Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
Denis Villeneuve’s highly anticipated adaptation of Dune, Frank Herbert’s masterpiece Sci Fi novel, has been released. And while there is a lot to like here it fell short of the epic heights I hoped for. With a Muad‘Dib-sized (minor) SPOILER ALERT let’s dive right into it:
First off, was anybody else surprised that this was part one of a two-part adaptation (they announce it as Dune: Part One in the intro)? It was not marketed as such, though it makes sense that just one two hour and 35 minute film would be able to capture this vast story. I just found it odd that this was not made clear in the marketing. Maybe they were worried people would liken this to other two-part genre entries like The Hunger Games or Twilight. Who knows?
With that out of the way, let me talk about what I liked. Denis Villeneuve has already shown that he is a visionary Sci Fi director following his stellar work in Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. And he delivers a visual masterwork with Dune: Part One. The special effects are eye-popping (man I loved those ornithopters), the costuming and makeup were simply gorgeous, and the production design is immersive. I still found the sandworms could have used more teeth (the 1984 versions are a bit more intimidating) but they still looked good. And that mesmerising score by THE Hans Zimmer? Dude was just showing off.
In terms of story it is pretty faithful to the novel so it should not upset purists too much. They changed Imperial ecologist Dr Liet-Kynes to a woman (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) but the essence of the character remained unchanged and I enjoyed her performance. I also thought Oscar Isaac and Josh Brolin were pretty great as Duke Leto Atreides and weapons master Gurney Halleck respectively.
Timothée Chalamet is okay as Paul Atreides but I would have liked some more nuance and emoting from his performance. He was kind of just there for me. Aquaman himself Jason Momoa is quite energetic as swordmaster Duncan Idaho but he kind of feels like he is in a different film. And his American accent (as well as Zendaya’s) felt somewhat jarring. In terms of bad guys Dave Bautista has the look of the “Beast” Rabban but he has little opportunity to do anything beastly. And I’m a fan of Stellan Skarsgård but I found his Baron Harkonnen kind of dull and his prosthetics made him look weird rather than repulsive. I also found they overused the personal shield to the point where it dulled the action. And the action overall could have used some edge.
Dune: Part One is a stunning film and an entertaining watch. But it feels like there was something missing from it. Maybe it’s in the performances. Maybe the action choreography. Maybe the overuse of flashforwards shook off the pacing. Just something. But it’s still a film worthy of the Dune name and I am intrigued to see what happens in Dune: Part Two.
Editor Jules’s Score: 7 out of 10
So what did you think of Dune? And you can check out my review of the 1984 version below together with my review of the first three episodes of Foundation:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.