Dune (2021) Movie Review
Dune is a sci-fi film based on the Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel of the same name and is directed by Denis Villeneuve. This review covers the first of two parts of the Dune film (aka. Dune: Part One). The story follows Paul Atreides, a gifted young man who joins his father, Duke of House Atreides in Arrakis.
The emperor assignes Duke Leto of House Atreides (Oscar Isaac) to rule over Arrakis (Dune), replacing House Harkonnen. Leto brought along his concubine, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), his son, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his house which consists of several key soldiers like Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) and Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin). Arrakis is a desert planet that is home to giant sandworms, the Fremen tribe and more importantly, the only source of the ever-so-important “spice”.
Jessica is from the Bene Gesserit community, who expects the arrival of a “chosen one” called Kwisatz Haderach. Although she was expected to conceive a daughter, Jessica instead gave birth to a son, Paul, who the community now presumes is the “chosen one”. Paul is trained in physical disciplines by Duncan Idaho and mental abilities (using the “voice” to control others) by his mother.
Unhappy with the replacement, Baron Vladimir of House Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) launches an attack on House Atreides with the help of an insider, Dr. Yueh and the emperor. They manage to capture Leto, Paul and Jessica. In an attempt to kill the Baron and himself, Leto bites into a poison gas capsule, but the Baron survives. Meanwhile, Paul and Jessica overpower the Harkonnen troops through the “voice”. When both of them are eventually tracked down by the emperor’s troops, Duncan and several Fremen sacrifice themselves to aid their escape. Paul and Jessica ventures through the dessert and eventually meets a pack of Fremen, including Chani (Zendaya), the girl in Paul’s visions.
Before I begin my review, I would like to clarify that I stepped into the cinema knowing nothing about Dune, other than it was adapted from a sci-fi novel that paved the way for many others like Star Wars and Stargate. I was not familiar with the contents of the novel nor have I watched the other film adaptations. That being said, as someone with no prior expectations, I would say that Dune was a really great experience. If there’s one undisputable thing Dune have done right, it’s in the cinematography department. I felt like I was transported into a different world, a desert full of sandstorms and rhythm-obsessed sandworms and I enjoyed every moment of it. The film definitely recognizes its strength and plays into it, serving us striking shots of the landscapes of Dune every chance it could get.
The performance of the star-studded cast did not disappoint as well. I think Timothée Chalamet’s performance as Paul was solid. He convincingly carried the complex role of the prophesized messiah who is occasionally unsure, disturbed by his visions but eventually grew to a more fearless individual at the end of the movie. Paul also goes through a journey a lot of us could empathize with and that is probably why I find it easy to root for the character.
I also find the whole film very well-paced. It allows ample time for a newbie like me to digest the terminology in the Dune universe (because Kwisatz Haderach, Shai-Hulud and Bene Gesserit isn’t exactly the most intuitive names to remember!) while keeping me interested in the overall storyline presented. If there is anything that mildly frustrates me about Dune, it is the fact that this movie is only the first of a two-series film adaptation even though it didn’t strike me as such through its promotional material. Due to this, the movie naturally feels incomplete and that it could have ended in a better way. Nevertheless, Dune positions itself as a movie that is setting up for the next part and promises for bigger things in the sequel, so much so that I have Googled for Dune: Part Two spoilers.
Definitely worth a watch, and especially so if you enjoy sci-fi or fantasy worlds.
Released on September 15 2021