Dune Movie Review
A word of caution in advance: there are going to be some spoilers in this review, and please keep in mind that this is coming from a hardcore fan of the source material. Having said that: Denis Villeneuve's adaptation is epic!
Yesterday I went to the cinema in the afternoon with one of my best friends who hasn't read the books. When we left the theater, the first thing we did was check what time it is. You see, Dune is a two and a half hour film, but we both agreed that this was the fastest two and a half hour of our lifes. Needless to say that we both loved the film; time only flies by when you're having fun. What made this experience of compressed time even more amazing is the amount of information and storytelling that's compressed in this film. Even though it only covers the first half of the first book, there's tons of information to digest here, as we get acquainted with the main members of House Atreides, House Harkonnen, the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, the mentats of both houses, the contrasting climates of the Atreides' home world of Caladan and Arrakis, the mythology and religion of Arrakis' indigenous people, the Fremen and a lot more. If you haven't read the books and want an idea of the scope and complexity of Dune's story, go back through my posts; I've done a lot of posts in the run-up to this release. The good news is that my friend didn't have any problem following the story, and that Villeneuve has managed to incorporate all major themes in this two and a half hour experience.
And it is an experience. This movie sucks you into its world, and even though it is slow paced for a good part, its story keeps you engaged enough to want to see what comes next. And it does this to the very end, which has been my main concern, and still is my main concern about this movie. It opens up with the title "Dune: Part One," so it clearly prepares the audience that this is not a finished story. And just like the book, this first half amounts to a set-up for what's to come. Here's the first real spoiler for those who've read the books: this film ends right after Paul's fight with Jamis. This fight is also one of a few small alterations made by Villeneuve; in the book this fight takes place in Sietch Tabr, one of the many Fremen hideouts, but in the film Paul bests Jamis right after he and Jessica first meet Stilgar and band of Fremen brothers and sisters. So the end is when Paul, Jessica and the Fremen are on route to Sietch Tabr, carrying Jamis' body in order to reclaim his water at the Sietch.
There are a few other small changes, but they're all made to compress the story in the limited time there is to tell it, and to make it easier for newcomers to digest it. There's the time and place where Liet Kynes dies, and the fact that she is a woman and not a man like in the book. There's a visit by Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam to Baron Harkonnen where they discuss what's to become of Duke Leto, Jessica and Paul that's not in the book. But when you watch the movie and know the book, I'm confident that you'll see why Villeneuve made these choices, and I hope you'll agree that they were necessary. Except for the gender-swap of Liet Kynes, which I don't mind but doesn't serve any purpose I could distill. And rest assured: this film can't be labeled "woke" by any means. On the contrary; there's a good chance that people who don't know the entire story will walk away with the feeling that it suffers from a "white savior trope," where a white male goes to rescue some backwards brown people; I would ask them to not jump to conclusions and wait for part two where it should become clear that the opposite is true.
DUNE Opening Box Office Weekend Was HUGE Here's Why
The two and a half hour flew by, and that's also because of the cinematography, sound design and music. In fact this film needs to be seen in the theater. I was especially pleased by the way the Bene Gesserit's use of "The Voice" was done through the sound design, and I'm sure this effect wouldn't be half as impressive when experienced through a sub par home sound system. Also the sound of the sand worms approaching is something to not only hear, but feel. Hans Zimmer's score is as epic as the visuals and story, and I think the fact that sometimes it's hard to discern where the music stops and sound design begins, is a testament to the overall achievement of this film in the audio department. Villeneuve took some liberties in the design of the technology as well. The ornithopters are beautiful, and as I imagined them. However, in the books there's not really a precise descriptions of these flying vehicles. The reason why I find the choice to model them like dragonflies so good, and why I imagined them as such, is that all the vehicles in Dune are described in such a way that the reader imagines them to be modeled after a living organism.
I know I've missed a lot here, and I'm sure not everyone will agree with my take on the film, but I feel fairly confident when I say that this is a must-see for any fan of science fiction and fantasy, and that it must be seen on a big screen to fully appreciate it. I can't stress enough how beautiful this film looks; every frame is a painting. It's so beautifully designed that it sometimes borders on artistic pretentiousness, but it never crosses that border in my opinion. Fans will detect a lot of little throwbacks to the books, little details that aren't essential to the story but were thrown in anyway. In a story this massive, some exposition can't be avoided, but in contrast with the 1984 David Lynch adaption, this time it's done in a believable way, mainly through Paul listening to and watching filmbooks in order to gain information about Arrakis, its people and its fauna. The only thing I can imagine people being disappointed by is the film's rather abrupt ending, especially if they know that production on part two hasn't even started yet; if and when that happens depends on how well this first part does. Well, there's some good news in that department; it seems that the international release made quite a lot of money in the first 24 hour. On that hopeful note I refer you to the linked videos.
Everything considered, my verdict is that Dune is one of the best science fiction movies ever, and one of the best book adaptations I've ever seen, it's up there with Peter Jackson's adaptation of Lord Of The Ring. The performances by the stellar cast were all beautiful and convincing; Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson as Paul and Jessica deserve special mention here as the film and much of the first book revolve around their relationship, and they've done a great job. Visual and sound design are top notch as well. I'm not one for giving scores, but if I had to, I'd give this a 9.5 out of 10.
Dune SMASHES The International Box Office! $37 Million in Revenue!
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