- Release Date: 22/10/2021
- Cast: Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, Oscar Issac, Stellan Skarsgard, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista, Zendaya
- Director: Denis Villeneuve
Denis Villeneuve’s vision for Dune is a lot more grounded than what we got from David Lynch in 1984. By being serious, realistic, and somber in his approach to the story, Villeneuve gets the first things right. The film quickly makes you part of the narrative. It makes you like and care for the character of Leto Atreides (Oscar Issac) and his family compromising of his concubine Jessica (Rebecca Fergusson) and his son Paul (Timothee Chalamet) who we all know will be the protagonist of the story.
In the fictional world of Dune, the Emperor of the known world hands over the reins of the planet of Arrakis to the Atreides. The Emperor does so by snatching the same away from the brutal and almost inhuman, Harkonnens. From the very beginning, we know that Leto and his house are being cajoled into taking up a responsibility that looks great on the surface but is just an elaborate conspiracy underneath the fluff and the pleasantries. Even Leto suspects the actions of the Emperor but is unfortunately not fully aware of the depths of the conspiracy.
The planet Arrakis is the only source of the substance known as Spice mélange in the entire universe and the Spice is critical to ensure the continuance of space travel. Thus Arrakis enjoys extreme geopolitical importance and any house that rules the planet has almost as much power as the Emperor himself. Hence it is imperative for Leto to answer the call of the Emperor and proceed to take control of the planet. The Emperor, on the other hand, has also forged a deal with the Harkonnen who had ruled the planet for 80 years to overthrow and obliterate the House Atreides as he feels that the Atreides are a threat to his supremacy over the known world.
Duke Leto is also making his own plans to have lasting control on the planet by forging an alliance with the Fremen of Arrakis. The Fremen are the original inhabitants of Arrakis and have been subjugated by the Harkonnens for 80 years. Leto wants to take them in his folds and ensure that he has their support during conflicts and the harvesting of the Spice.
The Duke’s concubine, Jessica belongs to an order known as the Bene Gesserit. The Bene Gesserit are possessed of unique skills and supernatural abilities. They are soothsayers, fortunetellers, and mind-benders. The mother supreme of the order is the soothsayer to The Emperor himself. One of the aims of the Bene Gesserit is to bring forth the birth of the Kwisatz Haderach or a sentinel being that can bend space and time and see past and future at the same moment. Such a being would ensure world peace and order. The Bene Gesserit have been trying to forge the birth of the being by matching bloodlines of different houses. Jessica was ordered to bear a girl for Leto Atreides but she instead bore him a son as she believed that Paul could be the Kwisatz Haderach. She starts training him in the way of the Bene Gesserit. This gives Paul some unique abilities and visions that let him see things that seem to be shaping his life on Arrakis. While he doesn’t understand these visions completely, they sure inspire and compel him to pursue the path laid by them.
As is clear from the above descriptions, Dune is brimming with plot elements, characters, drama, intrigue, and a story that is relentless. The film never stops to take a breath. Contrary to David Lynch’s manner of expositionary voiceovers, Denis Villeneuve explains the various aspects of the story and the characters through dialogues and a few expositionary sequences but very few voiceovers. The only voiceovers that we get are from the character of Chani (Zendaya) who Paul dreams of. Even those voiceovers are more of expositionary sequences than voiceovers. What I loved about the storytelling of Dune was its serious and sometimes dark take on the subject. There are a few comic moments here and there but the somber and morose atmospheric feel always weighs down on the proceedings. For a film that was 2 hours and 35 minutes long and covered only half of the story, the film felt remarkably breezy.
As the film progresses we find major characters in mortal danger. While I knew exactly which ones would die, I still felt something when those characters actually died. This proves that the actors were successful in enveloping my senses with their rendition of the respective characters. The story and the settings felt real. The way the characters played off each other felt organic and that in so many ways elevated the story.
The Harkonnens were a massive improvement from the David Lynch version. Every action of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is evidently guided by his unquenchable thirst for profit and income. This makes for a much more realistic, believable, and threatening reason for him to do what he is shown doing. The character designs are ages better. The rendition of both Vladimir and Rabban by Stellan Skarsgard and Dave Bautista respectively are pitch-perfect and give out the right vibes. Even the flight of the Baron is majestic here improving upon the comical floating around of the Baron in the 1984 film.
I was bowled over by the fantastic visual effects and the gorgeous world of the film. The production design team has envisioned a world that not only looks real and yet unimaginably creative and fantastical but also feels lived in. Every corridor of the household, every inch of the sand, and every drop of the water in the film feels organic. One has to accept the fact that the world of Dune is very much a character of the film and it had to be realized well if the film had to have a considerable impact. That is something that the design team achieves with finesse and unbelievable creativity.
I loved the technology of the film. The Ornithopter in Arrakis was easily one of the most innovative and yet believable pieces of technology of the film. I loved how they introduced it and how they demonstrated its mechanism. It is something that is done in a matter of 5-8 cuts and yet is so effective that it gives you the idea of what to expect from it. The same can be said about the harvesters or even the battleships. Amours, camouflages, and force fields are rendered in the most believable manner possible. I noticed how they explained the concept of the slow blade piercing the armor but then again made Gurney (Josh Brolin) unnecessarily mouth out dialogs to reiterate the same. The desert suits seemed inspired by the David Lynch suit design but still looked perfect.
The action sequences of the film, even though there aren’t too many, were stunning. In so many ways, these sequences whetted my appetite and made me aware of what was about to come next. One sequence that grabbed my attention was the one that Paul dreams of, where he is shown fighting in the desert with the apparent Harkonnen forces. This action sequence really made me curious about what it would be like to see an entire war sequence unfold with the kind of action choreography that was demonstrated in that sequence. That is something that I would be looking forward to in the next film.
I loved Dune to the core. It was everything that I expected it to be and a little more. Since I haven’t read the book, I will not have some of the nitpicky issues with it that many of the purists will have. I was enthralled by its visual splendor. I was thrilled by its action and the intrigue in the story. I thoroughly enjoyed all the performances. Dune in many ways put together the broken pieces of my heart that films like No Time to Die, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, and Shang Chi so miserably broke. This is definitely a [theatrical] must-watch on the biggest screen possible with the crispiest sound available.
Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)
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