Photo By: Noah Nickel via IMDB

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Dune (2021) is a fun watch for any fan of science fiction. 

The film is set in the distant future where space travel is made possible by the substance “spice” — not the kind that goes on food. The plot is complicated and difficult to explain without giving too much away, but the main characters are Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson). As they adjust to a very uncertain life on a new planet, intergalactic conflict wages and Paul experiences prophetic visions.

The film is based on the 1965 novel of the same name by Frank Herbert. It’s important to note that this is not the first on screen adaptation of the book. On top of having served as a major inspiration for the original Star Wars film trilogy, there was also a direct film adaptation released in 1984.

Villeneuve has done an outstanding job building stunning visuals into the film. Most outdoor scenes were shot on location and without greenscreens which enhances the experience greatly. The sets for indoor scenes are massive and quite breathtaking. He uses the visual world of the film to distinguish it from other science fiction pieces, such as the aforementioned Star Wars. 

The score by Hans Zimmer is technically good music, but it is used excessively. There is almost never a moment of silence or loud instrumentals accompanying the action of the scene. It is also overbearingly loud most of the time. The music is strong, but it could have been used more sparingly, which would have made it more impactful. It also overpowers the dialogue at times, which makes learning any character names other than Jessica, Paul, and the endearingly named Duncan Idaho, a challenge.

The screenplay takes its time with the story, this is only Dune: Part One after all, allowing it to unfold slowly and keeping the audience guessing as to what will happen next. If the pacing is continued in the following film(s), it should be able to maintain the epic grandeur the series of lengthy novels seems to demand.

The movie is very clearly the first in a series, introducing characters and conflict and leaving the audience wanting more and thinking about where it will go next. Audience members who are expecting a self-contained narrative with a satisfying conclusion will be disappointed with this film.

Chalamet is good casting for the role of Paul. He’s a bit old to be playing 15, but he portrays the character’s uncertainty about his future effectively, and making Paul a little older than he was in the novel is not a setback for this film. Having a young Academy Award nominee play the protagonist is certainly one of the appeals for audiences. 

Zendaya is another draw for audiences who may not otherwise be interested in long sci-fi movies. She and Chalamet are the faces present at press junkets marketing the film, though she only appears for around seven minutes of screen time. This isn’t a major critique, but more of a heads-up for Zendaya fans who may be disappointed.

Oscar Isaac is outstanding as Leto Atreides; he balances the tenderness of a loving father with the intensity of a polished diplomat. He and Ferguson have good on-screen chemistry and play a compelling combination of love and conflict between their characters.

A surprising outstanding dynamic between actors is that of Jason Mamoa and Chalamet. They have a spark of loving friendship which becomes one of the most memorable relationships in the film. They also look hilarious beside one another, Chalamet is so slight and delicate in comparison to Mamoa who is huge and muscular.

The special effects and storytelling in the film are exciting overall and make for an excellent in-cinema experience. The sandworm is impressively done and has a brilliant, imposing presence even when it is offscreen, just from the sense of danger it infuses into the story.

Overall, Dune may not be the perfect film, but for lovers of science fiction, stunning visuals, and giant worms, it is certainly an enjoyable watch.