Denis Villeuneve’s Dune is exactly why we go to cinemas. To be enveloped in a labyrinthian world and dropped into the heart of a dramatic conflict that sees 155 minutes absolutely fly by. Like all the greatest films, Dune is groundbreaking. It doesn’t give into traditional formulas and instead rides on the audience’s potential to dream a little bigger...
But release of Dune is just the start of a bigger story. With Part Two being officially green-lit by Legendary & Warner Bros, now’s the time to get back to the cinema and invest in the future of what could well blossom into an epic franchise spanning years to come.
In Frank Herbert’s original novel, his notoriously hard to adapt and seemingly impenetrable story is also split in two. Part One introduces us to Paul (Thimothee Chalamet), son to Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) of the house Atreides. Their house is inexplicably summoned to move from their home world and take ownership of the planet Arrakis (AKA Dune) to oversee harvest of ‘The Spice’, this universe’s equivalent to oil and the only known way to undertake space travel. Of course, political rivals across the empire promise to make this a hard-fought endeavour. From the off, Dune harks back to the grandiose imagery of Star Wars, fused with the political intrigue of Game of Thrones. Yet Dune came long before either of them.
For the film, director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario) took his favourite childhood novel and, against all odds, triumphantly curated this seismic adaptation. In the way that Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter eventually had their pages flawlessly reflected onscreen, Dune takes time emulating Frank Herbert’s words into cinema near-perfectly. From scene to scene, it’s dream-like and unfamiliar yet never feels hard to follow. It trusts in your ability to give yourself up to a grand journey through this world.
As with Blade Runner 2049, Villeneuve flawlessly combines live action photography and visual effects to build a rich storyworld unlike any other, this time with aid from cinematographer Greig Fraser. Paired with Hans Zimmer’s mesmerising score, you‘ll find yourself instantly immersed deep within a truly authentic world. One you could almost touch.
But perhaps Dune relies too heavily on the spectacle, leaving behind a sense of vacancy, of little care for the characters inhabiting the screen? Well, the talent on display begs to differ. It’s a massive cast that massively delivers. Timothee Chalamet as Paul; Rebecca Ferguson opposite him as his mother, Lady Jessica; Jason Momoa as Paul’s brotherly confidant Duncan. These three most of all bring a heart and soul to Dune that lingers long after the end credits and promises a prosperous future.
In Dune’s wake, though, Part Two is left with a great weight on its shoulders. Not only in trying to reach the peaks of part one but, knowing the book, there’s a lot left of this story to unpack. As Zendaya’s character reminds us through a number of hallucinogenic visions; “this is only the beginning”. You need to be ready to invest.
At the end of the day, Dune is one of, if not the best film to have released worldwide in cinemas this year. Its a technical delight. It’s a near-perfect fusion of sight and sound. It’s bold, it’s brave, it’s ambitious. But unlike a lot of movies recently, it feels genuinely new (which sounds counter intuitive considering it’s adapted from a novel released in the 60s).
Before the opportunity is gone, you should go and see Dune in cinemas. It’s a sensory overload, a film designed to submerge you in its storyworld and shake you into life. You won’t just be investing in a spectacle unlike anything you’ve seen, you’ll literally be investing in what’s been teased as an “even more cinematic” sequel.
Any Good? A bold statement, but it could well be the best of the year.