I’ll start my review by stating something I’ve repeated several times over the past few years:
Denis Villeneuve is the best Director working today (and has been for a while).
That’s a pretty big statement, considering the directing talent that is out there now. But after seeing Denis’ latest film, his magnum opus, a film he said for the first time in his career that he made for a single audience member (himself), Dune was everything I wanted it be and more. And it proves that there is no one working in or out of Hollywood who has more attention to detail, more ability to craft fully immersive worlds that feel like they exist than Denis.
With all the praise heaped upon Denis, I will also make an admission that I still love David Lynch’s version to this day. And I think you can equally enjoy both the Lynch version and this one for their very own and distinct reasons.
So what makes this latest adaptation to Frank Herbert’s classic Sci-Fi work so perfectly?
In short, everything.
Let’s start with the cast shall we?
With any film, most projects begin and end with it’s cast. Not only how those cast members “fit” into the roles they are cast in, but their buy-in to the project and those creative players driving it. Dune has an almost perfect cast in both areas. At the tip of that spear is Timothee’ Chalamet in the lead role as young Paul Atreides. Timothee’ has quickly moved up the ladder of leading man in Hollywood and his performance here only adds to his currency moving forward with whatever new projects he looks to star in.
After Timothee’ you have a who’s who cast of talent that all add their own particular abilities to the project. The three that stood out for me where Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Rampling and Stellan Skarsgard. But there are no weak links in Dune. No performance is wasted.
Another thing to point out with Dune is the incredible Set and Costume Design. As alien as the world of Dune feels, there is also a very strong base to those designs that also feels very familiar. It’s a balancing act that many Sci-Fi projects have tried to accomplish time and time again, some successfully and some not so much. There are many things in Dune that give the viewer the feeling that the world the characters inhabit could exist.
As with any Sci-Fi project, visual effects are always a large part of making that project a success. With Dune, Denis went in the direction of keeping a film of this scope subudded in the CGI department. Yes, there are effects work present, but in a lot of instances, those needs for effects are either done practically, or they are done on a level that keeps the underlying technology grounded. For those who aren’t aware, in the world of Dune, A.I. is outlawed by the Emperor throughout the Imperium. As result that was the fallout from the 1000 year conflict ended with computers and A.I. being deemed to dangerous.
This is why in the movie you see the hints of technology and various items that obviously are crafted using technological understanding, but no computers. Nothing that could possibly have the ability to become self-aware.
The backdrop of Dune is both familiar and very foreign (see a pattern here) to the viewer. Shot on location in Norway, Jordan, Hungary and UA Emirates. Denis wastes no frame using these locations. Giving us beautiful views into the various worlds of Dune. Each one as distinct as the next. Only resorting to sounds stages when absolutely necessary. And it shows. I found myself spending a good amount of times looking beyond the actors, to the spaces beyond them and marveling at the fantastic backdrops.
No film is complete without it’s score. Dune is no exception.
What can you say about Hans Zimmer that hasn’t already been?
His ability to create perfectly appropriate scores to help compliment and lift the film in question is on full display here. So many instances in Dune of Hans score elevating a scene or at the very least fitting in like the perfect puzzle piece are too many to mention. Admittedly when I first read about Hans being brought on to the project, as much of a fan as I am of his work, I wasn’t convinced he was the right choice. After seeing the film, all of those concerns of fully put to bed.
A lot was said by Denis leading up to Dune’s release about his insistence that audiences make their way to the cinema to see it. I am a huge proponent that film deserves to be seen in the proper venue (much like lot’s of other art forms. Listening to your favorite band’s latest album at home is great, but seeing it live gives you an experience you can’t replicate at home). Dune deserves to be seen in the cinema, on the biggest screen possible.
I watched it on my local IMAX screen (the movie was shot by Denis on IMAX cameras and filmed specifically for IMAX screens) and I can emphasize enough, if you’re in a place personally that you feel comfortable enough, go see it in your local cinema. There are things that will be missed otherwise. I don’t mean story wise, but rather those technical pieces that your home setup, no matter how good, will not show up in a home viewing.
If you’ve read any on this version of Dune, it is well known that it is a ‘part one’, with the hope by Denis that Warner Bros. will greenlite part two. After a very strong opening weekend, things are looking like that will ultimately happen. But we are still waiting on the official word from WB brass.
It would be a tragedy if it weren’t made. We deserve to see Denis’ full vision of the world of Dune fully realized. If not for all of us, for him. For the audience of one. The true one. The quizat haderach of film.
So as fearful as it not being completed is, I will not fear, for fear is…well you know the rest.
As always, leave a comment with your thoughts. Until next time, LLAP!