When I watched David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of the Frank Herbert novel, Dune, I did not like it. It was confusing and difficult to follow. It felt as if it were a film that just could not handle the span of the epic novel on which it was based. David Lynch did not feel like the proper director either considering the simplest of his projects are complex and demanding.
However, Denis Villeneuve may be the perfect director for tis material. Villeneuve is used to creating such sprawling and complex films as he has created beautiful movies such as Blade Runner 2049, Arrival and Sicario. If anyone could bring the science fiction novel to the big screen, Denis Villeneuve was the choice to make.
As Dune arrived in theaters and on HBO Max, the question was answered. Villeneuve succeeded beyond all hope.
Yes, the story is still very complex and dense and it, most likely, would reward those people who had read the books with specifics and details that may not be available to those who only come to the film alone, but it does not limit the scope of the story, nor does it hold back the enjoyment of this product.
Dune is a masterpiece in filmmaking. The creation of these worlds where the story is to take place is awe-inspiring. It feels real and tangible, unlike many sci-fi films. The images on screen are some of the most gorgeous designs you are going to see. The cinematography builds a setting unlike any we have seen prior, despite clear homages to previous films. The technical marvels involved in the creation of Dune is amazing.
The cast is top notch as well. Led by Timothée Chalamet, the remarkable ensemble boasted such notable actors as Oscar Isaacs, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgård, Chen Chang, and Sharon Duncan-Brewster. The performances of the ensemble is strong and fits beautifully within the structure of the story being told.
Timothée Chalamet stands out with his heartfelt and sensitive performance as Paul Atreides, the son of the Duke and a young man with more to him than meets the eye. There is a haunted aspect in Chalamet’s eyes that brings a realism to the role that was lacking in pervious performances (To be fair, I love Kyle MacLachlan and thought his work in 1984 Dune was one of the best parts. Chalamet really makes the role his own, though).
The movie definitely demands your attention. While I do not agree, I can certainly understand the criticism from some that consider the film too boring. The engaging storytelling aspect of Dune could be off putting for some and it does not spend time on explaining much along the way, though there are some decent scenes of exposition.
The biggest criticism I would levy against Dune is that it does not feel like a complete film. It is well known that Denis Villeneuve split the book into two parts for the movie and that he had hoped that the first film would be successful enough to warrant the filming of part two. You can definitely feel that in this movie as it has a Lord of the rings: The Fellowship of the Ring vibe to the ending. It might have been nicer to find a more conducive place to wrap up this movie. If the part two does get made, this feels like a film that would benefit from watching the two parts consecutively. The sudden ending might cause some frustrations among the typical movie goers who may not be familiar with the novel or the previous film.
Visually stunning, Dune does an admirable job beginning to adapt a novel that many believe was impossible to adapt to a movie screen. Denis Villeneuve has shown that it is possible and that his visionary work can create something that everyone can enjoy. While the story can be difficult to follow, the performances help to keep the film on track and there can be no denying that the world building, the CGI and the imagery is anything but masterful. Dune is an exceptional film and, with luck, will be successful enough so Villeneuve can finish the project.