Has Denis Villeneuve Finally Tackled ‘Dune?’

Movie Review

Margaret Daniels , Staff Writer

If you’re a science fiction fan or even someone who grew up in the 80s, you’ve probably known about “Dune,” whether you love it or hate it. Adapted from the famous novel by Frank Herbert, the cult classic movie has gotten a complete revamp, making this year’s “Dune” by far one of the most anticipated films to be released this year. Filled with a star-studded cast of both established actors and up-and-coming stars, “Dune’s” biggest name might be its director, Denis Villeneuve, who has also built other large science fiction projects like “ Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049.”

“Dune” is by far one of the overall best movies I have seen in the past year, as all the different pieces of this film blend seamlessly together. The actors work together very well, the graphics are phenomenal, and the setting felt real, in part due to the fact that most of it was actually filmed in the desert. The costume design especially is stunning– the colors of Lady Jessica’s dresses jump off the screen and contrast extremely well with the setting’s dark backgrounds.

 “Dune” reshapes the way I think about science fiction, mashing together traditional elements and shiny new technologies; it’s a refreshing take on a classic Sci-Fi epic. The movie is a prime example that science fiction doesn’t need to be filled with massive spaceship fights and panoramic outer space shots to be amazing.

Composer Hans Zimmer is no stranger to critically-acclaimed blockbuster films, having worked on projects like “Interstellar,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “No Time to Die,” and now “Dune.” The score is primal and raw, as it’s supposed to reflect Paul’s youth and angst. The main track “Gom Jabbar” rattled through the speakers and stuck with me long after we left the theatre. The subtle but powerful vocals ran through my head for days. 

A crucial but often overlooked part of films (especially science fiction) is costume design. There is a fine line with costume design in science fiction: too futuristic and it detracts from the story or becomes cliché, too conservative and it becomes boring and plain. “Dune’s” costumes break the mold of traditional science fiction attire and create a beautiful blend of traditional elements like wool military-style coats, dresses reminiscent of medieval Europe, and futuristic tech seen in the desert suits. The head costume designer Jacqueline West and costume supervisor Bob Morgan created around 2,000 pieces for the film. 

Throughout the movie, we follow the main character, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), and his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson). Going into this movie, I have to say I was nervous about Chalamet’s performance, as this is his first lead role in a science fiction epic.  But I was pleasantly surprised. Chalamet plays the young heir amazingly well and projects the perfect amount of emotion without seeming either forced or flat. 

Rebecca Ferguson does an excellent job playing Lady Jessica, Paul’s mother. Her acting throughout the film really helps to solidify the tone for the rest of the characters. Her performance is stoic but deep. She acts the part of a highly educated aristocratic woman but also a worried and caring mother. I haven’t seen any of Rebecca Ferguson’s other films but after seeing her outstanding performance in “Dune,” I definitely want to watch other films of hers. 

The driving force in this storyline itself is the political plot behind who gets to control the planet Arrakis and the spice that can be mined on it. Spice is a sort of drug that’s used for its supposed prophetic effects, it’s sold throughout the galaxy for steep prices and it’s mildly addictive. It can also be used for space travel, although this is not explored much in the film.  While I was able to grasp the main concept of spice, the movie does leave some questions unanswered, such as what other uses does spice have? What’s the backstory on the opposing houses in the galaxy? I wish that we could have gotten more information about some of the other characters besides Paul and the rest of the Atreides, although I assume more of this will be answered in part two. 

Many critiques I saw online were from fans wishing that we got to see more of Zendaya, who plays Chani, as she was advertised as one of the main characters and she was in many promo shots and trailers. To address this debate, I don’t feel like we absolutely needed to see more of Chani in this particular film. Would it have been nice? Yes, but, it left us wanting to see the next movie even more, which is what you want in a “part one.”  She is still the main character even though she isn’t in much of the film. The few minutes that we do see Zendaya are phenomenal and she embodies the mysterious possible love interest very well and leaves us wanting to see more of her in part two. 

One of my main critiques is of Jason Momoa’s character, Duncan Idaho, who does little to further the plot aside give Paul more depth. The acting by Jason Momoa is lackluster, to say the least, and his character is flat and boring. Mamoa plays this role far too happy for a character that’s supposed to be a soldier in active war right after the death of a close friend and ally. The film doesn’t do anything to explain why Paul and Duncan are friends. Are we supposed to just accept that they’re friends and move on with the plot? I really hope that we get some backstory or at least some sort of explanation in part two, but I also wouldn’t be upset if we didn’t have to see any more of Jason Momoa without the beard, which frankly it was an odd choice and slightly off-putting.

If you are going to go see “Dune” in theatres, I highly recommend seeing it in IMAX, as this is not a movie to see on a small screen. The panoramic shots of the desert planet Arrakis (filmed in Jordan) and the city of Arrakeen are stunning and showcase the amazing graphics work. Overall, this film is one of the best science fiction movies to come out in the past couple of years.  Although this film is groundbreaking on its own, it will be crucial to see how part two performs next to part one. I am very much looking forward to seeing part two in the near future!