It’s been ages that I read Frank Herbert’s classic SciFi novel “Dune” so I can’t tell you how accurate or not Denis Villeneuve’s version is, what I can tell you though is that it’s a visual feast, one that you will want to watch at the biggest possible screen near you, preferably an IMAX. Did I mention that it is a visual masterpiece? I did? Well, let me tell you again, because it needs repeating at least three times. After I watched it, I wanted to watch it again, just because of the immersive world that unfolds in front of you frame by frame.
Story wise, it may not hold any surprises, even for those who haven’t read the novel or seen previous versions. The viewer is basically taken by the hand and everything is explained, not everyone will like that and at times it really seems unnecessary, esp. to the Dune initiates. The prototypical setup of the Chosen One vs. a force of evil has been done a million times over throughout the history of mankind and in that regard Dune is nothing new. In fact, when I read Dune as a kid, the geopolitical implications went completely by me and I just read it as a Space Saga, good vs. evil back then, I suggest you do the same with the movie. It provides a simpler joy. Otherwise we have to go into crude oil (spice) exploitation and phobia against certain nations vs the Offworlders (Westerners) and that’s just a tad too heady.
Instead, enjoy the visual joyride, let yourself become one with the desert. Feel the spice and marvel at the majestic Sandworms, wondering how worms can be majestic in the first place. The details that went into every frame of this work of art is mind boggling, larger than life and will blow you away although when you read the title card in the beginning stating that this is Part I, you immediately feel a little pinch in your mind, warning you that this might leave you wanting for more in the end, which is exactly what will happen. When Chani (Zendaye) turns to Paul (Timothée Chalamet) after seeing a Fremen riding a Sandworm and tells him “This is only the beginning”, I took a quick glance at my watch and cursed as the end titles rolled, I wanted more. I felt ripped out of this fantastic world, I was so eager to continue to journey further.
Considering the whole story arc, Dune is only half a movie and we will have to wait another 2 to 3 years for Part II. Visually speaking, it will always just be half a movie, even after Part II, Arrakis has got you under its spell and I for one, can’t wait to return to continue my journey through the desert following the path of the Kwisaz Haderak.
Speaking of characters, I think the cast is magnificent, and even though I usually like Jason Momoa, I think Duncan Idaho is the only role I would have cast differently, something about it just didn’t sit right with me. While we are talking minor qualms, I would be remiss not to mention two soundtrack dissonances I noticed, maybe in part due to the French UGC cinema sound setup. One, when Paul and his father Leto (Oscar Isaac) are talking on the cliff at the grandfather’s grave, it sounded too much like they were on a sound stage instead of a cliff and later during the scene when they were packing up to leave for Arrakis, super loud, super dramatic music is playing that just feels disjointed from the imagery, yet – and I get it – signifies impending doom. Again, it could be that the sound setup at the cinema I went was just shitty, it also affected the clarity of some of the dialogue, esp. when they speak Fremen, since someone thought it’s better to remove the English subtitles for the Fremen dialogue and just use French instead.
Final verdict? I said it in the beginning, go see it on the biggest screen possible, IMAX if you can. It’s meant to be experienced that way. Arrakis awaits!