Dune (2021) Movie Review | Dune (2021), directed by Denis Villeneuve, is an adaptation of the 1965 sci-fi epic novel written by Frank Herbert. Set in the distant future, interstellar factions battle for control over the planet Arrakis, a mostly uninhabitable, brutal, desert wasteland. Arrakis however, is the most sought after prize in the empire. The only known planet to find and harvest a drug known as “Spice”, the most valuable resource in the galaxy. Spice has the ability to enhance brain functions, extend life, and is required for interstellar travel. Our story mainly follows the power struggle for Arrakis between the newly appointed stewards, House Atreides, and the former rulers House Harkonnen.
A star studded cast graces the screen for this two and a half hour sci-fi epic: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, and Jason Momoa to name a few.
I want to begin my review by pointing out that I have never read the book or the sequels, nor did I have the perspective of the other film adaptation going into this screening. I had a genuine fresh perspective of the Dune universe with my viewing experience. I had heard of how challenging this story had been historically with bringing it into a film adaptation, but I didn’t fully understand how complicated the Dune story was until my first watch. It is a grandiose, slow moving, political storyline that requires a lot of minute detailing and explanation to understand. There are many perspectives to consider with all the different Houses and factions involved with the plot to be able to grasp the root of why the characters do what they do and why their actions matter. I wasn’t aware that this film would only be a small part of the story from the first novel, since the marketing of the movie never really described the film as a part one. Most of my criticisms for this film are related to it not telling a complete story and leaving me wanting A LOT more.
Dune (2021) Movie Review
Dune (2021) is a fantastic intro into the Dune universe and sets the stage for the rest of the events to be able to take place. Although it wasn’t what I was expecting going into my screening, I fully appreciate Denis Villeneuve’s methodical attention to detail with every aspect of this story. The film focuses heavily on the interpersonal relationships of the characters and builds up Dune’s universal landscape without relying on a lot of cheap exposition to do so. There are still some elements of exposition that are required when trying to tell a tale as grandiose as this one, but I appreciate the decision to respect the intelligence of the audience and not be too overbearing with it. All of the actors deliver decent performances throughout, but I feel like Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson shine through the rest. Maybe it’s because these two have the most screen time throughout the film, but I thoroughly enjoyed their scene chemistry and their ability to feed off each other’s energy. Chalamet exhumes a stoic grace in his portrayal of Paul Atreides. A lot of the credit for the performances need to go to Villeneuve because he seems to find a way to inspire his actors to capture the exact feelings he envisions for the stories he tells. His last two films are wonderful examples of the mastery involved with meticulous direction behind the camera.
The most successful part of this film in my opinion is how beautiful it looks. Most of the marketing for the film and trailers heavily rely on Greig Fraser’s cinematography and styling. Since there isn’t a whole lot of plot to utilize to grasp the audience’s attention, the cinematography is what truly carries this film on it’s back. In conjunction with the art department and the special effects, the cinematography is breathtaking. Dune is stunningly beautiful from a visual standpoint and in my opinion, will be the driving force of it’s success.
My main criticism with this film is that it does not tell a complete story. It tends to drag it’s feet at times, which I feel is necessary when conveying a story as substantial and complicated as this one, but I was left with a lot to be desired once the credits started rolling. I feel like a lot of people will be disappointed with the slow methodical approach that this film takes. It’s advertised as a sci-fi action epic and it is everything except action packed. There are moments of battle scenes and enormous sand worms, but most of the film focuses on interpersonal relationships and the political landscape at hand.
I’m fully invested in anticipation of the evolution of this story through the subsequent sequel films. I feel like Denis Villeneuve has delivered a wonderful starting point into the Dune universe. I know that this film releases in theaters the same day as it releases on the HBO Max streaming service, but if you can, 100% go see this on the big screen. I’m an evangelist for seeing most films in the theater as it was meant to be experienced, but for a film as epic as this one, I demand you see it on the big screen with full surround sound on first viewing. I will probably now begin my journey through the Dune novels so that I have the literary perspective to compare, as the film adaptations continue. | Dune (2021) Movie Review