Much thanks must be given to the little voice in my head.
When buying my ticket for Dune, the voice told me to try and buy a seat as close to the screen as possible. While my neck did not start truly hurting until the last forty minutes or so of the film, the voice was correct, as the experience gave me small vibes dating back to when I watched the original Star Wars Trilogy re-released in the mid-90s when I was nine years old.
Walking in, my knowledge of the source material was limited. I knew it was a book from the 1960s by Frank Herbert and is now considered a towering staple in the Science Fiction genre. Its themes and elements have been considered so deep and vast that it is considered by many to be unfilmable (even after a movie did come out in 1984 directed by David Lynch.)
While this new film is supposed to be the first of two films about the first book, it is still evident that the plot is not going to be easy to describe (thankfully we live in the age of the internet). I will do my best (and welcome any expert to correct me if I am wrong).
The film is set in the year 10101 (rather refreshing to see a story set much later than the “not too distant future”). The Ruler of the planet Caladan, Duke Leto Astreides (Oscar Issac) is sent by the Emperor to help on the harsh desert planet Arrakis, the only source to obtain the ever valuable “spice” known as mélange. His concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) is a member of a Sisterhood that has advanced mental and physical abilities.
This is passed on to her and the Duke’s son, Paul (Timothêe Chalamet), in the beginnings of his own training to be heir to the House of Astreides. Along with training with his mother, Paul learns his fighting skills from the likes of weapons master Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) and swordmaster Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa), who is also one of Paul’s mentors. His abilities are also able to show him futuristic visions of the Fremen, the locals of Arrakis, including a mysterious girl named Chani (Zendaya).
Meanwhile, there are other things afoot as the House of Harkonnen, who were previously on Arrakis but told to withdraw by the Emperor, have their own ideas. They are lead by Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) and his nephew Glassu Rabban (Dave Bautista).
(I know, that was a lot to digest).
Even with this stacked cast, the person who deserves the credit above all is director Denis Villeneuve. A look at the director’s previous films like Prisoners (2013), Sicario (2015), Arrival (2016), and Blade Runner 2049 (2017) would be enough to show he was an ideal choice for this film. The film is nothing short of a visual feast. It ranks with Lawrence of Arabia (which apparently was an inspiration for the original source material) as having some of the most exquisite filmed sand based scenes ever filmed.
All the scenes are so impeccably done that there are times we don’t even thing about CGI because we are just besotted with the entire spectacle (the sand worms look like a steroid version of the almighty sarlac from Return of the Jedi). It has been some time since I last stayed for the whole credits not for a post credit scene, but out of sheer respect.
Parents, while the theater was rather empty for me (it was a Thursday night) I did see one or two kids at my screening. There is violence, but nothing too graphic. No sexuality of any kind. Pre-teen and above would be okay seeing this.
The only true issue I had with the film was some of the dialogue being rather muddled and hard to make out. This was the same issue I had with last year’s TENET (2021).
Still, if you have gotten fatigued by the MCU movies (much like Villeneuve, who has called them “copy and paste”), Dune is the perfect alternative.
Sorry, that was me trying my hardest to order you see this on the biggest screen possible.
I clearly don’t have Paul’s abilities.