A free review of ‘Dune’ by a book reader
Dune the filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049) said his upcoming blockbuster was meant to be accessible to those who have never read Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel. But as someone who completed the dense, genre-redefining book just minutes before their start of their projection, it’s hard to see how casual observers can cling to the solidly constructed but unmistakably esoteric tale (even with a spoiler-free breakdown of the Duniverse from a recognized expert critical point of view).
Dune is meant to be the journey of a mythical and emotionally charged hero who follows Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), a gifted young man born of a great destiny, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the galaxy to ensure the future of his family and his people. As evil forces explode in conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource that exists – a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential – only those who can overcome their fear will survive. But the storyline is only a fraction of the scope of the story.
Villeneuve is known for his visual splendor and his version of Dune is no different. The scale and scope of the spectacle cement the filmmaker as a master of the trade. The art and the fear of Dune is second to none. The industrial and weathered decors of the desert planet Arrakis, illuminated by the yellows and oranges of the hostile sun, contrast with the elegant gray-black calm of intergalactic society gliding easily through space. The enormity of interstellar travel is matched only by the seismic power of the infamous sands. But it’s telling that greatness is most touching when there is no human face in the shot.
In the novel, Herbert uses the broad narrative domain to flesh out each character’s internal monologues. This not only provides the public with much-needed exposure to this star-studded feudal society, but also a glimpse. Much like our protagonist Paul Atreides, readers experience a sort of mental awakening in which the cultural, religious, political, and supernatural notes of the story begin to swirl together. But in condensed film form – and what is meant to be the first part of a two-frame series – those necessary details and textures are sanded down to the detriment of the uninitiated. Interpretation is a powerful weapon of storytelling, but an occasional touch of exposure is also a welcome tool.
Like the book, much of the film’s story is told through dream sequences and visions. But opaque visuals without the necessary context can leave an unfamiliar audience intrigued, but far from engaged. Moments seem out of place – and not always intentionally. This arm’s length approach makes DuneThe characters in Inaccessible — with the exception of Lady Jessica by Rebecca Ferguson. Despite excellent performances all around, Atreides feels less like the heroes inspired by the novel (like Luke Skywalker) and more like a generic messiah. His fears are clouded by the construction of an expansive world, and his leadership skills are obscured by half-finished allegories.
Villeneuve is perhaps the best technical director working in Hollywood right now and the film is truly majestic. Meditative and atmospheric, it is truly a transporting cinematic experience that deserves the prestige and exclusivity of the big screen. And a bit like Star wars, the Lord of the Rings and Game Of Thrones before him, the rich and sprawling fictional world of Dune is inviting and captivating, worthy of further exploration and expansion. Corn Dune: part I, as it is titled in the opening credits, also lacks a sense of completion. When Zendaya’s Chani tells Paul at the end that “This is just the beginning,” it reminds you that the 155 minutes you just spent are clearing your throat for a more substantial story to come. For those who don’t know what’s going on Duneon the horizon, they may wonder if the destination is worth the trip.