The incentive to bring people back to the cinemas after all the delays and closures is the strongest it has been since the release of Tenet. Sure, we’ve had films this year that have been a surprise package, but it’s been a while since we’ve been tempted by the bait of an epic film, this is where Dune enters the game. I think of the original 1984 Dune film the same way I do with the original Tron, a film with an epic scale hindered by the technology of the time, but now film technology has blurred the line between real and computer-generated (mostly), the potential of Dune can finally be realised by arguably the biggest director in science fiction, Denis Villeneuve. I had almost forgotten the true amazement of an epic film because Dune is, well, epic.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first, Dune has a scale and scope unrivalled by any release this year. The world that Villeneuve presents to us is one that has been refined right down to the smallest details. Dune doesn’t have to constantly boast about how big its world is, it shows us how big it is. The technologies for instance are purposeful and although this is set in the very far future, we can still realise them. The true skill of science fiction technology is to convince the audience that it could exist in the future, we take our own technology we have today into consideration and make a decision on whether we believe something like a floating glowing globe or a defensive shield could exist. Dune is full of these exciting technologies that are carefully introduced so even the biggest technophobe can understand how they work.
Before its release, people were hyping up Dune to be the next Star Wars. With that in mind, there is a line in Star Wars that can sum up the scale of Dune, “There’s always a bigger fish”. I know it’s from The Phantom Menace but hear me out, that line of dialogue can sum up how large Dune is in a nutshell. In the film, we have ships that look like dragonflies, giant Sandworms, Heighliners (starships that act like portals) etc. and when these elements are first presented, they seem like the biggest thing imaginable. However, put a dragonfly ship against the giant Sandworms of Arrakis and they’re tiny by comparison. The point is, just when you think something is the biggest thing in Dune, there’s always something else bigger. It’s absolutely mesmerising from an audience’s point of view and makes you question how much bigger can things get.
A sign of confidence in any project can always be found in the cast that accompanies it and Dune has a big cast to match its big ambitions. Timothée Chalamet takes the lead of Paul, the son of Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Issac) and the heir to lead his family. Paul demonstrates a form of psychic ability to see into a version of the future, although events may play out differently from his dreams. You can clearly see this character is on a journey to become a hero and it is also clear that the future of Dune is going to rest on the shoulders of him and his mother Lady Jessica Atreides (Rebecca Ferguson). The only con to having a cast like this is that many faces are there, but some don’t stick around for long, which is pretty underwhelming but not enjoyment destroying.
One thing that may be a little strange is how the film feels to watch. Although it is part of his auteurship, Denis Villeneuve has the directorial ability to make his film very hypnotic, it puts you under its trance. Granted, it does keep your eyes glued to the screen but there is something there that makes following the narrative a challenge. The only thing I can narrow it down to is the use of mist and dust, it may not be the cause, but it does help.
Another downside to introducing people to a new epic is the sometimes unavoidable screenwriting display of concept flinging. There is a lot of lore to get your head around in Dune, many families, planets, technology and people to lock into your head and with so many names, places and objects to remember it shouldn’t be a surprise that a few are going to slip between the gaps. I got the feeling that these names are going to be vital to Dune’s future and because it may not yet have the mainstream audience other sci-fi franchises have, it may be a while before we begin to heavily reference them.
The potential of Dune has been realised, no questions asked. I don’t think there is a single person out there who has demanded more from Villeneuve. If this is indeed the birth of the next big thing in science fiction/fantasy, it is one I can get behind. I think everyone will leave Dune feeling that this film has an exciting future ahead of it and will no doubt that part two of Dune will be topping most anticipated lists whichever year we get it and it will be a great opportunity to get audiences fully onboard with it. Right now I feel as though I’m so close to being completely taken in by Dune, and I’m sure I will be soon enough, I think with enough time and more knowledge of the world Frank Herbert has created, It may become another obsession.
Final Result: 8/10 – Very Good
Have you seen Dune? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Last Night in Soho