David Lynch’s strange 1984 filM adaption of “Dune” is an all-time guilty pleasure. Yes, it’s saddled with the shoddy special effects of the era (just pre-CGI era) some wild overacting and an almost impenetrable screenplay, but it’s also got Lynch’s twisted vision, Toto’s symphonic score and a decent cast.
That cast pales in comparison to the all-star group assembled for DUNE, Denis Villeneuve’s visually stunning new adaption. Every actor delivers in perfectly cast roles. Timothee Chalamet (Lady Bird) is Paul Atreides, being groomed for his future inheritance of his father Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) power as one of the leaders of the known universe. His mother, Lady Jessica Atreides (Rebecca Ferguson) is a member of the Bene Gesserit, who have been foretelling the coming of one man that will bring peace to all worlds.
They are pulled into massive political intrigue when they are given rule over the desert planet Dune, the only source of the mysterious “spice” that unlocks incredible power. The desert planet has been run for years by House Harkonnen and its Baron (Stellan Skarsgard in unrecognizable makeup) the “floating fat man”. Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) is scary as his nephew Beast Rabban, a lethal killer with thousands of loyal troops behind him.
The planet itself is infested with giant sandworms 400 feet long that can swallow ships in a single gulp. Hidden in the mountains of Dune are the Fremin, who have resisted rule for thousands of years. They’re led by Stilgar (Javier Bardem in a memorable performance) and Chani (Zendaya) who’s been haunting Paul’s dreams long before he makes the voyage.
I haven’t even mentioned Jason Momoa, in arguably his best film role as Duncan Idaho, a warrior in the Atreides forces or Josh Brolin as Gurney, the Duke’s bodyguard.
Every part is perfectly cast.
Villeneuve drops them all into an incredibly detailed, fully realized version of three different planets and a massive story that he instantly masters by splitting the chore of filming the book in two. By using the title card DUNE: PART ONE and stretching the running time to a fascinating and never boring 2.5 hours, he avoids the massive confusion that Lynch created by trying to jam the massive book’s epic story into a two-hour movie.
The screenplay is excellent, with Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049) and Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, Munich) delivering fleshed out characters and all the moments that fans of the novel or previous film version expect.
The cinematography by Greig Fraser (Rogue One, Zero Dark Thirty) is beautiful and the production design by Patrice Vermette (Arrival, Sicario) is jaw dropping. Every set, every spaceship, every new world delivers beyond high expectations.
Villeneuve has said that he sees DUNE as “Star Wars” for adults” and that’s an apt description. There are no goofy Ewoks for comic relief or robots arguing like an old married couple. It’s drop dead serious, and the stakes feel huge. When the massive attacks begin, the film feels more consequential.
One of the characters says to Paul, “The mystery of life isn't a problem to solve, but a reality to experience. A process that cannot be understood by stopping it. We must move with the flow of the process. We must join it. We must flow with it.”
Villeneuve cracked the mystery of adapting DUNE for the big screen.
As a massive fan of the novel and the original film, DUNE delivers on every level.
Unlike “No Time To Die”, DUNE was worth the long wait and gets an A.
Here’s hoping that Warner Bros decision to release the film in theatres and on HBO MAX the same night didn’t dilute the box office so much that Part Two never gets produced.
Villeneuve and we deserve a part two as legendary as this opening chapter.