Re-birth of a sci-fi classic

Re-birth of a sci-fi classic

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Re-birth of a sci-fi classic
(Photos courtesy of WARNER BROS)

It feels like ages since David Lynch's 1984 version of Dune, an epic space action film based on the 1965 science fiction novel of the same name by Frank Herbert, was released. Often referred to as a mature version of Star Wars, the Dune franchise is big. The books are known for their complexity and are filled with lore, exposition and backstories that many fans felt was impossible to translate into a big-screen film.

While Lynch's version received a mixed response, especially in terms of pointless direction and flawed execution, I still enjoyed the film. So nearly four decades later, having the director who gave us movies like Arrival (2016) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017) handling this timeless sci-fi story is appropriate. The 2021 version of Dune by French filmmaker Denis Villeneuve lives up to its potential with grand visualisations thanks in part to modern filmmaking technology. Unlike the 1984 version where Lynch squeezed the entire story into a single movie, Villeneuve decided to make the latest version a two-part adaptation, allowing more room for the story to breathe. But despite the 156-minute runtime of part one, Dune feels more or less like an introduction or giant movie trailer rather than a proper movie.

Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), a gifted young man and the heir of House Atreides, an aristocratic family that rules planet Caladan. He is born into a destiny beyond his understanding. Entrusted with the protection of the most valuable asset and vital element in the galaxy, Paul must travel to a dangerous planet and fight enemies to ensure the future of his family and his people.

Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson in Dune.

Everything we see in the latest Dune feels otherworldly. The cinematography, the designs, the settings, the set and the costumes are stunning. If you were impressed by the visuals of Blade Runner 2049, you can expect the same perfection here. You're not just watching characters on another planet but it feels like you've been transported to that planet with them through the landscapes, the architecture of homes, the interiors of spaceships, or the cities they visit. And that's not to mention the inventive nature of warfare and the history of politics with different civilisations audiences are treated to. Everything feels like a living, breathing, tangible world. That's how immersive it is.

The cast members in Dune are solid across the board. Chalamet, who stars as the young Paul Atreides is just as dreamy and tortured as you could want a heartthrob to be. I also loved Oscar Isaac and Rebecca Ferguson as Duke Leto Atreides and Lady Jessica. Meanwhile, Javier Bardem as Stilgar, the leader of the Fremen, the natives of Arrakis, is also a great addition. And then there are the villains such as Stellan Skarsgard, who is effectively grotesque and sinister as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. Since this is only the first half of the movie, Zendaya who plays the character Chani is not featured in the film that much. Instead, she appears mostly in the form of a mysterious girl who keeps showing up as a vision in Paul's prophetic dreams. She's mostly a music video character in the movie and some Zendaya fans may be a little disappointed to learn that. However, I'm sure we will get to see more of her in the sequel.

It's understandable why all the reviews from fans and critics praise the technical aspects of this film because it is deserved. In terms of visuals and production value, Dune will no doubt be a contender in the upcoming awards season. However, if we judge the film by its plot, I'm afraid the first part of Dune doesn't have much to offer.

The overall story and development feels bland and slow. It's clear the studio is setting this up as a potential franchise and much of what happens in this film has no conclusion. So storywise, there's nothing much to be told here other than to serve as an introduction to each character and what's going on in the galaxy.

This is a very long movie and feels a bit dragged at times. I think that is part of what disappoints me most about it. It gives us the feeling they are purposely saving the good and exciting stuff for the sequel. I mean, why do we have to sit through two-and-a-half hours if we're going to have to wait for the sequel for the better stuff? Nonetheless, this is an absolutely technically brilliant and visually stunning film with a top-notch cast and deep sci-fi concepts. However, without a second part, Dune feels half empty.

  • Dune
  • Starring Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac
  • Directed by Denis Villeneuve
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