It’s been a long wait, but we can finally welcome ‘Dune’ into cinemas across the land. And what a wait it has been. When the pandemic claimed the release dates of many a blockbuster, Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic faced a bitter fight to keep itself as a theatrical release. Thankfully Warner Bros gave it back to theatres after initially suggesting a streaming release, and we are all the better for it. There are a lot of films that don’t necessarily warrant a cinema viewing. This is not one of them. Cinemas were made for films like ‘Dune’.
‘Dune: Part 1’ (and that’s a crucial element I’ll talk about a bit later) is a big screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s acclaimed science fiction novel. It had already spawned a film in 1984 with ‘Twin Peaks’ supremo David Lynch in the director’s chair, and also penning the script from Herbert’s beloved book. Denis Villeneuve’s version is a far more accessible beast, and one that takes the best elements of the story to deliver a cerebral but enthralling and mature blockbuster that runs at its own pace and doesn’t feel the need to dumb-down anything for a ‘one size fits all’ audience. As a result, Dune may not pull in big numbers akin to a Marvel movie, but its vision and artistic merit must be looked at and appreciated just as readily as its box-office returns.
This is a spoiler-free review so I won’t go into too much detail with regard to the plot, but the film revolves around Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet, in a role he was born to play). He is the son of a noble family led by Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) and his wife Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), who are entrusted with the harvesting and subsequent security of the most valuable commodity in the galaxy. This has inherent risks, and soon the Atreides clan come under attack in a calculated power move. Paul must step up and master his own powers in order to take the helm and face his challenges head-on.
‘Dune’ clearly states in the opening frames that this is Part One. Costs and the pandemic have combined to give this an uncertain future, with filming yet to begin on Part Two. That’s a big worry, because this is a rare, beautiful gem that utterly deserves its second chapter. If Warner Bros wrongly go on box-office figures alone, they are denying us one of the great sci-fi movies of our time. I’d even go so far as to say that not greenlighting a second ‘Dune’ movie would be one of the biggest missteps Hollywood has ever taken. I don’t say that lightly, and I hope they have the courage of their conviction to see this project through with the same artistic merit and vision the first part has in abundance.
Denis Villeneuve is a master filmmaker, and his steady and progressive growth has culminated in this gorgeously rendered and intelligent film. But much like the criminally under-appreciated ‘Blade Runner 2049’ showed, box office returns don’t always reflect the quality on the big screen. The aftermath of that release makes me fear that ‘Dune’ will suffer a similar fate, and that would be a crying shame. ‘Dune’ is an expansive story told on a broad and bold canvas. It’s not shallow popcorn fare like the latest ‘Fast & Furious’ movie, so weighing it against those types of global ticket sales is a fool’s errand. We should be championing cinema like this, that doesn’t talk down to its audience and instead tries to move the medium forward.
And on that note, we come to why ‘Dune’ is a film to be enjoyed in the cinema. This has been made for the biggest of screens. It is truly one of the most beautifully put-together motion pictures I’ve seen in years, and couple that with the crystal clarity of an IMAX release and you have a movie-going experience that can’t be replicated in a living room, no matter how good your set-up is. I understand that the pandemic serves up safety concerns around the world, and of course no film is worth taking onboard a health risk, but its desire to be seen as the filmmakers have intended us to see it is a valid and important aspect of the conversation. It’s part of the experience, and it should be championed as such. This would have lost a lot going straight to streaming. It’s about more than just watching a film as quickly as possible. The release of the latest James Bond move ‘No Time To Die’ has proven this. If you can, see ‘Dune’ in the biggest cinema screen possible, and in IMAX.
‘Dune’ is a fantastic blockbuster that rewards the viewer with a complex, detailed and visually stunning story full of drama, spectacle, intrigue, and action. With an ensemble cast as accomplished as this all delivering their A-game, along with Denis Villeneuve behind the lens, this is next-level science fiction that finally delivers an accessible route into Herbert’s expansive world. But having taken us to an exciting point and not knowing if we will ever get to see a second film is a big risk and one that certainly affects the overall vibe when watching this. Let’s hope we get the opportunity to revisit these characters sooner rather than later – ‘Dune: Part 2’ deserves to be made, and we deserve to witness the payoff after such masterful groundwork has been laid. ‘Dune’ is a blistering sci-fi spectacle you have to witness for yourself. Amazing visuals, a stellar cast and cinematography that leaves your jaw firmly on the ground. An unmissable blockbuster.
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgård, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Chen Chang, Dave Bautista, David Dastmalchian, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Charlotte Rampling Director: Denis Villeneuve Writer: Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth Certificate: 12A Duration: 155 mins Released by: Warner Bros Release date: 21st October 2021