Review by Aaron M. Crilly
Ten years ago, I came across a book, on its cover was of a figure walking amongst a desert carrying a staff. The image caught my attention and so I opened the book to read the opening character and within its first few pages the story pulled me in and introduced me to far off worlds, issues surrounding ecology, religious and philosophical questions and of course, your standard five-hundred-foot-tall sandworms, that is how I was introduced to Frank Hubert’s “Dune” and how I’ve been waiting since then on adaption of the book.
Then about four years ago the news dropped that not only “Dune” was getting another film adaption, but that it was also to be helmed by one of my favourite film makers, Denis Villeneuve (director of one of the best films of the last decade “Blade Runner 2049” and “Prisoners”) and that cast would include some of my favourite actors like Timothee Chalamet in the main role of Paul, Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto and of course Zendaya as the Freman rebel Chani, with this choice of director and casting, it had all the signs of achieving the impossible by finally turning this project that was once known in Hollywood as being more unfilmable than “Lord of the Rings” into a cinematic masterpiece.
And I’m so happy to say that it not only achieved it’s goal, but it also crushed it.
The plotting and pacing of this film is perfect, by being a long term fan of the original book Villeneuve know straight off the bat that it would be impossible to film the entire book as a single film and instead he made the right (but still at the time very risky) decision to only film the first half of the four hundred and twelve page book and ending the film at a point that even as a reader felt as a natural middle point of the book. But then again, I have seen other people complain that by doing this, the film feels half complete and I do see their point but overall it did not harm my experience of the film, maybe it’s because I’ve already read the book and know where exactly Paul goes to in the second half of the book.
Now the running time of the film clocks in at just over two and a half hours, but honestly with the visuals, music, acting and pacing the film just flies by, which is a double edge sword as I wanted to see more before the credits hit the screen.
Meanwhile Villeneuve again proves to the world of cinema to why he is one of the most unique and talented filmmakers working in the industry today. He and the film’s D.O.P. Greg Fraiser (who incidentally broke the internet with the latest Batman trailer the week before this film came out) managed to make every frame of this film like a painting into on itself, even the smallest and simplest of shots dazzles the eyes of the film goer and the choice of warm colours is just a sensory feast. Villeneuve will no doubt in my mind, join the ranks of Anderson, Scott and Kubrick as one of cinema’s greatest visual masters.
Before this film can out there was a dispute between the studio and filmmaker about the manner in which to watch the film, the studio Warner Brothers dropped the film onto their streaming service much to the anger of Villeneuve who insisted that the film be cinema only the way he intended. My view in the dispute is simple: See this film in the biggest screen possible, this is a film that was made for a screen larger than a television.
Another positive of the film is the music and sound. The film’s score was written by the noted film composer Hans Zimmer, who I must admit I’ve previously found to be bland and boring with his trademark lorry like horn notes, but fortunately it seems that this is one of the films that Zimmer seems to use his muse for, the score is imaginative and unique (which again is a wise move as the use of horns could remind the viewers of certain well known space saga that is similar to Dune in many ways despite the fact Dune came out a full ten years before it, you know what I’m talking about *cough* George Lucas *cough*).
Over on the acting side of things, the cast play their roles beautifully, Jason Momoa is instantly likeable as the rogue Duncan Idaho, Oscar Isaac drips with charm and respect as Paul’s father Duke Leto, Rebecca Ferguson is extremely likeable as the caring yet venerable Lady Jessica. And with just seven minutes of screen time (yes Seven!) Zendaya leaves us wanting more for her character Chani (who I’m happy to report will have a larger focus in the second part of the saga which incidentally was just announced as this writer was writing this review). And finally Timothee Chalamet manages to avoid the classic mistake of many actors his age who are cast in typical hero roles and thankfully doesn’t make Paul seem whinney and annoying, instead he brings an almost Shakespearean level of acting to his performance in the same manner of Hamlet, he’s certainly one his way to becoming one of Hollywood’s most respected actors.
I could rave about this film forever. But in summary this film was beautiful, it was profound, it was enjoyable and it may end up as my favourite film of the year.
I give it 4.5/5 (it could end up as a 5 if the second half ends up as brilliant as the first one)