Our Take: 4 Stars
It is hard to think of a film in recent memory with as much hype surrounding it as Denis Villeneuve’s new film “Dune.” Originally scheduled for a Nov. 2020 release date, it feels like audiences have been waiting forever to see the star-studded adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel. But on Oct. 22, the wait is finally over.
While it is easy to give in to the hype of the film, there have also been reasons for concern. Despite one of the most talented collections of actors working today and a director that can seemingly do no wrong, many believe that a good adaptation of “Dune” is impossible.
Acclaimed director David Lynch adapted the novel in 1984 to generally unfavorable reviews, and since then there has been a stigma around the story. One of the seminal works of science fiction literature, and a defining novel of the twentieth century, Herbert’s work is complex and detailed and in many ways, one that a single film could not possibly do justice.
But it is also a work with such grandeur and spectacle that it begs to be seen on the big screen.
Director Denis Villeneuve had called it a life-long dream of his to adapt “Dune” into a feature film, and, with an incredible array of science fiction films, like “Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049,” under his belt, he is perhaps the best working director to helm the project.
Villeneuve’s involvement in the project became a big draw to many actors and is part of the reason the film has such an all-star cast.
Stars of the film talked “Dune” with the Technique at a roundtable hosted by The Daily Bruin.
“I wanted to work with Denis, first and foremost,” said Timothée Chalamet (“Call Me by Your Name”), who stars in the film as Paul Atreides. Villeneuve and the crew crafted an atmosphere greatly conducive to greatness. “[It was] a total dream come true, I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
Zendaya (“Euphoria”), who stars opposite Chalamet as Chani, knew she had to get involved when she saw the cast.
“It felt like such a no-brainer. You have such a dream team of people that you could possibly work with,” she laughs. “I saw the cast being assembled and I was just like ‘I just want to get in the room, have a shot at it.’ So, I pursued it quite aggressively.”
The film follows the conflict between two powerful Houses in the galactic empire: the noble House Atreides and the cunning House Harkonnen.
The incredibly talented Chalamet steps into the starring role as Paul Atreides, the son of Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac, “Inside Llewyn Davis”) and Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson, “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”), and the heir to House Atreides.
Young Paul is forced away from everything he has ever known when his family is given control of the desert planet Arakkis and must take over the mining of mélange, a spice used for just about everything in Herbert’s world. On this new and nearly inhospitable planet, Paul faces danger around every corner and will be forced to become who he was always meant to be.
The film is very long, over two and a half hours and some parts are very slow and retrospective. While the plot is always interesting, and the masterful performances and direction doesn’t hurt, the pacing feels off in some moments, and it does drag on occasion.
Nevertheless, the soul of the film and its incredible craftsmanship make up for any drawbacks in the pacing and dialogue.
The film is visually spectacular, with every frame perfectly constructed.
Villeneuve approaches the film with such attention to detail and with such an attitude of reverence that the work is truly a sight to behold.
The visuals in this film are movie magic and unmatched in size and splendor.
On top of the visuals, the cast, described by Chalamet as “some of the strongest and most talented actors working right now,” pull the audience into the film and truly commands their attention. It is a sight to behold and definitely something to experience.
But the most powerful aspect of the film is how relatable it is, despite its scale and its other-worldly setting and storyline. Themes of honor, duty and family are ever-present throughout the film and helps the audience connect with Paul and with the story.
The film balances its cosmic scale with some surprisingly grounded and human moments that provide a different kind of life into the film. Villeneuve and the rest of the cast and crew went to great lengths to help audiences connect with the story, especially younger audiences.
While the presence of Chalamet and Zendaya bring a youthful energy to the film, there is more to it than that.
The film is essentially a coming-of-age story told through a larger-than-life adventure. Paul, a handsome, rich, powerful and incredibly gifted royal, becomes a surprisingly relatable figure in Chalamet’s hands.
In the film, we see the beginning of Paul’s growth into manhood, a story that any young person can see themselves in. Paul struggles to understand who he is and what his place is in his family, his community and the universe.
“I think those are things all of us struggle with when we’re at that age and we don’t know who we are and we’re trying to find ourselves, find our voice, our identity …” Chalamet said.
In many ways, movies are so powerful because we can relate to them, and the fact that an audience, and particularly a new generation of “Dune” fans, can relate so well to this is an incredible thing. Perhaps Paul’s journey to find himself will uplift and inspire young audiences everywhere.