Hollywood is all about remakes and reboots. The latest to get the remake treatment is Dune. Based on the original 1965 novel of the same name, Dune was originally made into an iconic 1984 film directed by David Lynch, then into a TV series in 2000 that spawned a Children of Dune sequel series in 2003.

Now, after 18 years and multiple COVID-related delays, Dune is finally set to be released this weekend.

Review | Dune

To make Dune right, it would take a visionary director. That moniker is thrown around a lot these days, but few directors actually live up to it. Denis Villeneuve is one of the handful of directors who has rightfully earned the visionary title.

If you’re unfamiliar with his work, he directed Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, Sicario, Prisoners, and more. He dreams big and films even bigger, and was in staunch opposition to Warner Bros. allowing its entire 2021 film slate to appear on the HBO Max streaming service.

After viewing Dune, it’s easy to see why Villeneuve was so against the film being available on the small screen right alongside the theatrical release. Dune is big, loud, and epic in almost every way imaginable.

There are shades of Christopher Nolan when the film score is so loud and overpowering that you can barely make out what the characters are saying. Watching this film on anything other than a massive IMAX screen seems silly, but watching it on a phone or even a TV screen is practically an insult.

Dune is a human story. It takes place some 15,000 years into humanity’s future. While this is an interstellar film, most of the two and a half hour plus runtime is relegated to the planet Arrakis, also known as “Dune”.

It’s a desert planet with temperatures so high that it’s unsafe to be in direct sunlight during the day. When traveling across the sand one has to be mindful of the giant sandworms that track almost any kind of movement, and can reach lengths of up to 400 meters.

All of this risk is worth it for the treasures that can be mined on the planet. Melange, better known as “spice”, is exclusive to Arrakis and used to not only enhance humans, but also allows for faster-than-light travel.

For thousands of years, the galactic empire has allowed House Harkonnen to rule over the planet and its inhabitants, the Fremen. Much like Game of Thrones, the various houses of the galaxy are in constant competition. When the empire gives Arrakis to House Atreides, the Harkonnen do not take it well.

While the cinematography takes center stage in Dune, with wide sweeping shots of massive spaceships and never ending desert landscapes, the cast holds their own as well. Oscar Isaac is commanding as Duke Leto Atreides, the head of House Atreides.

Yet his performance allows for a challenging and convincing balance with the character’s kind and gentle interior. This balance is especially clear during scenes with the duke’s main concubine, Lady Jessica Atreides (Rebecca Ferguson).

Lady Jessica is a calculated warrior and proud mother. Ferguson plays this role with the nuance one would expect from a period drama, not a Star Wars-like space opera. Her emotions are on heavy display when it comes to matters of her son, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet).

While Paul is frail and timid throughout most of the film, he offers a commanding presence when the moment calls for it. The standout performances help drive Dune’s narrative home and fully engross the audience in the plot. Of course, there’s still room for less nuanced performances.

Jason Mamoa is typecast as the boastful warrior, Duncan Idaho, while Dave Bautista seems almost wasted as the brooding nephew of Stellan Skarsgård’s Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, head of House Harkonnen.

All of these performances, big and small, are a necessity due to the somewhat slow pacing of the film. As only part one of two, there’s still a lot more story to tell when the credits role on Dune. There’s enough here to get invested, and while the story is not complete, it’s compelling enough to want more, but it’s a long time to sit in a theater and not get a more complete story.

Much like Blade Runner 2049 before it, Dune is exactly how you bring a 1980s sci-fi classic into modern times. Fans of the original film will find that this version sticks a bit closer to the novel, but still offers plenty of what made the first film such a classic.

If you’re a fan of sci-fi there’s a lot to love about Dune, with the only major downfall being the fact that we only get half a movie, with a yet to be green-lit part two likely not arriving until at least late 2023.


Pros:

  • Massive scale and impressive cinematography
  • Multiple standout performances from the cast
  • The special effects are some of the most realistic in modern sci-fi
  • The screenplay should please fans of the original source material and the 1984 film

Cons:

  • Only part one of two
  • The film score is sometimes too overbearing
  • A runtime that is over two and a half hours in length
  • The pacing feels slow, especially early in the film

 

Score: 8.5/10