Hitting the play button on “Dune” (2021), I was cautiously optimistic. Like many, I was waiting in anticipation for the film’s release amidst frequent release delays. In the end, the film both did and did not disappoint.
Set in the distant future, the Earth is a thing of the past, and our focus is rather the Atreides family as they are shuttled off their home planet and to the desert planet of Arrakis by imperial decree. Arrakis is an unkind planet with no water to be found, yet yielding something called “the spice”, which is a catalyst for economic gain.
Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel weaves together a universe full of diverse planets, people, and their politics creating an expansive story that leaves one wanting more. After reading the novel, I realized that it was a story bursting at the seams for film potential with its band of characters and complex story. However, the film released in 1984 was greatly disappointing, and fans of the novel have been waiting for justice to be done to this beloved sci-fi story.
Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve does this justice in his adaptation, weaving the scant humorous moments in without disruption and fully capturing the desolate scale of Arrakis.
The decision to cut the sheer vastness of the Dune universe is a wise one as such a large universe is difficult to capture on-screen even within the two parts the adaptation is being split into. Even with this, however, the film still remains faithful to the interworking of the story, placing on the screen a story long considered to be unfilmable.
The filmmaker is not the only one who portrays Herbet’s vision on point. The actors in the film portray their roles excellently. Timothee Chalamet depicts Paul Atreides’ evolution from arrogance to embracing both Arrakis and his power with grace. Oscar Isaac steps into the role of Paul’s father, exuding the nobility and determination of the character.
Zendaya does a more than adequate portrayal of Chani in the moments that she gets to act rather than staring off into space in Paul’s dreams, as she does for the majority of the film.
One of the greatest features of this film is its action. The sequences of large-scale action are often character-focused, showing the effects of the events on the characters through facial expression rather than only depicting exploding thopters (their ships) and sinking buildings.
Therefore, the film depicts the impact of the story and why we should care about what is happening very well while also giving an idea of the tragic destruction that occurs throughout the film.
However, the film and its action are hindered by its rating. As a PG-13 film, the audience is not shown the full extent of the violence. I am not a fan of extreme gore and violence, but the novel uses these things to depict both the gravity of the situation and the brutality of their enemies, thus creating fear of the creatures that are hunting down our main characters.
The film gradually builds up as setting up such a large-scale film takes a certain amount of laying the groundwork before taking off into the story, but it is certainly worth the wait. As soon as the story gets off the ground, it doesn’t stop.
With a slow start, long run time, and an end that leaves you wanting more, “Dune” (2021) is a solid adaptation of the iconic science fiction novel that will leave both fans and people who have never read the novel in high anticipation of the sequel.