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Film Review

Dune (2021)

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Running time: 2h 35min
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Written by Jon Spaihts (screenplay by), Denis Villeneuve (screenplay by), Eric Roth (screenplay by), Frank Herbert (novel)
Starring Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya

Frank Herbert’s Dune from 1965 is one of the most well-regarded SF novels of all time. David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation is widely considered weird and flawed. How, then, does Denis Villeneuve, who has made a name for himself as a director of somewhat artistic, critically acclaimed, yet commercially succesful films in recent years (Prisoners (2013), Sicario (2015), Arrival (2016), Blade Runner 2049 (2017), etc.), do with the material?

Sandworms have a difficult time avoiding the accumulation of sand in delicate places, making them understandably irate

I have read the book a couple of times, but I do not remember the details all that well. However, from what I recall, Villeneuve’s adaptation seems fairly faithful to the source material. That, I think, is usually a good sign — when screenwriters change the material (or needlessly add to it) they are adapting, it is quite likely that the end result will be far worse than what was there in the beginning (e.g. Game of Thrones (2011-2019), the Hobbit films).

Don’t bring a gun to a knife fight (Dune has a pretty nice logic for this, actually). Timothée Chalamet is good but not great as Paul Atreides
Jason Momoa gets to do some fighting, as is expected

The casting is quite good, featuring many established actors, and the acting is good with no weak links, but I would not say that anyone is quite excellent or particularly memorable in their role. Like the rest of Dune, the cast is competent, but does not manage to reach more than that.

Chani (Zendaya) is the exotic love interest of the white colonizer who is the hero of the story. But let’s not get political.

The visuals are fairly nice, and the effects are better than in most films, but I cannot say that I was truly impressed by them. I think the fight scenes could have been more effective without the hindrance of the PG-13 rating. There is a general weirdness to the visual and sound design that goes a tiny bit overboard for my tastes at times, but not enough for it to become a distraction. This is a film that works much better in a movie theatre than at home.

The visuals range from decent to quite nice, and from standard SF stuff to creepy weirdness
“I am eccentric evil bad guy”

I was not overly impressed by Dune, but it is good, nevertheless; I was not bored despite a 2+ hour running time, and some of the visuals are good. I would say that it is a competent film that is worth watching if SF is your thing, but that it does not rival the classics of mainstream SF cinema such as Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), or The Matrix (1999). How it will stand the test of time will also depend on how good Dune: Part Two will be, as this was only the first half of the story.

“Hold on, you can’t die yet, there’s still part 2 of the story!”
“We are not amused”

Villeneuve’s Dune is good, but not great. Part Two will also affect how people regard Part One; if it is really good, it will also elevate Part One, if not, then the opposite will happen. Despite my lukewarm tone, I applaud the effort and hope that Villeneuve keeps making movies as ambitious as this. There was clearly much effort put into the making of this film, and that is commendable. For those enjoy SF, looking for a well-made blockbuster that is more cerebral (thanks to the source material) than most of the other stuff these days, it is worth seeing.

Rating: 6.0 / 10

Times I had seen this film prior to this viewing: 0

Would I want to rewatch this film? I might, eventually

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