Dune MOvie review
Luke Rapallo '24
Dune is often cited as one of the most influential sci-fi novels of all time, and this year the classic 1965 novel is getting its second shot at the big screen. Frank Herbert’s iconic novel was originally adapted for film by David Lynch in 1984, being panned critically, currently sporting a cool 45% on rotten tomatoes. There was much criticism of that film for not staying true to the source material, so obviously Dune fans have been excited to see acclaimed director Denis Villenueve’s adaptation of the story. The question is how does the “New Dune” stack up? Is it true to the books? What changes were made? Where they for the better? These are a few questions I seek to answer in this article.
Dune is a political story in nature. It’s a very complicated story, with little hidden intricacies and subplots that don’t fully reveal themselves until the final moments of the story. It would be impossible to try to summarize the whole plot in just one paragraph, so I’m going to remain relatively vague about the synopsis. In very simplified terms, Dune is about a young Prince named Paul (Timotheé Chalamet), and his family dealing with the political tribulations of managing a new and hostile environment, after they are commanded to seize control of a desert planet named Arrakis. I won’t reveal what happens from then on but it certainly goes in a direction most aren’t expecting.
Theme-wise, the film and book are both heavily focused on religion, politics, leaders, and exploitation. The film remains remarkably faithful to the novel; throughout the entire film I kept anticipating the movie to leave something crucial from the novel out, but I was pleasantly surprised to say that that was not the case. One major caveat about the new Dune film is that it is not a complete story yet. Dune has around 900 pages (not including appendices) so this film only covers around the first third of the novel, so don't go into the experience expecting a neatly bow wrapped story. The good news, however, is that the sequel was just greenlit by the production company.
Getting into my opinion on the movie, I’ll start with the cinematography. Strictly visually, Dune was an absolute joy to watch. No matter how mundane the moment, the movie always finds a way to keep your eyes gripped to the screen, using beautiful shot composition as well as excellent environments that leave you questioning how exactly this foreign world operates. The special effects are top notch as well, so much so that you don’t even think about them until well after other elements of the movie. Another outstanding element of Dune is the sound design. Specifically sound effects, which take place during the various dream sequences. You may hear whispers and loud droning sounds that put you squarely into the confusing perspective of a person who is observing a prophetic vision. The music, written by Hans Zimmer, is constantly trying to make you feel out of place, much how the character of Paul does in this new environment. The loud blaring horns mixed with a soft string instrument clash in a way that sounds both beautiful, as well as almost hostile to the ears.
The performances in Dune were good, however there weren’t any amazing performances. The main three stars of the movie being Timotheé Chalamet (Paul), Oscar Isaac (Leto), and Rebecca Ferguson (Jessica). I thought Chalamet did a good job at portraying the cold nature of Paul, however some more emotional scenes in the film didn’t quite stick the landing. Oscar Isaac had by far the best performance, displaying great range, especially in emotional scenes which didn’t feel forced or awkward like other emotional scenes in the movie. Rebecca Ferguson did a good job as Jessica, doing a good job at seeming like a mother concerned for the well being of her son, however occasionally she took this a little too far, to the point where her only character traits seemed to be worrying about Paul. My main criticism of Dune is definitely pacing. The movie has a run time of over two and a half hours, one I believe is warranted, as the movie has a lot of ground to cover plot wise. I believe the movie could be this long and still be a masterpiece, however as it stands now, it is sort of an accordion of tension, instead of being a slow build to a climax. It goes from about twenty minutes of mellow talking to about twenty minutes of action, and this cycle is repeated until the movie is over.
Dune is an amazing, beautiful, but flawed movie. However I think its strengths far outweigh its faults, as the pacing doesn’t come close to ruining the inherent beauty of this film. I definitely recommend this movie to everyone, from a newcomer to Dune, to even the most hardcore fans. If I were to give Dune a score out of ten, for me it would be an 8/10. If you are looking for a quality film, check out Dune in theaters.