‘Dune’ (2021) Review

To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Dune (2021) is an epic science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve with a screenplay by Jon Spaihts, Villeneuve, and Eric Roth. It is the first of a planned two-part adaptation of the 1965 novel of the same name by Frank Herbert, primarily covering the first half of the book. Set in the far future, it follows Paul Atreides, as he and his family, the noble House Atreides, are thrust into a war for the dangerous desert planet Arrakis, between the native Fremen people and the enemy invaders, and former rulers of Arrakis, the House Harkonnen. The film stars an ensemble cast including Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem.

The casting of this film was well done with every actor embodying their character perfectly. Unlike the previous film, Timothée Chalamet looks a lot more like a young man than Kyle MacLachlan even though they were both around the same when cast in their respective films. The difference is their builds and Chalamet’s more slender body type makes it easier for him to play a teenager. Paul is someone who does not want to lead and wants to have as normal of a life as a person in his position can. This is atypical of a normal hero who yearns for more responsibility or adventure. Oscar Isaac is great as Leto Atreides. He is the wise and solemn leader of House Atreides and a great father to Paul and lover to his concubine, Lady Jessica. Leto is not above his duty but cares more about the people under his command which is something you rarely see in people of his stature. Rebecca Ferguson turns in a stunning performance as Lady Jessica. She loves Paul and Leto and struggles between her duty to her family and her duty to the Bene Gesserit. Since Dune (2021) is part one of a single story, many actors appear in the trailer who barely show up in the film including Zendaya, Javier Bardem, Bill Skarsgård, and Dave Bautista. What’s interesting about this is that the audience is given enough of a taste that more is desired from these characters.

The cinematography is just outstanding. Watching the ships rising from the sea on the ocean planet Caladan is done on such a scale where a human is put into frame to show how small they are compared to these creatures and machines. There is so much detail put into everything that appears on the screen that makes this world feel believable. The same amount of detail that is put into the giant worms swimming through the sand is put into the water collecting in the ears of a little mouse running across the desert. The CGI in this film is magnificent with a lot of the effects passing as practical. The scope and gravitas are matched with another great score by Hans Zimmer, once again proving to be unmatched in the craft of film composing. There are more bagpipes than I thought would be necessary, but it somehow works.

There is something about futuristic films where the technology used is still very minimal that is believable. In this film, there aren’t any television shows, movies, or social media, but we do see digital books for learning, energy armor, and space travel. This is an element that is repeated throughout many futuristic sci-fi stories. That makes Dune (2021) very similar to Star Wars and if I’m correct the original book was one of George Lucas’ inspirations. There are so many plotlines that are carried over such as the prophetic child, the evil emperor, and the nigh uninhabitable desert planet. There were many times throughout this film where if you replaced a regular weapon with a lightsaber it would be indistinguishable from a Star Wars film.

Dune is a slow burn focusing more on story than spectacle and in some aspects, it hurts to film. Certain scenes do feel like they drag on longer than they should and could have been cut down to make the film a little tighter. Once you get towards the end of the film knowing it’s not the end of the story you begin wondering where they are going to make the cut. Another issue is where the cut to black is made. The film should have ended 15 minutes earlier because it stops right at the middle of a story beat. This accentuates Dune (2021) feeling more like an incomplete story instead of part one of two.

Beyond the great cast, the great acting, and the overall beautiful visuals and presentation, this film volunteers a lot of lore that is worth exploring deeper. Every sci-fi film usually has some lore that helps push the story forward, but the lore in Dune makes you want to know about the farthest reaches of the universe and how it came to be. This is all explored more in the books the film makes sequels and spinoffs almost a necessity. Hence why I do believe that this film should have been extended into a limited series so Denis Villeneuve could’ve taken as much time as necessary to flesh out this universe. Series have more leeway to be a slow burn because there is a break at the end of each 45 minutes to an hour to reboot before the next episode.

Like many films, today Dune (2021) would have worked better as a limited series. The story is basically Game of Thrones in space. The content here is so rich and deep that it could easily be explored in four or five hour-long episodes. I give Dune (2021) a Decent 7/10. It’s a good thing the sequel was officially happening because without it this film would be incomplete. Also, now Denis Villeneuve wants to make a Dune Trilogy by adapting the sequel novel, Dune Messiah. It’ll be interesting to see if it happens.


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