This just may be the Dune franchise we've long awaited
Amazing score to accompany the brilliant visuals!
The movie picks up a little slower than absolutely needed
The ending may not be the finale many hope for, but it is what is needed
The journey to a Dune film has not been without its own trials. Nineteen years after it’s publication, the first successful film adaptation, in itself the result of multiple failed attempts, met negative response and served to only increase the demand for a “proper” live action take. The 2000 mini series—Frank Herbert’s Dune—proved to be more serviceable, but still left many hankering for the big screen treatment of the iconic universe.
The question is, have we finally gotten one?
After over half a century, it is Denis Villeneuve’s take on Dune comes very close to both honouring and evolving the source material for today’s cinematic experience. Whether that is a good thing or otherwise may remain to be seen. Given the expansive universe-building of Dune, Villeneuve’s visuals and dedication to fleshing out a detailed canvas is highly functional for character and story progressions. This is especially useful since the script in itself is not very strong.
Much of the movie’s plot and ideas can be attributed to what is unsaid as much as the dialogue. The stellar cast very quickly prove their worth beyond just stacking the chances of the film’s success. Even what may seem to be unlikely casting choices such as Oscar Isaac as Leto Atreides, or Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, prove to be welcome additions, allowing for an organic update on both characters.
Of course, there are some aspects that may seem out of place. This film adaptation tries its best to include a fair bit more of humour than the source material. And while the humour certainly doesn’t fall flat, there are moments of very human interaction that feels almost too… normal? This is, unfortunately, highlighted with Zendaya’s time on screen as Chani.
While the actress is known for her deadpan delivery, and largely sardonic tones, it is the most out of place bit in Dune. The very style that has made her a hit in the likes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Spider-Man: Homecoming and Far From Home, is a jarring reminder that the actors of Dune are all very much pop culture figures in our mundane world. Perhaps this is something that may be rectified in the following Dune films, as we get to know her character better.
On that note, the only real “problem” one might find with Dune is its figurative decrescendo towards the conclusion of the final act. Where modern epic films have taught us to expect climatic, sprawling combat as the zenith of a movie’s narrative, Dune chooses to bring the focus to the core characters who will lead the sequel–assuming there is one.
This is of little surprise given that, on screen, the film identifies itself as Dune: Part One. The movie adapts a large portion of the first book, leaving most of the grander scope of events for a later film. While this may not particularly resonate with the audience, it’s undoubtedly the better approach to delivering an as-faithful-as-possible adaptation of the novel.
In that vein, it’s easy to see why Dune could be considered The Lord of the Rings of this decade. They do share many similarities, being iconic representations, and even pioneers, of their respective takes on their genres. Their histories are riddled with attempts at adaptations, both realised and unrealised, and often confounding (remember when The Beatles wanted to produce and star in The Lord of the Rings?). And their eventual modern-day film treatments share amazing scenic shots and magical music. But ultimately, they both stand apart in their exploration of their worlds, and the meaning of heroism.
Furthermore, Hans Zimmer delivers beautifully on the score. While his work has always been of note, Dune stands out in a unique way, and is easily one of his best works since Pirates of the Caribbean. If nothing else, his contribution to the sound of Dune, accompanying the amazing sights of the film, makes this a worthy adaptation of the rich novel.
Dune is out now, and deserves to be watched in all of its IMAX glory!