By Iris Knapman | Review Editor
The greatly anticipated movie adaptation of Frank Hubert’s Dune has finally landed in cinemas in what can only be described as a qualified success. The movie not only grossed $223.2 million in North America, easily becoming David Villeneuve’s most financially successful project, but has received critical acclaim among fans of the original book. Its all-star cast, fantastic visuals, and score composed by the celebrated Hans Zimmer work in tandem to create what is, objectively, a mind-blowing cinematic experience.
PLOT: 5/5 STARS
If interstellar political intrigue, ancient religious prophecies, and a hopeless fight for survival on an alien planet intrigues you, then Dune is absolutely for you. Dune did faction warfare years before Game of Thrones, immersing us in the affairs of House Atreides as a power player within the Empire. Here’s the premise: the Emperor strips the barbaric House Harkonnen of its fiefdom over Arrakis, a colonised desert planet rich in melange or “spice,” a psychedelic drug necessary for continued space travel after the in-universe ban on computer technology. Instead, the sandy death trap is offered to Duke Leto of Atreides, the protagonist Paul’s father.
While the spice market generates much in terms of wealth and power, it would be foolish to consider it a gift from the Emperor. It is explained that House Atreides’ influence within the empire rivals that of the Emperor himself. Therefore, there is likely a fatal catch to his newfound territory. Leto, aware that the lives of his family (and his own) are being threatened, seeks to use it to his advantage.
The Atreides family descend into their duties and establish a relationship with the Fremen, the Arrakis natives with bright blue eyes due to their long-term exposure to spice, and believers in a prophecy that promises a “mahdi” (meaning guided one, or savior) will come to them from another world and lead them to Paradise. Leto hopes that the manpower of the Fremen will be enough to prevent Arrakis from falling under the oppressive Harkonnen rule again (and instead swap it for the less oppressive Atreides rule, I suppose) and protect his family from destruction.
Any further explanation will be delving dangerously far into spoiler territory, and I would rather not spoil the potential experience for any of you persuaded by this review.
Coming to understand the political conflict and the subsequent suspense in watching a family devoted to one another thrust into a precarious situation lead to a thrilling watch and I left the cinema feeling inspired.
For someone who hasn’t read the book, the movie did quite a good job of explaining the lore without any jarring expository voice-overs or out-of-place dialogue. There was some information left unexplained (which had to be relayed to me by my friend who had read it), such as the existence of mentats, the professionals trained on melange to replace technology.
This movie was actually my first time seeing Timothée Chalamet in action, and he did a pretty good job considering Paul is meant to be fifteen. Chalamet’s youthful looks help to convey the character’s age on top of his acting ability. I imagine the casting direction was also grounded in Chalamet’s current popularity to draw further attention to the movie (outside of the original Dune fans.) He’s not the only other A-list actor to grace the screen, as he acts alongside other big names such as Spiderman’s Zendaya, Star Wars’ Oscar Isaac, Aquaman’s Jason Momoa, and former professional wrestler David Batista among others. Consequently, the performances were enjoyable across the board, and I saw them as their characters rather than themselves, which is a problem that sometimes arises with major actors.
Paul feels somewhat lacklustre, though this is less an issue with the movie or acting but the original book. Many protagonists suffer from being bland people called towards grand destinies, and Paul is one of them. Nevertheless, there are elements to his character I found endearing, such as him listening to educational holo-tapes to learn about Arrakis because he finds himself inexplicably drawn to the planet due to his visions.
Otherwise, other characters – such as his parents – felt like their own people with vital importance to the plot as opposed to figures designed only to propel Paul’s story forwards.
PRODUCTION VALUE: 5/5
The enormous budget for this movie is made very apparent upon watching; the cinematography was beyond description, quite honestly. I found myself in awe at the beauty of this movie, as it’s been a long time since I saw a movie that truly wowed me in the visual department given the current standards of CGI. Dune has been described as unfilmable before due to the sheer effort it would take to accurately match the imagery conjured by Hubert. However, Villeneuve has achieved the impossible and I think he deserves credit for his ability to pull this off to great success.