Movie Review: ‘Dune: Part One’ (2nd Opion)


Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem

Plot: The noble House Atreides are given sovereignty over the planet Arrakis, a desert planet that is the only source of the ‘spice’ used to power intergalactic travel. It isn’t long before it becomes apparent that Atreides have been given this powerful seat as part of wider-reaching machinations to wipe them out.

Review: Now, we’ve already covered this movie and Corrye gave it a very generous 10/10. Despite this being one of my most highly anticipated movies for the year, it’s taken me a while to get seeing it because those buggers on the east coast of Australia keep causing lockdowns. Although we’re in a state largely untouched by the plague, the national distribution has been put on hold. We were lucky to get this screening now, as Australians aren’t getting a wide release until December. So when it does come out…should you watch it?

Yes.

Getting a sci-fi blockbuster of his magnitude is becoming increasingly rare. Trying to compete with the established, long running franchises aren’t worth the money and effort needed to pull it off. Adapting the classic novel Dune is even higher risk, as expectation is already marred by the shonky (albeit ambitious) attempts in past decades. It does feel like the planets – or twin suns – needed to align before something good would come out of this concept.

Villeneuve brought life to a sci-fi movie that put the emphasis on sci- to great effect in Arrival, and absolutely lived up to the name with Blade Runner 2049. The announcement of a Dune adaption didn’t really get my interest, not until Villeneuve was attached, because his filmography seemed to be building to this kind of project. The second great strength of Dune is the casting. Every actor feels like a natural fit for the character, and readers familiar with the material may see their mental image of the main players come to life. Unlike many sci-fi stories, the cast present as human, with the Freman’s blue eyes being the only alien aspect to them. House Harkonnen actors are the most alien looking, being chalk-white and devoid of body hair. Stellan Skarsgård has to work the hardest, acting through an unsettlingly realistic body suit as Baron Harkonnen, his unnatural floating contributing more heavily to his alien presence. It’s a great grounding of the story to keep much of the Atreides art and costume design similar to Earth cultures.

From a marketing stand-point, audiences may feel deflated coming home after only getting the first part of the story. Perhaps they just wanted to make sure it landed, as there’s a long list of failed franchise starters out there. They certainly stamp the ‘Chapter One’ disclaimer at the beginning. Unlike It, which generated hype of this trick, this isn’t a self-contained story on its own. We see some characters charge into battle and never learn of their fate, and the most telegraphed and intriguing relationship of the movie only comes to fruition in the third act.

This movie pulled all the lore and unique sci-fi ideas of the epic story together into a fairly digestible blockbuster scale epic. The exposition dumps are well spread out, and the business with the Bene Gesserit is expressed in an easy to follow manner with audio cues to help everyone follow along. The story feels suitably epic, with the sandworms and battle scenes making the most of the big screen format. Some parts of the mythology and science may get lost in the shuffle, especially if you’re going in to Dune new. I don’t remember if they explained the disastrous consequences of using a laser weapon on a forcefield, so you may be wondering why everyone keeps whacking each other with swords. It’s a nitpick.

So…yes. Full marks. This feels like the sci-fi answer to Lord of the Rings.

Rating: TEN out of TEN