Movie Review: Dune
Dune has split my mind.
Like writer-director Denis Villeneuve's 2016 masterpiece Arrival, I have been thinking about this film – which opens in cinemas here today – for days after seeing it.
But unlike Arrival, it is not because it has blown my mind.
More that it has blown a raspberry and made a rude gesture before running off.
I was dubious about watching this – I'm the fickle type that likes my sci-fi more pop, less history lesson.
David Lynch's 1984 version was sold as a new Star Wars, but in reality, it was like being told that through a door was a glorious roller coaster, only to find to oneself stuck in a long, dry lecture about slate tiles held in a cold, stone chamber.
This 2021 version, even though it features epic, blasted vistas, vast slab-like ships and austere couture, does the opposite.
Dune may not appear to be for everyone at first, but it is brilliant in so many ways.
Villeneuve has cast it perfectly.
The stiff regality of Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson's turmoil of being a mother but also a disciple, the swagger of Jason Momoa and Timothee Chalamet going from callow to commanding. And if you want to feel ill, Stellan Skarsgard eating is a near-nauseating ASMR experience.
Then there is the sheer scale of Dune. Go see it in Imax to be truly wowed. It is huge.
You can see why Villeneuve blew a gasket at Warner Bros' early pandemic suggestion of streaming only.
And there is action. Huge explosions in parts. It is a thrilling telling of the tale that manages to make the stately stunning and give what could be a slow procession some much-needed pace.
And the design is at once alien yet plausible.
There is also the power of Hans Zimmer's score/soundscape – an experience in itself that deserves to be heard at volume.
This is not a play that can be performed anywhere. It is designed as cinema, which is unfortunate given the pandemic's effect on the cinema industry.
Dune is such an experience, its running time was no issue, in fact, it could have run longer. I wanted to see more.
This brings us to the ending. Not something I'd usually bring up in a review, but it will split opinions.
For those who live in hope that some movie studios believe in art over profit, it may not be an issue.
But to hear that not one part of a sequel - and this needs one ASAP - has been filmed and that they can start shooting only at the end of next year?
That feels like a condensed combination of cruel, naive and downright stupid.
If only Villeneuve went the Lord Of The Rings route of shooting everything at once, then splitting the film.
To pin hopes on this potentially difficult space epic being a hit – even without a pandemic – is a huge gamble.
Reminder: A Denis Villeneuve sequel to Blade Runner starring Ryan Gosling was going to be a licence to print money, right up to the point Blade Runner 2049* was released. (*It is a five-star film but just didn't grab audiences).
He has left us adrift with only a vague hope of a payoff to cling to.
In Dune, there is the phrase, "Fear is the mind killer".
Yeah, so is potentially denying us the chance to see this stunning tale play out
STARRING: Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Jason Momoa, Zendaya, Josh Brolin
WRITER-DIRECTOR: Denis Villeneuve
THE SKINNY: Paul Atreides (Chalamet) is the son of a noble family entrusted with the protection of the universe's most valuable asset, spice, produced on the desert planet of Dune. But his true destiny is more significant than just becoming a duke.