DUNE (2021) – DENIS VILLENEUVE’S SCI-FI EPIC REINVENTS THE GENRE

Dune (titled onscreen as Dune: Part One) is a 2021 American epic science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve. It is set in the far future, it follows Paul Atreides as his family, the noble House Atreides, is thrust into a war for the deadly and inhospitable desert planet Arrakis. After many failed endeavors to portray “Dune” on the big screen, Denis Villeneuve takes a shot at depicting the complex and imaginative world of Paul Atreides and Arrakis. The novel by Frank Herbert, which has sold over 20 million copies, was deemed as one the “greatest science fiction books ever written.” The film runs two hours and 35 minutes long, covers only half of the 800 page novel.

In the year 10191, Duke Leto of House Atreides, ruler of the ocean planet Caladan, is assigned by the Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV to replace House Harkonnen as fief rulers of Arrakis. Arrakis is a harsh desert planet and the only source of “spice”, a valuable substance that extends human vitality and is critical for interstellar travel. In reality, Shaddam intends to have House Harkonnen stage a coup to retake the planet with aid of the Emperor’s Sardaukar troops, eradicating House Atreides, whose influence threatens Shaddam’s control. Leto is apprehensive but sees the political advantages of controlling the spice planet and forming an alliance with its native population, skilled fighters known as the Fremen. The Fremen have special suits that collect and recycle water in their bodies, as well as specific ways of walking through the sand to steer clear from the enormous sandworms that occupy parts of the desert.

Arrakis holds many dangers, with its uninhabitable desert landscape, the fierce desert-dwelling Fremen, and massive, destructive sandworms. Despite these troubles, Arrakis is a valuable possession, as it holds the key to interstellar travel— spice. Whoever controls Arrakis controls spice, thereby placing them in a position of immense power. It is over this last issue that fighting breaks out to determine who will be in control. The movie follows the story of Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet), as he moves to a new planet where the threat of war lingers in the air. Paul is the son of Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) and Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), from the noble House Atreides. In the beginning, Paul is troubled by nightmares and visions that lead his mother to believe that he is gifted, so she begins to train him in the ways of the Bene Gesserit, an ancient school of mental and physical training mostly for women.

In his visions, he sees a mystery fremen woman (Zendeya) that seems to be connected with his fate on Arrakis. The vision scenes are very slow-motioned and vague, filled with drapes and deep icy-blue eyes. The visions shift between Paul’s potential destinies, anywhere from greatness to failure. The Fremen believe that one day, a gifted messiah that they refer to as the Lisan Al Gaib will come to free the Fremen and take them to the promised land. Upon the Atreides’ arrival on Arrakis, Liet Kynes (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) serves as the planetary ecologist of Arrakis. She begins to notice things about Paul that lead her to believe that he might be the Lisan Al Gaib. Lady Jessica and the Bene Gesserit also have reasons to believe that Paul is the messiah that they have been waiting for.

Dune stands out for its emphasis on sound design, music and imagery. The imagery is fantastic and transport the viewer into a whole new world. The music is captivating and immerses you into a completely different state of awareness. Known for crafting cathartic epics, Villeneuve stuns you in each and every frame, commanding your unflinching attention. His detailing and scale is awe-inspiring. The legendary Hans Zimmer’s score captivates your senses. Filmed for IMAX, Dune is every bit an immersive visual masterpiece. Chalamet fits the mold of Paul who is in a place of power without awareness of how to use it and Rebecca Ferguson as his caring, yet authoritative mother works well. The film also does an impressive job incorporating all of the nuances of “Dune”’s complex universe. The film requires lots of exposition: the witchlike behavior of the Bene Gesserit, the prophecy of Muad’Dib, the brooding threat of the Harkonnens, and the secretive ways of the Fremen. However, Zendaya is wasted (which isn’t saying much) and barely speaks throughout the movie.

Dune deserves to be more than a single movie. Truthfully, if this franchise gains legs, it has enough source material that it could be transformed into a nine or ten movie long series to parallel some of the greats like Star Wars. “Dune” relies heavily on its visuals to gravitate viewers towards the film. Images of sandstorms, desert cities, and high-tech space ships are compelling. Villenevue infuses this imagery with a more human aspect, like continuous images of Chani (Zendaya) within the desert landscape looking back at the audience. Unfortunately, the marketing of the film geared too heavily toward Zendaya’s character, whom we only get to meet at the end of the film (meet is too strong a word here). If you’re watching Dune for Zendaya then please don’t. Also if you’re watching any movie for Zendaya, then your opinion doesn’t matter much as it is. Dune is a brilliant movie and makes you crave the sequel.

JAY’S VERDICT

Dune is a masterpiece that makes you thirst for the sequel – an amazing experience worth watching

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