Dune Review 2021
Did The Highly-Anticipated Sci-Fi Flick Meet Expectations?
Released October 22nd, 2021, Dune is another Audio/Visual masterpiece by director Denis Villeneuve. This much-anticipated film is a modern retelling of an old and very influential story by acclaimed science fiction writer Frank Herbert. The story follows Paul Atreides as he battles for survival in a dangerous world, amongst politics and sandworms for control of the spice melange and the empire. As the first part in a series, this story can only fully be judged with a part two. Luckily, on October 26th Dune part two was announced and is set to be released in 2023.
Advertised as the next big epic since Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, this movie does not disappoint. The sense of scale is massive, be it the giant sandworms the size of cities or the size of galactic empires. The special effects are seamless and the score by Hans Zimmer is both new and familiar. The star-studded cast hits all of the right notes. Dune part one does its job as a set-up film for Dune part two.
Often compared to Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, Dune is a story about great houses battling for power amid harsh times, what it means to be a leader, and the effects people have on their environment. Massive battles feel just as gritty and real as single, one-on-one combat. Moments of politicking feel right at home alongside the destruction of interplanetary space vessels.
What is Right?
This version of Dune more closely resembles the source material by Frank Herbert than the 1984 version by David Lynch. While a slower burn, this does not take away from the film, and in fact, the movie benefits from this because it does not feel rushed or hurried. It gives the viewer time to take in the world, the environment and experience something new. By no means does this make the movie feel slow, in fact, this film succeeds in balancing moments of calm reflection with scenes of chaos and excitement. The comparatively slower pace, when combined with a part two, leads to a fuller, more intricate story then would be possible in a single film.
Denis Villeneuve is a master of scale and atmosphere in all of his films from Arrival to Blade Runner. Weapons smaller than eyes or worms larger than mountain ranges are abound in this film, with scenic views that seem so familiar on this alien planet. Scenes of battle can be chaotic and filled with people and action and the next scene can feel isolated and out of the way in the middle of the desert. All this is only enhanced by the musical score. Hans Zimmer is a prolific film score composer who has worked with Villeneuve in the past with Blade Runner 2049.
The worst part about star-studded casts is the movie posters. In order to get every cast member on the poster we only get a bunch of floating heads that tell us nothing about the actual film. The best part about a star-studded cast is that they will reliably give good performances. However, the performance that most stands out is Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho. In a world noted by ceremony and carefully controlled emotions Jason Momoa instills lively energy into an otherwise dry world. Unfortunately, Zendaya was not in the film all that much. Used prolifically in the trailers she does not appear until the end of the film. She has a lot of fan appeal so she was used to generate excitement about Dune part one, but her role will be more important in Dune part two.
The blend of practical effects and special effects is seamless. Villeneuve expertly draws the audience into the scene, oftentimes not knowing where the special effects begin. A film like this could only be made now, with advances in technology that make life on this alien planet of Arrakis feel possible.
What is Wrong?
Where the film lacks is in the details. This story is full of lore and backstory, and the film relies on viewers knowing that history to get deeper and richer meaning from what they see on screen. Quick, single lines of exposition are easily lost and forgotten in the sheer scale of everything else happening so some viewers may become confused.
In conclusion, this film is great and does an excellent job setting up for part two. All of the trademarks of big-budget blockbuster films are present, a star-studded cast, excellent audio/visual effects and fantastic source material. The film does not copy the source material exactly, and that is a good thing, but it does expect the audience to have more knowledge than is presented to truly experience the richness of the world. Now is time to wait for the next part in the saga, like Zendaya says at the end of the film, “This is only the beginning.”
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Christopher Thomas is a contributing writer here at thepyrrhic.com. He enjoys movies, television, and other forms of nerdery.