REVIEW | “Dune” is a slow but spectacular adaptation of a sci-fi classic

Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of the classic novel shows its strength in its presentation and worldbuilding.

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CREDIT: Warner Bros Promotional image

The success of the film had already ‘greenlit’ a sequel to be set to release in 2023.

Fear is the mind killer. Denis Villeneuve’s first part of the adaptation of the classic science fiction novel “Dune” made its way to theaters and HBO Max on Oct. 22.

The story of “Dune” is set in a distant future and follows Paul Atredies as he finds himself in the middle of a conflict with the rival army House Harkonnen over the ruling of Arrakis, the planet home to a spice that allows for human enhancement and space travel.

The novels are considered to be some of the best science fiction media and have been the inspiration for numerous science fiction works. 

Despite this, there have been very few adaptations to the big screen, with a film adaptation in 1984 by David Lynch that was met with negative reception, and a middling miniseries adaptation in 2000.

Successful adaptations of popular book series such as Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter showed that there was a way to successfully adapt “Dune” to widespread acclaim.

With director Denis Villeneuve, director of acclaimed works like “Blade Runner 2049” (2017), “Arrival” (2016) and “Sicario” (2015), paving the way for this adaptation, how does it hold up?

To start with the most eye-catching part of the film, its presentation is amazing. Like other works by Villeneuve, the cinematography is stellar. It really immerses you into the world with its beautiful set design and wonderful wide shots.

The visuals are aided by the soundtrack, composed by the legendary Hans Zimmer. It has such a grand tone to it accompanied from throat singing to Middle Eastern styled chants to the gigantic orchestra. 

In a theater, the music echoed with power and caused the entire room to start shaking. While a great combination of sound and visual storytelling, it could be too much as it was hard to hear dialogue in certain scenes. 

Timothée Chalamet is a favorite among the top directors in Hollywood. (CREDIT: YOUTUBE)

The all-star cast features the likes of Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Issac, Zendaya, Jason Momoa and Javier Bardem.

Although  the cast and characters can occasionally feel a little stilted and monotone, it fit with their personalities created in the story. I just wish some characters received more screen time in the film.

In terms of performances, Chamalet does a great job playing a young Paul Atredies and matches the tone of the character perfectly. Other notable performances include his mother Lady Jessica played by Rebecca Ferguson and Stellan Skarsgård, who plays the antagonist Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.

The narrative is where we see the most divisive part of the film. The movie is very slow. It essentially acts as a first act to a play: a lot of scenes are dialogue and exposition. While there is action, it is more sparse compared to other science fiction works. 

An aspect of the movie that really caught my attention was the technology. From body shields that are good at blocking projectiles to suits that recycle your bodily fluids and gather water from the world, it mesmerized me in a world that is advanced, though somewhat weird.

The biggest issue that I have with the film is that it does a good job being a first act, but that’s really it. It doesn’t have its own story arc and only exists to set up the second part. While the second part has been confirmed, it is going to be a while before all the pieces of the puzzle fit. 

With all of that being said, it is definitely worth a watch. The sheer scope of the world with the visuals and the soundtrack is simply breathtaking, and that alone is worth the watch.

The world building is great and I can’t wait to see what is in store for this series. 

The second part feels like it is still a million miles away, but it is a movie I am anticipating with high hopes. 

Rating: 7.5/10