by Camille Borodey
I’ll preface this review by saying I’m not that much of a sci-fi person. Story wise, “Dune” doesn’t necessarily feel like it has a lot new to say, but it still manages to be a fun and visually incredible ride. As we were leaving the theatre, my boyfriend described it as “Game of Thrones” meets “Star Wars,” and fans of either should find “Dune” pleasing.
Long books are often difficult to translate. Written before “Star Wars,” Frank Herbert’s epic 1965 sci-fi novel, “Dune,” has been adapted several times, notably the 1984 commercial disappointment, which even director David Lynch wishes to forget. The 2021 “Dune” currently holds an 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, and those unfamiliar with the original book shouldn’t have trouble following the plot.
Director Denis Villeneuve has set the bar high for himself with his past movies, but what surprised me about “Dune” is that while it may be his most anticipated movie, it lacks the emotional depth and rich character from his previous films such as “Prisoners” and “Arrival.” That being said, where Dune lacks in certain areas, it soars with ambition. This large-scale sci-fi features impressive visual effects that will immerse you in the story’s universe, from the attacks of the destructive sandworms to surviving in the vast desert landscape.
In the year 10191, Duke Leto of House Atreides (Oscar Isaac), ruler of the ocean planet Caladan, is in a political negotiation to become ruler of the planet Arrakis, a severe desert planet inhabited by giant sandworms. Arrakis is also where an infinitely valuable substance called “spice” is harvested.
Leto’s son Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), is a gifted young man who has spent his life training with his father’s aides. At the same time, his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), trains Paul in Bene Gesserit, a sisterhood whose members hold intense mental and physical abilities. Paul grows concerned as he continues to have visions of a woman (Zendaya) and his family’s destiny.
With critical acclaim in 2017’s “Call Me By Your Name,” 2018’s “Beautiful Boy,” and 2019’s “Little Women,” Chalamet is a fast-rising Hollywood star who has proven he can carry a variety of roles. He plays Paul with a restrained charisma, but here’s to hoping his character gets a little more interesting in Part Two.
The rest of the cast is equally strong. Oscar Isaac makes a noble Duke Leto. Ferguson displays a fierce Lady Macbeth type of charm as Paul’s protective and slightly coddling mother. Jason Momoa seems to be having tons of fun as Duncan Idaho, Paul’s trainer and swordmaster of House Atreides, and Stellan Skarsgård, not surprisingly, fits nicely into the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, enemy to House Atreides. Fans of Zendaya and Javier Bardem may be disappointed by their lack of screen time, but I suspect they’ll have more significant parts in the sequel, which has already been greenlit.
Seeing the film in theatres not only does justice to the special effects but also the music of Hans Zimmers. Darryn King of The New York Times calls the soundtrack “Zimmer’s most unorthodox and most provocative. Along with synthesizers, you can hear scraping metal, Indian bamboo flutes, Irish whistles, a juddering drum phrase that Zimmer calls an ‘anti-groove,’ seismic rumbles of distorted guitar, a war horn that is actually a cello and singing that defies Western musical notation — just to name a few of its disparate elements.”
One complaint about the sound is that there are several times in the movie where it’s difficult to understand what the actors are saying. Occasionally, it’s a mix of the music or sound being too loud and the actors mumbling during important monologues.
Some may find that “Dune” is a bit slow at times, and the ending leaves a lot to be desired, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing since it sets up nicely for a sequel. The filmmakers do a fantastic job at building the film’s world with each shot, making “Dune” an enjoyable adventure that leaves you excited for the next chapter.