Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is the piece of cinema the world has been waiting for. Based on the 1965 science fiction novel of the same name by Frank Herbert, the book is claimed to be the greatest science fiction of all time and has been adapted on screen unsuccessfully before by a critical filmmaker David Lynch. However, this Timothee Chalamet starer exceeds all speculations and stands tall and proud as a piece that liberates you and makes you fall in love with the beauty of films all over again.
The adaptation only covers the initial two parts of the first book in the Dune book series that are titled ‘Dune’ and ‘Muad’Dib’, respectively. The film flaunts an ensemble cast that includes: Timothee Chalamet as the protagonist Paul Atreides, Rebecca Ferguson as the Lady Jessica, Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto, Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck, Zendaya as Chani, Javier Bardem as Stilgar, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Dr. Liet-Kynes, Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and several other known faces.
– Dune Part One Review contains mild spoilers –
Dune Part One: Welcome To Arrakis
The film is set in the future, somewhere in “a galaxy far far away” much like Star Wars where the currency to unlimited power and superhuman like abilities is ‘Melange’ or ‘Spice’ that is treasured in the Desert Planet Arrakis, informally known as Dune. Duke Leto is offered the stewardship of this dangerous planet and even though the Duke knows that Dune is the house of his enemies, the Harkonnens, he still accepts. Thus, starts the journey of young Paul Atreides, the son of Duke Leto in a path that seems destined yet unpredictable.
Along with his son and royal concubine the Lady Jessica, Duke Leto embraces their apparent new home. But, Dune is not just the treasure trove of the Universe’s most valuable substance, it is also the land of Fremen and deadly sandworms and most importantly, a trap set up by the Harkonnens to get the better of the Atreides family. The film explores the events that follow due to these circumstances with a primary focus on Paul Atreides, who is possibly much more than just another ducal heir.
The film covers real-life aspects of advanced science, philosophy and ecology, even hinting towards the effects of greed that causes climate change. It makes the viewer a curious cat as it feeds us adventurous, new revelations that makes us ask for more. Dune also focuses a lot on interpersonal relationships and politics involved in the everyday world making the piece as relatable today as the day it was written.
Even though the film covers only the first two sections of the first volume in the Dune Saga, it does a fine job of touching on the key aspects of the book which is probably the most important factor while making a literary adaptation. Denis Villeneuve, who has, over the course of time, candidly admitted how adapting Dune has been his longstanding dream, has finally made it all come true not only for himself but also for the audience who have adored him since Incendies.
Dune Part One: All The Jewels In The Crown
An immense part of Dune’s success is dedicated to its diligent and sensational cast and crew. Villeneuve was assisted by the Academy award-winning writer for Forrest Gump, Eric Roth and author Jon Spaihts to write the screenplay and the excellence reflects beautifully on screen. Greig Fraser, who has previously impressed us in Zero Dark Thirty, Rogue One and Lion, gives life to Frank Herbert’s classic on screen through his brilliant cinematography.
Pushing the envelope, it is Hans Zimmer who created a whole new set of instruments and sounds to make sure every tune in the film is a melody that awakens your soul. The Dune Sketchbook (Music from the Soundtrack), Dune (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), and The Art and Soul of Dune are all available to stream on Spotify.
As for the cast, Timothee Chalamet fits in perfectly in the role of young Paul Atreides with curious eyes and the calm & stern demeanour of an heir. It is a pleasure to see him look with awe and feel happiness near characters like Halleck and Idaho during the first half of the film and then develop into a more serious and sensitive individual in the latter half of the film as the spice awakens his superhuman like abilities. The effects of the war and what cost it, is shown tremendously well in Chalamet’s character arc.
Rebecca Ferguson as the Lady Jessica plays a major role alongside Chalamet and delivers her character with ‘Bene Gesserit’ like flair. Oscar Isaac, Javier Bardem, Stellan Skarsgård understood the assignment without any hindrance and let us witness their charisma on screen.
Dune Part One: The Pebbles In The Desert
Even with the effort the entire film has put in, there are certain misses and yes, reading the book first and then watching the film would give the audience a lot of clarity. For instance, if you are someone who has not read the book series, the film will fail to explain certain important points such as, what is a Kwisatz Haderach? Few revelations are left untold, probably for the second part of the film to connect the dots which includes Lady Jessica’s ancestry which possibly explains why Paul is called ‘The One’.
The last interaction of Duke Leto and Paul seems offbeat, with no closure between the father-son bond that was built so beautifully at the beginning in Caladan. The fates of Thurif Hawat and Gurney Halleck are left unsaid for the audience to desperately wait for a sequel to finish what Villeneuve has started. There is a lack of character development apart from that of Paul Atreides’ which we can all blame on the short screen time given in the film.
However, it is important to remember that Villeneuve has tried to wield a rather exhaustive and vast piece of literature into the folds of a motion picture and thus, the experience for people who’ve read the book might not be all glitter and gold. Having said that, there is no denying that the adaptation has excellently tried to honour Frank Herbert’s masterpiece. The life of Paul Atreides on the planet of Dune and the secrets he will uncover is all very tempting and pull you to be a part of this grand Universe.
Dune Part One: Final Verdict
Watching Dune is a choice that makes you feel opulent due to the grandness of the film but also confronts you with the reality of life. Every frame is overwhelmingly spectacular and it is hard to not appreciate all the hard work and creativity that has gone into making this film. In the end, we can all agree that a sequel is essential and much-awaited.
Dune is now available in the theatres near you. The film was shot for the IMAX format and thus, it is encouraged to watch it on IMAX screens. For the ones who want to catch it at home, Dune is also exclusively streaming now on HBO Max.