By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
After creating an incredible sequel with Blade Runner 2049, filmmaker Denis Villeneuve has taken on the challenge of adapting one of the more sucessful, iconic, and popular novels of science fiction. Upon hearing that Dune would be Villenneuve’s next project, I had little doubt that the amazing director would be up for the task. And the results are an absolutely breathtaking and captvating movie that displays wonderful world building and character introduction. However, Villeneuve and his co-writers Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth spend too much of the film’s time with the introductions that they do not advance the story far enough.
For those unfamiliar with the world of Dune, the story introduces the audience to the universe in the very distant future. Emperor Shaddam IV has ordered that the House Atreides be placed in charge of the control of the desert planet Arrakis (aka Dune), the source of the most precious substance in the universe, spice. The spice is a substance that has psychoactive effects on anyone exposed to it, and can improve the vitality of one’s life, but it is also valuable in that allows people to bend space for interstellar travel. Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), his family and his associates must prepare for this great undertaking.
Arrakis was previously controlled by the ruthless and violent Harkonnen family, and their leader Vladimir (Stellan Skarsgård) is only willing to step down, as this move is part of a bigger plan on the part of the Emperor to destroy the House Atreides. As Duke Leto and his people begin the necessary work for their takeover, his son Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) has been experiencing visions in his dreams of a treacherous violent future for himself and his family on the planet Arrakis.
Onscreen, the film’s official title gets revealed as Dune: Part One, and this makes absolute sense given the daunting task it is to adapt the immense novel by author Frank Herbert. However, I had hoped to see more of a complete story fleshed out and created for the big screen. Don’t get me wrong, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is an amazing cinematic experience, and one that should be beheld in a theater on the biggest screen available. Everything from the practical effects work and CGI to the gorgeous cinematography by Greig Frasier and the haunting score by Hans Zimmer is tremendous. I simply feel that Villeneuve has its audience spend a little too much time immersed in this universe and not enough time advancing the story. If it was his intention to leave his audience wanting more, then he has definitely succeeded at that.
In addition to incredible visuals and sounds that create the setting, much of the film’s power must also be attributed to the excellent actors in the cast. As young Paul Attreides, Timothée Chalamet performs superbly bringing to Paul the perfect sweet, wide-eyed innocence and earnestness his character should have. As his father Duke Leto, Oscar Isaac one again impresses as the strong and charismatic leader whose plans for the native people of Arrakis (the Fremen) are much more compassionate and just than his predecessors. As the grotesque and vicious Harkonnen ruler Vladimir, Stellan Skarsgård gives a villanous turn that appropriately comes across as Shakesperian in style.
As Paul’s mother and Duke Leto’s concubine Lady Jessica, Rebecca Ferguson gives a powerful and emotional turn as a woman endowed with special skills and powers that she imparts to her son. The movie definitely can boast an immense and impressive cast. In the supporting roles, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem all have their chance to shine in their scenes. Some of whom, I am sure we will definitely get to see more of in the next installment.
Despite my minor frustration with the movie, I feel that this new introduction to the universe of Dune is sure to please fans of the book, but will also definitely appeal to fans of science fiction cinema who can appreciate a deftly artistic entry in their beloved genre. Though probably not Villeneuve’s greatest achievement in film, it is still a wonderful accomplishment nevertheless, and I expect that his next installment will proceed to further impress his audiences and fans of this first entry.