Dune is a masterpiece like no other we’ve seen this year. An epic cinematic event. There was something special about the viewing experience. Sitting in the darkened theater, watching Dune on the giant IMAX screen, I thought to myself, “This must be how the audience felt watching it Star Wars for the first time in 1977.” It was one of those moments when you realize you’re watching something you won’t soon forget. Something that could change the future of science fiction movies forever. It’s an epic in every sense of the word.
The plot, which can be difficult to understand and decipher at times, follows the Atreides. They are a family of power and wealth who take control of a dangerous desert planet with valuable resources. The planet Arrakis, also known as “Dune”, is the only source of “Spice”, a substance that can prolong life and improve the mind. But the planet is a dangerous place. Unbearable heat, giant sandworms and violent enemy troops threaten the Atreides clan at every turn.
The cast includes Timothee Chalamet (short women), Josh Brolin (hit man)Oscar Isaac (ex-machine), Zendaya (Spider-Man: Far from Home) and a slew of other talented actors and actresses who give some of the best performances of their career. The direction by Denis Villeneuve was perfect, and I expected nothing less from him. He has proven over the past ten years to be one of the best filmmakers with more than one masterpiece to his credit today. This is the man who took Blade Runner, one of the most iconic and influential science fiction films of all the time, and somehow made a sequel that was better. Greg Fraser takes care of the cinematography, and he can’t get enough praise for the beautiful spectacle he creates on screen. Between the visuals and Hans Zimmer’s powerful score, every moment feels equally important.
This isn’t the first film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel. In 1984, David Lynch’s Dune was released to mixed reviews. Lynch is a remarkable author with considerable cult following, but many agree that Dune is one of his weakest films. The visual effects worked against the 1984 film. The technology hadn’t quite reached what the film needed, and as a result, it hasn’t aged well. In 2021, however, visual effects can achieve almost anything. Villeneuve creates a world that we know cannot exist. Giant worms don’t roam the desert sands. Space travel is limited to the distances closest to our planet. Yet it feels and looks so real that we have to believe that it is.
This film is not without flaws, as there are few. Dune clocks in with a run time of 2 hours and 35 minutes (that’s 18 minutes longer than Lynch’s Dune). For the most part, that time is not felt. However, once it’s past 2 hours, the movie starts to feel like it’s run its course. For those who haven’t read the book or seen the 80s movie, there will likely be moments of confusion. I may have missed some nuances and motives of the story, but will probably understand it as a whole on a next viewing. The end will feel sudden for some. It lacks a strong climactic finish and instead opts to set up the next stage of the story for a sequel. The film will be released on HBO Max the same day it hits theaters, but watching it on a home screen would probably be a disservice. It’s a movie you have to experience on the largest screen available. 9/10