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Thursday, September 29, 2022

Review: Villeneuve’s Dune – a huge success

Jake Coyle | Associated Press

A cool breeze sweeps across the sands of Dune, Denis Villeneuve’s cold and majestic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction classic.

As hot as it is on Arrakis, a desert planet that attracts the most powerful interests of the universe to its mineral-rich yet inhospitable sands, Villeneuve’s film is a triumphant slow burning. A cold-blooded colossus, this “Dune” erects massive, brutal architecture from otherworldly science fiction, creating stunning splendor on the big screen.

To the touch, however, quite cool. Villeneuve makes an atmospheric exterior more than an emotional interior. With muted monochrome hues, rich textures and deep soundscapes, his specialty – already familiar from deep shadows from Sicario, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 – evokes some serious ominousness.

So Dune is a darker wilderness journey than, say, the fiercely violent Mad Max: Fury Road. However, his account of oppression and messianic zeal, like the book, is reminiscent of the Lawrence of Arabia. Instead of Peter O’Toole and his glowing blue eyes besieging Aqaba, we have Timothy Chalamet potentially taking over Arrakis. There. Is an. Another.

Herbert’s opus, created in the wake of the Cold War and nascent fear of the environment, spawned an entire sequel industry, but has surprisingly little advancement in wider pop culture so far. The mocked David Lynch film of 1984, which even he denied, did not help. The version, which will debut Thursday night in theaters and on HBO Max, is the second blow to Dune’s transformation into a widescreen event. And given the dozens of entries in the series of books, Dune can be mined in exactly the same way as the “spice” in the sands of Arrakis. Dune is optimistically titled Part One, adapting only the first half of the 1965 tome.

The film is most easily criticized for not culminating but withering in the dunes. It bothered me less. I was passionate enough to just hope that Dune – which is worth looking for in theaters, not at home – would play well enough to move on to the second part.

Villeneuve simplified the book from a script written by him, John Speicht and Eric Roth. It lost some of the romance of the novel, but it also made the ambitious epic coherent. Here “Dune” is an operatic parable about power and exploitation, which has an ecological resonance that is becoming more and more relevant.

With a royal sense of destiny, Chalamet plays Paul, whose father, Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), is the head of the House of Atreides, one of several rulers of the fiefdoms. The condiment on Arrakis, which allows interstellar travel and other mind-expanding abilities, has long been collected by the fascist House of Harkonnen under the supervision of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (played by the grotesquely bloated Stellan Skarsgard, with a nod to Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now Unknown). the reasons a switch was ordered.

Collecting spices is not an easy task, however. Terribly hot. There are also giant sandworms. And the local Fremen (among whom is the Chani of Zendai) are outraged by their “alien” overlords. Leto hopes to begin a friendly partnership with Freman, but quickly discovers that their operation is being sabotaged at every turn. When things get aggressive, the focus shifts to Paul, who was taught swordsmanship by Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) and instructed by his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson, fabulous), “on the way” – a mysterious mind-controlling force. The free man believes that he can be the foretold savior. Whether Dune will tweak the white savior’s setup will eventually, however, have to wait for a possible sequel.

The plot is enough even for the digestion of a sand worm. All world building leaves a lot of room for something very intimate in character development. Dune, like most of Villeneuve’s previous films, is a little empty beneath its flawless surface. But these surfaces! Thanks to Greig Fraser’s cinematography and Patrice Vermette’s production, Dune is rendered so beautifully that you can easily follow it without sound, without the cumbersome score of Hans Zimmer. With an immense sense of scale, from mosquito to (Jason) Momoa, Dune captures the age-old history of palace intrigue and indigenous struggles in exaggerated cosmic dimensions. Like any sandy sand, “Dune” is created by elemental primitive forces.


3 1/2 stars out of 4

Rating: PG-13 (for violent scenes, some disturbing imagery, and suggestive material)

Duration: 151 minutes

World Nation News Desk
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