Dune (2021)

A master of the deliberately-paced blockbuster, Villeneuve’s attempt at adapting Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel is admirable in its storytelling clarity and stunning world-building.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review #2,263

Dir. Denis Villeneuve
2021 | USA/Canada | Sci-Fi/Drama/Adventure | 155 mins | 2:39:1 | English
PG13 (passed clean) for sequences of strong violence, some disturbing images and suggestive material

Cast: Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Oscar Issac, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgard, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Charlotte Rampling
Plot: Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people.
Awards: Official Selection (Venice)
Distributor: Warner Bros

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Destiny, Discovery, New Worlds
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: In Theatres – IMAX
Spoilers: No


As he had shown with Arrival (2016) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017), Denis Villeneuve is a master of the deliberately-paced blockbuster. 

He can’t seem to do any wrong at the moment, and with Dune he completes a hattrick of sci-fi cinema wins, and solidifies his status as one of Hollywood’s top-tier filmmakers.  As far as his generation is concerned, he is, to me, firmly in the league of Christopher Nolan. 

Frank Herbert’s seminal novel had been a mountain too tall to climb for filmmakers for decades—think of David Lynch’s dud in the ‘80s, or Alejandro Jodorowsky’s doomed project (captured in the mesmerising 2013 documentary, Jodorowsky’s Dune).  But here, Villeneuve’s attempt is mostly admirable and I think a success. 

What worked really well for me are two aspects: its storytelling clarity and world-building.  Having never read the source material, I went into Dune blind and left the theatre desiring for more. 

I was never confused despite the large number of characters and their different motivations; likewise, the depiction of worlds and how they are like (e.g. its natural elements, the communities, etc.) are remarkably detailed. 

“My planet, Arrakis, is so beautiful when the sun is low. Rolling over the sands, you can see spice in the air.”

One could feel the scale of things with Dune, particularly the desolate deserts of Arrakis with humongous sandworms, where much of the entire film is set. 

Perhaps one might even feel that this physical scale has been imbued poetically into the characterisations and larger narrative—Shakespeare in space, maybe?  One can sense that something epic, serious and complex is unfolding. 

Timothee Chalamet headlines as Paul Atreides, a young man who must prepare himself for the ever-changing circumstances that would befall him and his noble family. 

Dune is as much about political intrigue and the disenfranchised as it is about prophecies and one man’s dream (quite literally as Villeneuve gives us perhaps one too many a slow-motion flash-forward of Zendaya’s character). 

I think Rebecca Ferguson (playing Paul’s mother) gave the best performance of the lot.  And Hans Zimmer delivered his most breathtaking score since Interstellar (2014).

Grade: A-


Trailer:

Music:

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