Epic is the best word to describe Denis Villeneuve’s Dune (2021). The latest attempt at making Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel into a film is visually epic and aurally epic. But while there were definite hints at an epic storyline, the film lacked the details and backstory to create an epic world on all fronts.
We saw it on an IMAX screen and would encourage anyone that hasn’t seen it yet, or wants to see it again, to do the same. Don’t spring extra cash for the 3D version though, we spent the first 5 minutes taking our glasses on and off to make sure we were in a 3D session before realising it only adds some depth to the expansive scenery and little more. You can get by with 2D, there’s not much of a physical third dimension to Timothee Chalamet.
If you haven’t read the book, like the two of us, you may find the story a little lacking. All of the events within the movie are great. There’s good build-up, good suspense, great action, and an incredible Hans Zimmer score under (or probably over, with IMAX’s speakers) it all, but if you’re interested in why these events are taking place you’re likely to get more info from the novel. I didn’t even know the reason the Emporer sent House Atreides to Arrakis until I overheard the guy behind me in the queue to pay for parking. Side note: if you want to talk about a movie you’ve just seen in the cinema, don’t do it in the carpark where people are arriving to see the next showing. It’s hard enough to avoid spoilers on social media and even harder when we’re seeing it weeks later than the rest of the world. We don’t need it spoiled for us as we arrive at the theatres.
Another piece of etiquette (rant) from Brett. When you go to see a movie that’s based on another source material (like a 1965 sci-fi novel for example), you’re not seeing the original source material. You’re not seeing the novel, the comic, or the short story. “But in the book they did…” is unnecessary. We definitely avoided that with Dune, it’s easy when neither of us has read the book, but it’s something that has been floating around the wonderful wide web since its release.
Don’t be Sheldon.
So when we view Dune as a film in and of itself it’s visually beautiful (and we don’t just mean Timothee Chalamet’s jawline). The scoring by Hans Zimmer adds layer upon layer of emotion to the world and the events within it. But the detail behind those events is lacking.
While the acting is great, the dialogue they have to work with is nothing extraordinary and in some spots overly simple. Paul Atreides turns to his mother after they’ve crashed their aircraft in the middle of the desert and says, “You good?” like a guy asking his buddy if he needs another drink. Despite this sometimes limited script, the cast is incredible. Chalamet is proving himself as a leading man and we’re looking forward to seeing what happens with his career if and when he ever grows facial hair or muscles. Although Zendaya has limited screen time in part one it’s clear that she is the future of star power. The reel of Hollywood stars continues right through the film and even if they’re not marquee names every character is portrayed exceptionally.
It’s just a shame that they’re not given a lot more with the story. Villeneuve has made the planet of Arrakis the star of this film and this seems to occasionally be at the sacrifice to other elements of the story.
Overall it’s going to become known as one of the great epics and it fits that bill without question. If you’ve read Dune and want to know what an Oscar-nominated director thinks it would look like then you will love this adaptation on any screen (except maybe the 34cm rear-projection TV we had in our bedrooms growing up). If you want to be amazed by how good sci-fi fantasy can look on a massive screen then Dune at IMAX is unlikely to leave you disappointed. If you want a political/social commentary set in the future then head back and revisit Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049.
We’d love to hear what you thought of Dune. Hit us up on the socials. We had much more to say, of course, in our podcast episode. Listen to it below and follow the links to subscribe.