After being delayed a full year, director Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of “Dune” has finally hit theaters. The film, based on Frank Herbert’s landmark novel of the same name, is adapting only the first part of the novel, and setting the scene for part two in the process. “Dune” fans have wanted an adaptation like this for a long time, and this new version delivers exactly what fans have been waiting for.
“Dune” is helmed by Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, the young son of the lord of House Atreides, Leto (Oscar Isaac.) Paul is having dreams of a girl (Zendaya) on the desert planet Arrakis and shortly finds himself forced to go there after the emperor decrees House Atreides take over Arrakis and the spice mining industry so prevalent there. Paul and his people must navigate a complex set of political machinations, all while dealing with Arrakis’ deadly sandworms and the mysterious Fremen people who call Arrakis their home.
The greatest strength of “Dune” is easily its visuals. Villeneuve’s shots, in collaboration with cinematographer Greig Fraser, are nothing short of beautiful. Each vista through the deserts of Arrakis is a sight to behold. The production design in all of the different settings create an interesting world that is easy to get lost in. In addition to the scenery, the science fiction effects are all top notch, from the terrifying sandworms to the various pieces of sci-fi technology. “Dune” is a movie that makes you just want to sit back and bask in its atmosphere. As corny as it often is to say, “Dune” absolutely demands to be seen in theaters. The incredible visuals and theater sound allow viewers to fall fully into Arrakis.
Unfortunately, the visuals are really left to do the heavy lifting. The plot of the movie pales in comparison to the sights and sounds that are so strong. The biggest issue is that this film is adapting only a portion of an expansive book and it really shows. The whole film is basically just setup and when the pieces are all in place and the story is really ready to get going, it cuts to credits. This makes the excitement levels of the movie pretty hit or miss. There were some very entertaining parts (the sandworm rescue, the midpoint battle) but many portions were fairly unengaging (basically the entire second half.) For many viewers, their enjoyment will depend on what kind of movies they are into. If a viewer is the kind person who can settle into the craft and spectacle, they are sure to love “Dune.” However, if they are the kind of person who needs a little more plot, it may be a tough film to fully engage with.
On the whole, people seem to be loving “Dune.” It smashed the box office in its opening weekend and has received overwhelmingly positive reviews. Even people who aren’t loving the movie seem to respect its ambition. It’s easy to be happy for a slow, weird risk of a movie making $40 million during its opening weekend. Plus, Legendary Pictures has officially announced that they have greenlit part two to go into production and has set its release date for Oct. 2023.
“Dune” isn’t perfect, but it is exactly what you want it to be: a huge, weird, beautiful science fiction behemoth that makes the most of its colossal budget. It often feels like only half of a complete idea, but it’s easy to see how just the setup for future “Dune” content has satiated viewers appetites for now.
“Dune” is now playing in theaters and is currently available to stream on HBO Max.
By Ben Lindner