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Dune (2021)

Denis Villeneuve’s sprawling adaptation of Dune (Part One) captures a sense of cosmic scale unlike anything since Kubrick’s 2001.. It is the first of a two-part adaptation (of the first half) of the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert. The political intrigue and family drama of House Atreides are translated to film better here than ever before. This adaptation doesn’t shy away from 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 the profound subtext from his deliriously campy version.

The world-building and lore is dripping with gravitas and terror. I understand why some could find it slow – but I most certainly did not. I was enraptured. The pacing is masterful. The sound design is next-level. Perhaps a large part of my experience was a result of the overwhelming 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 silence and the entire theater was holding its breath. A perfect cinematic moment.  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 oil 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 never read Dune, but this version has definitely put it back to the top of my list.

I was a bit suspicious of 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.

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