98 / 100
Watchable Minutes : 145 / 155. Dune is a gorgeous and story heavy movie. Each scene is so beautifully crafted and filled with necessary inforamtion for the audience that it’s difficult to say that any time shouldn’t be watched. However, it is just a hair too long for a more casual audience I feel. The major complaint against LOTR is that it’s too long and that’s enough of a reason for somebody new to the franchise to not want to watch it. The same thing applies to Dune unfortunately.
Trailer Comparison : I felt that this trailer accurately portrayed what the final product was going to be, didn’t oversell or undersell anything.
Movie or Film : Dune has some large and relatively concrete messaging in the original novel, but that’s mostly lost in the movie adaptation. The story and the visuals take center stage, making this a movie, not a film.
- Run time : 2 hr 35 minutes
- Studio : Warner Bros
- Director : Denis Villeneuve
- Where to Watch : HBO Max, In Theaters
House Atriedes of Caladan has been commanded by the Emperor to take stewardship over the planet Arrakis, where the galaxy’s supply of precious Spice is manufactured. Sensing a plot, Duke Leto Atreides prepares his house to mobilize and is wary of danger at every turn. Accompanying the Duke is his son Paul, who will one day inherit his title and responsibilities. Paul has been having visions of a strange planet with strange people and soon learns that his destiny lies in the spice filled dunes of Arrakis.
I have been fanboying this movie for years, ever since it was first announced that Denis Villeneuve way back in 2017. I am a huge sci-fi nerd, as evidenced by my many sci-fi reviews thus far. Famously heralded as “unadaptable”, Dune has still gotten its fair share of attempts to adapt it, similar to The Lord of the Rings. The most famous adaptation would be the ill-fated David Lynch version from the mid-80s. There was also an attempt to make a mini-series in 2000, which puts us at about 20 years since the last time that Dune was given the spotlight treatment. In those twenty years since the last attempt, Denis Villeneuve has risen through the ranks of Hollywood and has become one of the most talented directors in the world.
For those that are new to Dune and the world created by Frank Herbert, fear not. It is a hefty novel with a lot of detail, but it is a surprisingly easy read. I highly suggest you read it between the release of part one and part two. Fans of Dune that have read the book need not worry about its accuracy. I’m a large fan, but not so large that I feel anything was lost in the adaptation. Only a few minor moments were cut from the adaptation and some things were slightly rearranged, but it made for a more cohesive and appealing experience. Without spoiling too much of the story, I can say that it is complicated on the surface but the strands that each faction and character represent in the larger web of this universe are near perfectly recreated for the silver screen. The story is engrossing and emotional with victory, loss, grief, anger, and revenge aplenty. There were a few moments of clunky dialogue that sort of took me out of the movie for a second, but it was fairly natural for the most part.
Accompanying Villeneuve on this almost fool’s errand of adapting the unadaptable are fellow A-listers in Hans Zimmer and Greg Fraiser behind the camera. Hans Zimmer’s score is deep and almost visceral. There are magnificent swells that shook my seat in the theater and small sounds that made me second guess if I actually heard them but added depth in a way that can’t be matched. Each echo and sword clang rose and fell with the score and each planet held its own theme so perfectly. Without soundtracks and sound design of this caliber, Dune would have felt like it was only half complete. But as good as the soundtrack was, the visuals really stole the show. Each planet was so large and detailed that it truly felt alive. The story tells the audience that the empire is large and spread out amongst the stars and each planet and ship reinforced that idea. I could feel that humanity was spread out amongst the stars to a level that rivals Star Wars. The action scenes were equally as beautiful as the transitionary scenes with bursts of flame and explosions to highlight the large-scale battles and desperation of each conflict. On the other hand, during the small and more intimate fights, the visuals were subdued and toned down with the focus being on the two combatants with a score to match. Throughout the whole movie, light and dark were played off each other make characters seem larger or smaller in their current environment.
In front of the camera is a laundry list of equally talented cast members spread across three complicated and interwoven factions. Portraying the main character of Paul Atreides is Timothée Chalamet, an up-and-coming superstar. Supporting Chalamet in the Atreides faction is Oscar Isaac as Leto Atreides, Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica, Jason Mamoa as Duncan Idaho, and Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck. Paul is caught between two worlds – the world of royalty as Duke and the world of the Bene Gesserit (the space Illuminati basically). As Paul is guided by his father Leto and mother Jessica, he learns that to survive he must play to his strengths and use all they have taught him. However, Paul has more than just his parents to rely on. He is taught combat and strategy by the legendary Duncan Idaho and Gurney Halleck. Each one of these characters is brought to life by its respective actor. Chalamet is cautious but eager to protect those he cares about. Oscar Isaac portrays Leto with class and dignity and commands the respect of everyone in the room. Ferguson clearly struggles with her duty as a Bene Gesserit and as a mother and manages to fulfill both, but not without sacrifice. Mamoa and Brolin both act adventurous and experienced, but not so brash and bold that they take unnecessary risks. They portray their characters as consummate professionals willing to die for their duke, which is exactly what Paul needs.
Opposing the Atreides clan are the Harkonnens, a family with lofty goals and aspirations that will stop at nothing to crush their enemies. Stellan Skarsgård leads the Harkonnens as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. Skarsgård’s acting is spot on to how the Baron reads in the books. He is grotesque and gluttonous in form and is the epitome of supreme wealth and power in this universe. He commands legions of fearsome soldiers but relies on his nephew Beast Rabbon Harkonnen to do the actual fighting. Rabbon is played by Dave Bautista, who is a large and foreboding man in his own right. Rounding out the Harkonnen faction is David Dasmalchian as Piter de Vries, a twisted mentat. Dasmalchian is calm and even keel in each of his scenes and feels as if he is beyond such human squabbles. Each of these characters proves to be devious and extremely diabolical to almost Cersei levels of deceit and planning.
The final faction of part 1 are the Fremen. This is a relatively smaller group of people who have not had their moment in the spotlight quite yet. Javier Bardem is Stilgar, a weary local leader who distrusts offworlders. Bardem is gruff and ruthless, not wasting a single moment or breath on frivolous pleasantries. He is everything that a fremen needs to be to survive on Arrakis. Close to Bardem is Zendaya, who plays Chani. She doesn’t have much actual character-building screen time, but her importance to Paul and the rest of the story is abundantly clear based on the visions that Paul has of her. If part two is ever made, I think that Zendaya will be one of the shining stars of that movie. Putting together this cast is no small feat, and each and every one of them understood their characters down to a very personal level. The chemistry and dialogue at work throughout Dune are impressive and required to make a movie like this work.
Dune is a remarkable project and I consider it to be a huge success. Denis Villeneuve is a master of his craft and is one of only a few directors that are capable of adapting something like this. The cast is a work of art, with so many talented individuals. It’s easy to worry that with a cast of all-stars like this, it would just be a mess of a who’s who, but each actor and actress worked incredibly well together. The score, sound design, and visuals are some of the best that I have seen and heard all year. Delaying this movie so it can be enjoyed on the big screen was a huge gamble, but one that will pay off as the sheer scale of this movie has to be seen on the big screen to believe. While it is a long movie at over 2 and a half hours, it can be a turn-off for some more casual fans, but don’t let that talk you out of watching the movie.
If you want to hear more thoughts about Dune, check out one of our podcasts – Movies Not Films – 004 – Dune
If you like this, check out :
- The Lord Of The Rings
- Game of Thrones
- Star Wars