Co-writer and director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario, Arrival, Blade Runner 2049) takes viewers on the heroic journey of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), the son of a noble family entrusted with protecting the most vital element in the galaxy. Once he arrives on the desert planet Arrakis, he begins to understand his destiny and transformation into Paul Muad'Dib, prophesized messiah of the native Fremen people. Dune is based on Frank Herbert's sprawling 1965 sci-fi novel of the same name, and this film is part one of two. (155-min.)
- Photo Courtesy Of Warner Bros. And Legendary Entertainment
- MESSIAH? A nobleman's gifted son, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet, right), unites with Chani (Zendaya) and her Fremen people to challenge an Empire, in Dune, screening in local theaters and on HBO Max.
Glen As a fan of David Lynch's 1984 film as well as the 2013 documentary Jodorowsky's Dune about cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky's failed attempt to make a 14-hour version in the '70s, I have decidedly been in the "we don't really need another Dune" camp. And we probably don't, but I have to admit, after its somewhat slow beginning, I was hooked by French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve's singular vision of this epic messiah story. It's not as visceral or messy as Lynch's version, but its scope is overwhelming, and its often-monochromatic color scheme is austerely beautiful. Like Lynch's version, the story is deeply compacted and streamlined, but unlike Lynch's version, Villeneuve's Dune probably makes more sense to viewers unfamiliar with the book or subsequent film and TV miniseries. The larger machinations are about a galactic emperor who fears the rising House Atreides, so he pits them against the Harkonnen, another powerful family that's less honorable and more bloodthirsty. While the Atreides hope to form an alliance with Arrakis' Fremen, the Harkonnen want to enslave and master. It's the story of an impending uprising, and I for one am ready for part 2 right now.
Anna I came into this version of Dune as a newbie. I haven't seen any of the films or read the book, so I have no idea who these characters are or the complexities of the world the filmmakers are aiming to create. Despite not even having the "Dune for Dummies" guide on the series, I held on pretty well to the storyline and the different power dynamics between the different factions. This sort of sci-fi world-building honestly isn't really my thing, and I most likely would have never gone back to watch Lynch's version for that reason, but this new offering pulled me in. The barren landscapes and otherworldly atmosphere is visually stunning, and watching Paul's realization of his place in a larger story is gripping. Villeneuve describes this film as a "delicious appetizer" to the upcoming sequel, and while it must spend a chunk of its time setting up the players and the setting, it also is allowing part 2 to be the spectacle Villeneuve envisions. That being said, this stands on its own, and I would argue it's accessible for people like me who know nothing about the storyline. These characters draw you in, Paul especially. I'm excited for part 2 and will certainly give this Dune a re-watch to refresh myself on the characters when the sequel comes out.
Glen There's always been an argument out there that Dune is "unfilmable"—the story is too long and complex for any film to do it justice. That's probably certainly true if your goal is to include every nuance of Frank Herbert's 400-plus-page novel, not to mention its five sequels, but Paul's story is so compelling, and the side plot about the Bene Gesserit—an exclusively female group with honed powers and a mysterious political agenda is fascinating. Paul's mother, a member of the order, has trained Paul in their "weirding ways"—forbidden for men. This falls perfectly into the Fremens' prophecy, and part 2 will undoubtedly set up Paul's relationship with the Chani (Zendaya), a female Fremen warrior, as well as Paul's rise to power and ultimate face-off with the Emperor. Even knowing how Herbert's novel concludes doesn't dissuade me from wanting to see how Villeneuve will wrap up the second half of this story. Bring it on.
Anna I really liked the dynamics Paul had with his parents, especially his mother. Lady Jessica Atreides (Rebecca Ferguson) knows better than anyone the power Paul wields with his ever-growing knowledge of the weirding ways. Yet while she wants to see him rise above and beyond his potential, she still has the fear of a mother who's sending her child into a dark and dangerous world. Stellan Skarsgård is a great foe as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, a chilling and pale beast who has every intention of wiping out the Atreides and claiming Arrakis as his own. It's quite a cast, and while I found myself once or twice trying to piece together how the characters connect, I'm pretty impressed with how easy it was to follow along—even for someone like me who doesn't hold onto complicated sci-fi lingo very easily. I was invested, and I'm excited for more. Δ
Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and freelancer Anna Starkey write Split Screen. Glen compiles streaming listings. Comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.