At the onset of winter, the days get darker earlier and we are looking for more nightly entertainment.
A night at the movies becomes more appealing and “Dune” is the first major blockbuster to attempt to fill that void in your schedule. It’s pure science fiction; pure escape; and another film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction opus.
So is it good?
For a long time, Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel “Dune” was the greatest story ever told on the big screen. There are six books in the original series. They explore a galactic empire in the future, the year 10191. A dark emperor rules the galaxy with the help of many houses and the story unfolds like an intergalactic “Game of Thrones”, as each house fights for it. supremacy and favor with the emperor. This sprawling story was commonly recognized as being too large and too complex for it to ever function as a cohesive film.
Every movie studio had a “developing” Dune script, with maverick director Alejandro Jodorowsky set to produce a 14-hour film adaptation of the novel in the mid-1970s. Although this never saw the light of day , the pre-production work of French novelist Moebius and Swiss artist HR Giger has inspired many science fiction classics such as “Alien” and “Star Wars”.
As the rights expired for Universal Studios, a big budget “Dune” hit screens in 1984 and the film was subsequently bombed at the box office. Critics trashed the script and when it came out, even its director David Lynch disowned the final cut. The franchise has passed away and has been seen as a poisonous chalice for all of the major studios.
A step forward, Denis Villeneuve, acclaimed director of films such as “Prisonniers” and the sci-fi classic “Arrival”. It is also the same director who gave us a sequel to ‘Blade Runner’, a film of great importance in the science fiction genre and with cult fervor. ‘Blade Runner 2049’ was a critical and commercial success. So an adaptation of ‘Dune’ is apparently in good hands, and in my opinion the film is a smash hit.
It focuses on the fate of two noble houses as they vie for control of the planet Arrakis, or “Dune.” Despite a peaceful handover of control of the planet by House Harkonnen, a threat of war hangs in the air. It is an environmentally violent planet, where the sand engulfs the planet and the water is a frightening source. What is abundant, however, is the most precious commodity in the universe: spices. The spice, for the locals, is a magical dust; a sacred hallucinogen that prolongs life. For “aliens”, this is the key to navigating interstellar travel. Anyone who controls the harvest of the spices is in line for tremendous wealth and power.
It is a story of colonial oppression as well as a battle of greed against nature.
The plot of the film is cohesive and fairly easy to follow, even for someone as straightforward as me and without any prior knowledge of the allure of books. Names and terminology can be hard to follow at times, but you quickly catch up. Opening hour is essentially a world-building exercise, introducing us to the characters and creating the overall motivation for each character. The film is surprisingly basic in its production, with a minimalist approach to using CGI effects. The effects are kept for the war sequences, which are truly spectacular and masterfully noted by Hans Zimmer.
Other incredible visuals include the spaceship dragonfly glowing in the haze and the enormous sand worms that act as the film’s âjawsâ, ominously hidden in the background. The combat scenes are like watching medieval knights in space, the combat involving samurai-style swordplay rather than guns or fancy futuristic weapons. They feel epic in nature and scale.
We see a lot of hand-to-hand combat. These sequences are expertly choreographed, performed almost effortlessly and with royal nobility, as if being interpreted by a knight of the round table.
‘Dune’ is a dark film, in tone and coloring, and it all seems to take place in the shadows. This can be annoying, as it is often difficult to follow certain sequences. However, it also adds a lot to the tone of the film. Death and magic dominate every scene in this film. You are always on guard and never completely at ease, like watching a horror movie and waiting for the next big scare. The pace of the film is slow; linger for a long time on stages as if Villeneuve wanted the audience to contemplate the wonder he created. It can be tedious and possibly unnecessary, especially since there is such a long story to tell. The film takes focus and I think will go over the heads of a lot of kids. It’s not just an action movie, but a great story turned into a purist sci-fi movie.
‘Dune’ has an incredible cast, including Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin and Rebecca Ferguson, to name a few. Stellan SkarsgÃ¥rd steals the show as ruthless Baron Harkonnen. He looks and has similar manners to Colonel Kurtz from Marlon Brando in “Apocalypse Now”. TimothÃ©e Chalamet plays Paul Atreides, the possible messianic figure who could bring salvation to the local Fremen and, in turn, to the galaxy. He is a reluctant hero, beset by visions of the past and the future. You never really know if the character will actually be a hero, because he’s calm and thoughtful, rather than heroic and courageous. It adds a sinister nature to the character and adds a lot to the movie, as you never really know where the story is going and the plot beats aren’t easily predictable.
As the opening scene explains, this is part one – an introduction to the mythology of the “Dune” world. The film gives a taste of a world, a spicy starter to what promises to be a spectacular main course.
Whether you like it or hate it, you’ll want to visit this world againâ¦ that I can promise you.
How do you feel after reading this?