Tomek attests the first of Villeneuve’s volumes of the sci-fi epic is a satisfying start to the saga, but it still has its pitfalls.
When I sat down earlier this afternoon to watch Dune, I knew only two things about this film: (1) Zendaya would not be in it much, I learned that from the “trending” tab on Twitter, and (2) The story would be incomplete. Honestly, these two notions really didn’t bother me, I assumed that Zendaya’s character shall play a far greater role in the film(s) to come, and that I am perfectly happy with cliff-hangers, plot threads left in the air, etc.
Helmed by Denis Villeneuve, a fiercely accomplished filmmaker who has given us both indie darlings and breath-taking feats of blockbuster movie magic, Dune (2021) is another stunning masterpiece – at least visually. It seems Villeneuve has truly proved time and time again that he is one of the most capable directors within the high science-fiction subgenre, see Arrival or Bladerunner 2049. From a production standpoint, the CGI is flawless, and it will be intriguing to see how it ages in the coming years; likewise the sound mix is Oscar-worthy, and it shall truly be a crime if the awards for Best Sound Mix and Best Editing do not go to this film.
Neither familiar with the books, nor David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation, I felt the universe of the story was rather well set up by Villeneuve, with a multitude of planets, warring factions, and a mysterious emperor pulling the strings. It is a wet dream for anybody who likes Phantom Menace but doesn’t want to admit it is more than just a guilty pleasure.
From what I understand, the galactic economy relies heavily on a psychoactive substance known as Spice, which is mined on the desert planet Arrakis and used to help imperial ships navigate deep space. Skinny legend Timothée Chalamet is heir to House Atreides, who take over control of Arrakis from their rivals, House Harkonnen. The Harkonnens originally mined Spice through a brutal colonialist regime, terrorising the native population of Arrakis, the Fremen, who decry the mining as the stealing of a sacred substance. House Atreides arrives, to take a lighter approach to their galactic colonialism. A Liberal’s invasion, if you will.
If that all sounds a bit much, that’s because it is. The Dune saga is a vast and unwieldy beast, and ultimately the film buckles somewhat under the immense scale of the story it intends to set up. That’s not to say the filmmakers don’t do their best to balance all the variables. The acting is good and the pacing is efficient. Everything unravels at just the right time. Yet, it still feels incomplete by the end.
As I mentioned before, the thought of seeing a Part One doesn’t put me off. I was happy to go see Infinity War knowing it would have an ambiguous ending. However, what holds me back from fully enjoying Dune is the way in which the film concludes. By contrast, the first film in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, is another movie in which a world and story of epic proportions must be set up, and it does so. The wider story is nowhere near complete, however the internal story set up within the film does, and so the Part One becomes a satisfying viewing in and of itself. I fear this first Dune instalment shall only become enjoyable whenever the next films are released, and one can finally marathon them and consume a cohesive story.
And if all else fails, and the film does not make the money necessary to continue the story, then the film shall remain frozen in time as a bittersweet glimmer as what could have been. For the sake of the Dune fans, and of the filmmakers, I hope the film does perform well.
Oh gosh, it's rating time. Um, 6 or 7/10. 10/10 for giant desert space worms!
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