Is "Dune" Worth Your Time?
On October 21st, 2021, the world was finally introduced to Denis Villeneuve's highly anticipated Dune after a year of waiting. With a budget of $165 million dollars, well-known source material, and produced by one of the most esteemed directors of the modern era, it's safe to say that expectations for Dune were through the roof. But did the film deliver on its promises? Does it do justice to the source material? Is it as good as the world was expecting? Let's find out...
Denis Villeneuve's 2021 film is in fact the third adaptation of Dune so far. The source material comes from the 1965 novel of the same name by author, Frank Herbert. The 2021 film covers roughly half of the book. The first filmmaker who dared to conquer Dune was David Lynch for his 1985 film starring Kyle McLachlan as Paul Atreides, and if you know anything about David Lynch's Dune, you know it's not a project that is fondly looked back on. A much less notorious adaptation came in the form of John Harrison's miniseries from 2000 which was met with even worse reviews than its preceder. For the longest time it seemed like Frank Herbert's story was cursed, there was just no way someone could successfully take on a project that ambitious...until 2021.
Although it's not exactly an amazing merit, Denis Villeneuve's film is by far the best Dune adaptation so far. The cast, consisting of Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Jason Mamoa, and Dave Bautista do an incredible job at bringing their characters to life. The costumes by Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan are mesmerizing, especially the still suits, ceremonial clothes, and the blue eyes of the Fremen. However despite the impressive performances costume design and story, the features that stands out the most are the production design and special effects. You can tell where every single penny of this film's budget went in terms of its jaw-dropping visuals. It reminds me of a slightly darker Star Wars. The sheer scale of the spaceships, palaces, and sand worms will blow your mind. In terms of scale and ambition, Dune is very similar to Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049. However, the same faults that were present in Blade Runner 2049 also apply here.
While Dune is a breathtaking film at times, it's not without its fair share of problems. Many people have refused to watch the movie in its entirety because of its runtime of over two and a half hours. Along with that, the pacing can be painfully slow at times. As someone whose seen films that have gone on for five or so hours I didn't mind but it can be a challenge for the more casual moviegoer. I've seen people describe Dune as "three hours of people rambling on about space politics with short perfume ads with Zendaya spliced in between." That's another issue that a lot of people have with Dune and that's the lack of their favorite screen darling, Zendaya. The term "Zendaya-baited" has since been coined, meaning people were persuaded to go see the film under the impression the actress would feature heavily when in fact her screen time probably adds up to five whole minutes. You'd think the presence of Timothée Chalamet would be enough to quell these viewers but apparently not.
In a lot of ways I can agree with the problems so many people have about this movie. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the sci-fi flick, I'd be lying if I said there weren't a few scenes that could've been shortened or cut altogether. A great deal of the film is clearly just being used to spout exposition for the confirmed sequel that will begin filming next year. I also would've loved to see more of what makes Arakis (the film's setting) so dangerous beyond just the sand worms and dust storms. It's something I found so interesting that I felt was severely under-explored. There's clearly a message of imperialism and capitalism present in Dune that could've been shown a lot more thoroughly but hopefully the sequel will meet my expectations.
Overall, I loved Dune, but it's not a film I'm expecting most people to enjoy quite as much. It's a film that requires a lot of patience and an affinity for science fiction. If you're going to choose any Dune adaptation to help get you into the series I would absolutely recommend this one. A film with this sort of budget only comes out once in a blue moon so you better catch it while you can. It's the new sci-fi epic the world has been waiting for, which means you should try to see it on the biggest screen as possible. It goes without saying but I will be patiently waiting for the next installment as best as I can.