Denis Villeneuve’s epic blockbuster has been greatly anticipated and the sheer spectacle of it is a sight to behold, but it never fully engrosses us in the world of the film or captures the audience’s imagination.
Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel Dune is one of the world’s best-selling science fiction books and yet it’s known for being near-impossible to bring to the big screen. But, if anyone could do it, it would be Denis Villeneuve, director of Blade Runner 2049 (2017) and Arrival (2016), and he’s given it his best shot.
The film follows Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides, who is thrust into a dangerous battle on the desert planet Arrakis to protect his family’s future as a conflict ensues over the planet’s most precious resource – spice.
Villeneuve’s enthusiasm and passion for the source material is abundantly clear and he gives it his all, but the film is constantly bogged down by the very nature of the text and how unfilmable it is. The scale of it is enormous, not only in the beautiful sweeping landscapes we see, but also through the enormity of plot points and characters that we’re introduced to.
The entire first act of the film is heavy on exposition and introduces so many intergalactic sounding names and places that, quite frankly, go in one ear and straight out the other. For someone who has no experience with the source material and knows nothing it can be hard to keep up. If you’ve seen David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation or have read the book, it may well be easier to follow and there may be a greater level of enjoyment to be had, but when plot points are coming at you thick and fast it can be difficult to keep up. It never truly leaves you lost but not everything sinks in to the same level that it should do
With a runtime of 2 hours and 35 minutes, the film does drag at times, especially since Villeneuve plays about with the structure of the film and it doesn’t follow the traditional route a Hollywood project like this would take. There’s a lot to get across in the film, especially since this is only the first half of the novel, but the length at times leaves you looking at your watch wondering how long’s left.
That being said, the film does look absolutely beautiful and serves as an incredible reminder of why the cinema is so spectacular. Seeing the desert planet Arrakis in all its glory on a giant cinema screen is a true wonder, and Villeneuve captures the scale of the film so well, making it a cinema experience to remember. If you’ve not yet visited the cinema since lockdown, Dune is definitely the film to get you back. The impressive visuals and the enormity of the film are enough to impress even the most casual movie-goer.
The extraordinarily large scope of the film, combined with Hans Zimmer’s booming, score reminds you why cinemas are so great. It’s a film that just wouldn’t be the same to watch on your phone on the bus. It’s one of those rare films that’s worth shelling out the extra few quid for an IMAX ticket just to see it on the biggest screen you can find.
Dune can provide you with a cinema experience like no other, reminding you just how great the big screen experience is through its incredible set pieces and gorgeous cinematography, however it is weighed down by the breadth of the film’s plot. It tries to cover so much and set up the vast world of the film which will most likely pay off incredibly well to lovers of the book. But for someone who doesn’t know anything about the world or its lore, Villeneuve never fully manages to transport you to Arrakis, leaving you cold despite the incredible scorching heat of the planet.