Director: Dennis Villeneuve
I am surprised that no-one has yet reviewed Dune, so here we go. We saw it at the IMAX in Birmingham and would certainly recommend that you see it on the biggest screen possible. It’s an utterly immersive visual and sound experience. It will be no surprise, and has been much noted, that Villeneuve can craft a visual world like no-one else currently in film. Whatever you thought of the plot of Bladerunner 2049, it looked amazing from start to finish, as did Arrival in turn before it. There’s very little actual outer space , and the visuals of the movies are dominated by the vast open sand and rock scapes of Arrakis, appearing even dryer by contrast with the lush Northern European grasslands of the Atriedes homeworld, and the murky storm and rain of the Harkonnens. Moving through these three worlds are armies, medieval in feel, transported by enormous spaceships whose weight is so oppressive they appear to be sculpted from stone rather than metal. By contrast the ornithopthers hop, buzz and flit around the world.
In terms of plot Dune is so well known that there’s perhaps not much to add here. I suspect the whole project became much more viable after Game of Thrones: the powerplays between noble families are heavily foregrounded, with the more mystical elements that perhaps chimed with readers in the sixties reined in. The scriptwriters have only the first half of the novel to cover, and certainly do a better job of untangling Herbert’s dense set-up than the eighties Lynch version. I watched it with a friend who had not read the novel or seen the Lynch movie and she understood what was going on.
It’s Paul’s story, and Timothee Chalomet carries a huge amount of this film – from callow heir and chosen one in training, to offworlder going native as his family is betrayed and destroyed by the Harkonnens and the Emperor. He’s very convincing and if there’s one overall tone that dominates the film its seriousness. In intergalactic game of throning and spice trading there are no laughs: George Lucas ripped off a vast amount of this for Star Wars but he did add in some lighter characters. No comedy robot sidekicks here. Backing Paul up are Oscar Isaac doing a great doomed noble and Rebecca Ferguson in the always-a-bit-weird role of the chosen concubine who is also a member of the Bene Gesserit mystical witches order. The supporting cast are also more than adequate with the various mentor, villain and bodyguard roles required (aka the ‘Sean Beans’).
What do you feel after emerging from the cinema? A bit of exhilaration from the sound and light spectacle. A bit of exhaustion from the light and sound spectacle (it’s loud, really loud at times). A bit of relief that this time it’s been done as well as maybe it can be.
Postscript: The next film I watched after this was The Lobster. Never underestimate the power of an original story that you’ve never heard before. ‘So in the future everyone single has 45 days to find a new partner or they get turned into an animal of their choice’. It’s 90 minutes of not knowing what on earth will happen next. Unlike Dune, which unfolds with the strength and inevitability of some Biblical prophecy. Exactly as Herbert intended.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
Well, the novel. Villeneuve’s previous work. The holy grail of the ‘arthouse blockbuster’ which this gets as near as anyone has.