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Dune (2021) Film Review

Review by Paul Bowler.

Denis Villeneuve’s ambitious adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel, Dune, is finally here. Dune: Part One, follows the mythical emotional coming of age journey of Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet), a gifted young man born to face a destiny beyond anything he could’ve imagined on one of the most dangerous planets in the universe. When treachery strikes, Paul faces a battle for survival  on the harsh desert world of Arrakis as the fate of the future, his family and his people hangs in the balance.

Right from the first scene of Dune: Part One it becomes clear that French-Canadian director of Blade Runner 2049 Denis Villeneuve has taken the rich narrative of Frank Herbert’s epic 1965 sci-fi novel – which many have long considered unfilmable – and masterfully captured the essence of Herbert’s work in a way that beautifully presents the intricate universe of Dune with its fascinating ensemble of characters, political power-struggles, intrigue and mysticism. The film is the first in a two part adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune, with a screenplay by Jon Spaihts, Villeneuve and Eric Roth that effectively covers the first half  of the first book.

Unlike David Lynch’s Dune, which was a disastrous and unfathomable flop that bombed at the box office 1984, David Villeneuve’s Dune manages to avoid the narrative pitfalls and correct many of that earlier film’s worst mistakes. The plot of Dune: Part  One is far more cohesive as a result.

Villeneuve wisely gives the characters and sweeping subtexts of Herbert’s novel room to breath, the special effects are breathtaking and the score by Hans Zimmer is magnificent. Fans of the book are sure to love every moment of Villeneuve’s thoughtful and respectful adaptation. Newbies might find the pace of the first hour a bit slow, but the sheer scope and scale of the film, along with its incredible visuals, effortless draws you in as Paul Atreides embarks on epic journey of discovery.

Once again, Dune: Part One sees the action unfold on the planet Arrakis, a commodity-rich world, where gargantuan sandworms lurk beneath the desert plains and the blue-eyed Fremen are locked in guerrilla warfare with their colonial oppressors from the ruthless House Harkonnen. Now the emperor has decreed that Barron Haekonnen (Stellan Skarsagard) must relinquish his governance over Arrakis to make way for the House of Atreides to take over, and ensure the further procurement of Melange, or spice as it is know, the priceless substance that can extend human vitality and is essential to maintain interstellar travel. The Atreides leader, Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), seeks to make a treaty with the Fremen, but before his radical plans can be implemented, the bloated Baron Harkonnen and his hulking nephew Glossu Rabban (Dave Bautista) launch a devastating attack to seize   back control of Arrakis. 

Caught in the crossfire of the Harkonnen’s coup is Leto’s young son and heir, Paul (the perfectly cast Timothee Chalamet), and his mystical mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson),  who is also an acolyte of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, and both mother and son possess enhanced Jedi-like physical and mental abilities. They manage to escape the carnage and with some help from Paul’s sword-master mentor and friend, Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) along the way, Paul and his mother make the dangerous journey across sandworm territory to reach the Fremen, where Paul finally encounters the mysterious girl from his dreams, Chani (Zendaya). A ritual duel and haunting revelations await as Paul becomes further entwined with the Fremens’ messianic prophecies.

David Villeneuve’s Dune is mesmerising blend of intergalactic political intrigue, mystery, sci-fi monster action and adventure. Every moment of the 155-minute run time is well spent on melding characterisation and plot with accomplished ease, and although the ending is a bit abrupt it sets the stage nicely for the next chapter of Paul Atreides’ mission. Of course on the films release it wasn’t certain whether we’d actually get a part two and find out if Paul really is “The One”. Fortunately the film performed well at the box office (making $40 million during its opening weekend), and on 26th October 2021 Legendary, Warner Bros and director Denis Villeneuve confirmed that Dune: Part Two has now been officially green lit with a release date of October 20th 2023. Villeneuve’s inspired directorial vision and the films dazzling cinematography has brought Frank Herbert’s Dune to life on the big screen in the most spellbinding way imaginable. An awe-inspiring movie in its own right, Dune: Part One is everything fans could’ve  hoped for, and more!

About The Author

Hi, I’m Paul Bowler, blogger and reviewer of films, TV shows, and comic books. I’m a Sci-Fi geek, a big fan of Doctor Who, Star Trek, movies, Sci-Fi, Horror, Comic Books, and all things PS4.You can follow me on Twitter @paul_bowler,or at my website, Sci-Fi Jubilee, and on YouTube and Facebook