Written by Hayden Claborn, Writer
Before heading into this review, the reader should know that I am not familiar with the world of Dune. I have attempted to read the landmark novel by Frank Herbert a few times and failed to get into it. In 2021, after a one year delay, Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049) brings us Dune: Part One. Is it worth the wait?
My biggest issue with the picture is that it doesn’t feel like a complete narrative. While there is plenty of set up and good worldbuilding, it’s difficult to shake the feeling you’re only witnessing the first half of the story. The film ends not so much on a cliffhanger but where a second act should start. However, Dune: Part One is still a good film.
“Dreams are messages from the deep” we hear in Sardaukar tongue over blackness. This relates to our main character Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) who’s haunted by mysterious dreams of a planet called Arrakas, the home of the most valuable asset in the universe: spice. He’s a part of the House of Atreides and is about to colonize the planet from House Harkonnen. Paul’s parents are Lady Jessica(Rebecca Ferguson) and the duke of the house Leto Atreides(Oscar Issac).
Despite the massive world and scale, the film plays more on political intrigue than action sequences and thrills. It’s more Game of Thrones than Star Wars, but the early sections are never dull. The audience is methodically made familiar with various minutiae. Instead of being told how force fields work, we’re shown that fast acting weapons can’t penetrate in an early fight scene. The only way to penetrate is with slow blades. The world is drenched in greys and oranges by cinematographer Greig Fraser.
You’ll find no winking here, Dune: Part One is very earnest science fiction which is refreshing. Often modern blockbusters don’t trust– or ask– the audience to take them seriously. Every other scene has to have a joke or a character pointing out the ridiculousness of its events. In Dune, nobody is cracking quips about funny names or wacky concepts. The comic relief comes from a warrior named Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) as he adds swagger to the role. But his charm is never overdone.
If I had to describe Dune: Part One in one word, I would describe it as brutalist. It’s a hulking work that can at times intimidate the eyes and the mind. For better or worse, it’s made to be watched more than once. The sheer volume of detail in the film boggles the mind. However, Villeneuve is a talented storyteller that he’s able to guide the audience through his ambitions. Is Dune the second coming that fans wished for? If Part Two sticks the impossible landing, then it might just be.