Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth
Stars: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Zendaya
Synopsis: The feature adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel, about the son of a noble family entrusted with the protection of the most valuable asset and most vital element in the galaxy.
When it comes to blockbuster spectacles, this past year has been filled with them due to several lockdowns worldwide preventing them from releasing in 2020. It seems like many companies from Disney to Universal are trying to make their voices the loudest in this competition, and yet it has been Warner Bros. who have created the most buzz throughout this past year. Whether their strategy to trying to be the first with Tenet or having a day-and-date release plan with HBO Max worked or not, their blockbusters become staples for the film community. Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is certainly no exception to that rule.
It may be intimidating thinking of entering the fictional world of Arrakis in the form of a feature-length film, but Villeneuve takes steps to make sure that the film is accessible to any film fan. It does not matter whether you have read the source material or not, the information given in this adaptation is easy to process and engaging to follow along with. Part of that comes to the choice of splitting the book up, with this film being Part One of what will hopefully be a series to come. This choice gives the film plenty of time to breathe and digest the world around us.
Villeneuve is known for his incredible sense of world-building and Dune is no exception. Not only are the visuals stunning, but the set of characters all help establish the landscape and political state of this time. Following Paul Atreides (played by Timothée Chalamet), the son of a Duke and someone who at a young age is coming to terms with the power his family holds and the religious and political stance his mother follows, the audience is eased into the exposition alongside Paul as we see him go on an epic journey. The visions that Paul has throughout, seeing his meeting with Chani (played by Zendaya) and a ritual duel he must face, the audience is immersed into this world and the stakes that are at play throughout.
Even though this is available to watch on HBO Max in the US, there is no better way to see this film than on the biggest screen you can. When the camera pans over the mass amount of desert, the vibrant colors light up the screen as the scope of the landscape becomes clear. It is not just the huge showcase scenes that are impressive though as cinematographer Greig Fraser is able to capture the more intimate moments, particularly with Paul and his mother Lady Jessica (played by Rebecca Ferguson), beautifully and showcase the more vulnerable moments on screen.
It would be enough of a cinematic experience with just the visuals, but the technical elements within the sound are award-worthy. The sound design is balanced incredibly well, something that most major blockbusters struggle to do. The dialogue is clear and easy to understand, and yet it does not take away from the roaring of the aircrafts and the action that takes place. Not only that but this film is accompanied by the best score of the year, of course, done by the one and only Hans Zimmer. The blend of orchestral music and the vocal choir creates a range of tones that helps accentuate any moment on the screen, leaving shocks going through your body. In particular, the track “Ripples in the Sand”, used as one of the leading songs in the promotional material for the film, highlights just how good this score really is.
For some people, this film may feel anti-climactic and unfulfilling as of this moment due to it being the first part. There is no clear resolution as the journey has only just begun, but the structure of the film does help answer a lot of questions and the choice of where to cut the film does feel perfect in its own way. Villeneuve has managed to create a cinematic masterpiece that makes 155 minutes fly right by, whilst also begging for another three hours to complete the rest of the story. It has been a long time since I have been this excited about a cinematic experience, and I hope everyone else goes out to support it as well.