. When you’re sitting watching Dune, it’s a movie that does not allow you to take a break, doze off, or pay attention to anything else. It’s packing an entire half a novel’s worth of material.
A Visual Feast For The Eyes And Ears
Let’s get the great stuff out of the way, Dune is likely to win Academy Awards for Costuming, Set Design, Score, and Sound Design. This is a move that is beautiful to look at in every possible way. The costumes are stunning in their detail and look. Hans Zimmer‘s score is powerful and booming, adding to every scene in a meaningful way. Villeneuve’s distinct visual style is on full display here. As this is a first part, we don’t get the full story, but you can bet that every minute of this film is packed with visuals and breathtaking landscapes.
Dune takes pride in being as visually stunning as any film out there, but where the strength of the film lies is really in the cast. Rebecca Ferguson and Timothee Chalamet do a good portion of the heavy lifting when it comes to drama. Seeing as how the cast is so large, a lot of the actors don’t get a massive amount of screen-time. The short time that Jason Momoa is on-screen is impactful as ever though. He’s charismatic and steals the scene from anyone else that’s involved when on-screen. His action scenes are among the best as well.
Stellan Skarsgard is grotesque and disgusting as the leader of House Harkonnen. David Dastmalchian and Dave Bautista are both devilish as Piter De Vries and Glossu Rabban, the two secondary villains of the film. Finally, Javier Bardem and Oscar Isaac’s one scene together is masterful in the way they duel with little words. This story is really about Timothee Chalamet and Ferguson though. We follow them throughout the majority of the story.
The Film Sags And Ends Abruptly In It’s Third Act
Being a two and a half hour movie, it takes a lot to keep the audience engaged fully. The film for the most part does a good job of keeping you engaged whether that’s through action or other set-pieces. However, near the end of the film, it slows down quite a bit and ends on an anti-climactic spot. There was a more natural place to end the film involving Jason Momoa’s character that would have ended a lot more like Empire Strikes Back. Instead, they end it near the halfway point of the actual novel, and it’s quite jarring. It’s the first of two parts, based on the title card for the film, which adds “Part One” to the title Dune. With that being said, the ending sets up for a sequel. So we know that we’re getting more to this story, especially if it does well financially.
The film’s plot jumps around from place to place in a way that might confuse some viewers, particularly with Paul’s visions of the future that are interspersed throughout. We see the far future with Paul as a leader, and the near future that sets up the ending of the film.
Being an adaptation of such an epic narrative and novel, there really isn’t anywhere that Dune could have cut out without sacrificing the story overall. Villeneuve’s vision also lends itself to the longer runtime and you just have to accept that this film is quite long.
The plot does sag and lose some steam in that third act, but it’s not too much of a hindrance to the overall product.
Dune Is Still A Theatrical Epic That Deserves To Be Seen In Theaters
This film is an epic in the style of the old-school Hollywood blockbuster. The overall package of Dune should be seen in theaters with a huge screen and booming speakers. It’s not just a sci-fi flick for nerds though. This movie transcends genre and even gets some other cinematic nods in. If you love movies, and you live and breath film, you’ll get those little nods in Dune.
For people looking for that great adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel, Dune is that film. It gives us a sci-fi epic that’s fitting for the theater. It just misses out on a perfect score because the sagging third act and pacing issues. Outside of that, Dune is one of the best films you can see in theaters this October.
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