Dune (2021)

Denis Villeneuve’s sprawling adaptation of Dune (Part One) captures a sense of cosmic scale unlike anything since 2001… which it transcends. It is the first of a two-part adaptation of the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert covering the first half of the book. The political intrigue and family drama of House Atreides deeply explores the heady themes of Herbert’s novel. Religion as politics as economics writ large across the stars. I will always have a soft spot for David Lynch’s Dune adaptation; but I must say, I did not get any of this profound subtext from his deliriously campy version.

The breathtaking visualizations of Dune’s world-building and lore is dripping with gravitas and terror. I understand why some would find it slow – but I most certainly did not. The pacing is masterful. The sound design is next-level. Perhaps a large part of my experience was a result of the intensity of seeing it in IMAX, but still. There is a moment when a regimen of soldiers is descending from ships onto the surface in surreal, total, silence and the entire theater was holding its breath in perfect suspense.  Later, the terrifying, guttural chants of the Harkonnen monks echo as the bald head of Vladimir’s grotesque body rises from a vat of ritualistic oily goo that is truly nightmarish.  Terrifying. But, I can only imagine the war for control of Spice on the deadly and inhospitable desert planet Arrakis would hit home even from the comfort of one’s couch and HBO. I’ve yet to read Dune, but this version has definitely put it back to the top of my list.

I was a bit cautious on Timothée Chalamet’s ability to pull off the role of Paul Atreides – but he nails it. The entire cast is fun: Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem. But in particular I think Rebecca Ferguson, as Paul Atriedes’ mother, is absolutely spectacular.

The public seems to agree, as less than a week after its domestic release Dune: Part Two was green-lit for release in 2023.