20 June 2024

Film Review – Dune (2021)

In 1972 David Bowie with The Spiders From Mars sang the 1970’s Ron Davis song ‘It Ain’t Easy’, a song that relates to the mammoth task Dennis Villeneuve’s Dune. Frank Herbert’s masterful sci-fi is complicated and complexed which since it’s creation considered unfilmable. Just like Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy (also considered unfilmable), Villeneuve achieves the impossible. No easy task, impressive, immersive cinematic experience that you can now enjoy in the comfort of your own home.

Herbert released his literature opus in 1965. Many have tried and failed to bring some version of the book to the big and small screen. David Lynch’s seriously mediocre 1984 film was a mess that Lynch nearly 40 years later still disowns it. All those decades later many consider his misfire a ‘cult’ film, or was it it just to see Sting in his blue under-crackers in 4K?

We mustn’t forget Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 14 hour marathon with French artist Moebius and HR Giger that nearly happened in the 1970’s. Which was going to have Salvador Dali as the emperor and Orson Welles as Baron Harkonen which was to be a psychedelic mind trip for people who took LSD!

Timothee Chalamet is our Paul Atriedes, a gifted young man of a noble family, son of Duke Leo Atriedes (Oscar Isaac) and Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson). The House Of Atriedes take control of the desert planet of Arakis, also known as ‘Dune’. Paul is plagued visions of a mysterious blue eyed girl (Zendaya) on a desert planet, believing this is his destiny to find her. Could she be on Arakis, a planet that has one valuable asset the spice which makes your eyes go blue when you consume it. This asset makes the house an easy target from invaders , soon Atriedes is betrayed. Paul and his mother escape and into the mercy of the barren desert.

Dune is one of those films that asks for your patience as it takes it’s time to get started. There’s a lot on show here and if you have read or seen previous incarnations you probably know is coming. Villeneuve wants you to digest the build up, awe at the technology, the world building, mythology along with the scale and scope. The film opens a Pandora’s box on what the film has to offer. Next to the obvious elements of sci-fi we have religion, politics, and coming of age.

We did say this film’s story was complexed, even a little too personal to the author. Some may say it’s reactionary with an array of ideologies on show. From Neo-liberalism to fascism and the Alt-right, which Herbert called his critique of what was going on at the time of writing. Whatever your opinion, Dune is heavily woven into science fiction folklore.

The film may have 2 ½ hour running time, this is only half of the journey. What we have the exposition maybe heavy, at times it runs like a perfect glass of wine. Slowly maturing into a science fiction Valhalla so we can enjoy every step. The pace is slow and probably disappoint the average cinephile, even more those expecting a Star Wars style epic. Dune is majestic Shakespearean or even Roman Tragedy, struggle for power, unity, even love.

Villeneuve’s vision is concise, it also feels grounded with world building that’s simply mind-blowing . You can clearly see he has a love and passion for the books. Uses the modern technology that Lynch didn’t have the luxury of to it’s fullest to immerse us completely. With so much mythology to dissect, Villeneuve takes the viewer by the hand to guide us on the safer passage, with so many pitfalls to lose us.

Like any epic film the cast is big and sometimes character get lost in the narrative. Some of argued this film loses a few of them, at the same time you could lose focus on the important characters as they only play bit parts on their journey. Chalamet once again rises to the challenge in a confident performance bringing his A-Game. The spotlight might be on our young lead, Rebecca Ferguson might just be the true star. With a magnificent pivotal nuanced performance that has power and vulnerability.

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune might not be the perfect film many want it to be, it’s damn close to it. He does work wonders and Blade Runner 2049 proved he could cope with the mammoth task. He is one of Hollywood’s visionary film-makers, delivering an immersive, evocative and exciting experience.


Sci-Fi, Action, Drama | Canada, 2021 | 12 | Blu-Ray, 4K, DVD, Digital | 31st January, 2022 | Dir: Denis Villeneuve | Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling

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