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 audiences felt watching Star Wars for the first time in 1977.” It was that type of moment where you realize you’re watching something that you won’t forget. Something that could change the future of science fiction cinema forever. It’s an epic in every sense of the word.
The plot, which can be difficult to grasp 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 one and only source of “Spice,” a substance capable of extending life and enhancing the mind. But the planet is a dangerous place. Excruciating heat, giant sandworms, and violent enemy forces threaten the Atreides clan at every turn.
The cast includes Timothee Chalamet (Little Women), Josh Brolin (Sicario), Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina), Zendaya (Spider-Man: Far From Home) and a slew of other talented actors and actresses giving some of the best performances of their careers. The direction from Denis Villeneuve was perfect, and I’d expect nothing less from him. He’s proven over the last decade to be one of the best filmmakers working today with more than one masterpiece to his name. This is the man who took Blade Runner, one of the most iconic and influential science fiction films of all time, and somehow made a sequel that was better. Greg Fraser handles the cinematography, and he can not receive enough praise for the beautiful spectacle he creates on screen. Between the visuals and the powerful score from Hans Zimmer, every moment feels equally important.
This isn’t the first film adapted from the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert. In 1984 David Lynch’s Dune was released to mixed reviews. Lynch is a remarkable auteur with a significant cult following, but many would agree that Dune is among his weakest films. The visual effects worked against the 1984 film. Technology had not yet achieved what the film needed, and as a result, it hasn’t aged well. However, in 2021 visual effects can accomplish nearly anything. Villeneuve crafts a world that we know can not exist. Giant worms don’t roam the desert sands. Space travel is limited to the distances nearest our planet. Yet, it feels and looks so real that for a moment we are compelled to believe it is.
This film is not without its faults, as few are. Dune clocks in with a runtime 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 passes the 2 hour mark, the film begins to feel that it has run its course. For those who haven’t read the book or seen the 80’s film, there will likely be moments of confusion. I admittedly missed some of the story’s nuances and motives, but will likely understand it as a whole upon another viewing. The ending will feel sudden to some. It lacks a strong climactic finish and chooses instead to set up the next stage of the story for a sequel. The film releases on HBO Max the same day it hits theaters, but watching it on a home screen would likely be a disservice. It is a film that should be experienced on the largest screen available. 9/10