Dune Movie Review: Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya’s Sci-Fi Film Leaves Audience Waiting for Part 2
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Zendaya, Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista,
“This is only the beginning,” says the desert nomad Chani (Zendaya) at the end of Dune, the long-awaited adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel from the French Canadian writer-director Denis Villeneuve. Given that this 155-minute-long epic covers roughly half of the story told in the book’s several-hundred pages and is explicitly framed at the beginning as Dune: Part One, it leaves the audience at a high point for a second installment.
The story is about two families, the Harkonnens and the Atreideses, fighting it out for control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only known source of a prized substance called spice. This substance is both necessary to fuel interstellar travel and functions as a kind of performance-enhancing drug. Thanks to their exposure to ‘spice’, Arrakis’ desert-dwelling Fremen people have eerie bright-blue eyes, exceptional fighting ability, and, it is implied, psychic powers.
At the heart of the story which is set in year 10191 is Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), the teenage scion of the powerful Atreides clan. He is the son of Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), who has been assigned by the emperor to lead the forces colonizing Arrakis. The decision doesn’t go down well with the Harkonnen family, which has controlled the planet for more than 80 years. Paul’s mother Lady Jessica, (Rebecca Ferguson who part of a secret priesthood) is training him to become one of the best leaders. She has some highly developed supernatural skills; for example, they can compel even their enemies to do their bidding using a creepy digitally augmented voice.
Cinema exists to evoke. That is its primary purpose, and Dune breathlessly, relentlessly, gloriously takes over our brains as we watch its blistering narrative. This is owed, most greatly, to the film’s absolute and inspirational level of clarity. Unlike in most cinema that relies too heavily on computer generated effects, Miller’s new film decides to use mostly practical stunt-work, and, this combined with the intricacy of the action set pieces using VFX, making the audience constantly aware of the sprawling epic unfolding on screen. From dragonfly-like spaceships, to a fly shape needle made to kill and even the giant size sandworms, Villeneuve shows why he is slowly becoming the master of sci-fi cinema as he previously proved in films like Arrival and Blade Runner 2049.
There is so much detail to gape at, and so lovingly does the director show it all off, the film oozing originality at every pore. Villeneuve displays his confidence in picking up such a beloved story, builds on it, and throws us some more polarizing plot points that would be argued over in the years to come. He also skillfully combines the key elements of filmmaking – the most obvious one being the absolutely stunning cinematography by Greig Fraiser, The soundtrack was another vital element and maestro Hans Zimmer does complete justice to the film.
A large part of the film – gorgeous, breathtaking and mind numbing – reveled in posing questions about life and love and humanity without bothering to answer them. It made us wonder and question and argue.
The only problem I had was that the story ends abruptly. Warner Bros. has yet to formally green light production of the second and final instalment and Villeneuve has said that it would only happen if the film does well in theatres as well as HBO Max, the two platforms where it simultaneously releases. The sheer awesomeness of Villeneuve’s execution deserves to be watched at the biggest screen near you.
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