Nolen Kelly, Editor
It’s Wednesday, and you know what that means: more words to read that I wrote. Spooky scary skele-season is over, and while I can’t lie, I do miss it a bit more than usual, I am looking forward to things beyond the grave, like movies. This week I’m reviewing Timothée Chalamet in “Dune,” his latest movie not titled “The French Dispatch.” Although many other publications’ reviews are either filled with pure unadulterated rage about how boring “Dune” is or praising the new addition to the collection of movies that God himself wrote, I personally think this is a slightly flawed, but very good movie.
“Dune” is based on the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert and was originally adapted into a movie in 1984 by David Lynch, but was slammed by Lynch himself at the time for his lack of interest in his own creation and for how “heartbreaking” the whole process of making it was. The movie remained divisive among Lynch’s fans, general movie enjoyers, original fans of the novel and science fiction fans for decades. By 2017, French-Canadian director Denis Villenueve would build up a reliable resumé of movies that ranged from nail biting and ultra-tense thrillers like “Sicario” and “Prisoners” to science fiction movies about humanity and its connections with non-human entities like robots in “Blade Runner 2049” and “Arrival.” The latter two films would serve as Villenueve’s tests as to whether he would be able to tackle something as large as “Dune” and when the film was announced back in February of 2017, many people were very excited, including me.
Too long, too boring, “don’t care, get ratioed” history lesson aside, “Dune” has been in need of a good adaptation for a long time and I believe Villenueve did a killer job… on part one. “Dune” is only part one of two movies and despite part one being 80 percent political discussion and 20 percent action, it is a very good movie. Although Villenueve tends to make his movies with a rich color spectrum, he chose to make “Dune” a very bleak and monochromatic movie that I kind of hated at first because it looks so boring. But, I think the longer the movie went on, the more I appreciated how simple the colors were. Single shades of black, grey, yellow and white fill the screen and force you to pay attention to what is being shown when everything is the same color. And speaking of paying attention — this story is primarily composed of political discussion so it can absolutely get boring, however, I think that it works well and stays interesting if you can keep in mind that this is only part one and the better stuff will come later if this movie is not working for you. “Dune” is all about world building, establishing the politics of the story and developing the characters and relationships.
Speaking of the characters, I don’t think there is anyone in this movie I don’t like. Zendaya Coleman’s (“Euphoria,” “Malcolm and Marie”) character Chani and Dave Bautista’s (“Spectre,” “Guardians of the Galaxy”) Glossu Rabban do not play major roles in this part and I think that is fine, as they may be more prominent in part two. There were a lot of big actors and characters in this movie, but it felt like everyone played a pretty big part in either the story or the motivation of another character. Oscar Isaac (”Scenes From a Marriage,” “Ex Machina”) as Leto Atreides was an excellent example of a devoted father and honest leader while Stellan Skarsgârd (“Good Will Hunting,” “Thor”) was a disgusting and intense Baron Harkonnen. Timothée Chalamet (“Lady Bird,” “Call Me By Your Name”) was a decent Paul Atredies, but his best moments were whenever he interacted with Josh Brolin’s (“Milk,” “No Country for Old Men”) Gurney Hallick and, possibly one of the top three characters of the movie, Jason Mamoa’s (“Aquaman,” “Sweet Girl”) Duncan Idaho. He is a great character, but man, that name is terrible.
On top of a great cast and some good looking colors and landscapes, the size and scale of this movie is impressive. “Dune” is impressive because of how large and advanced everything looks and feels, such as massive ships that carry entire armies to the vast cities on each planet. Everything looks and feels big. The sandworm, from the trailers and not a spoiler, is terrifying, and just the thought of something like that slithering beneath layers of sand and big enough to destroy entire ships further adds to the terrifying magnitude of this universe. Even the size of the Baron is intimidating as he is a big mondo man who can just levitate wherever he wants. It is repulsive but it is really cool. I came out of this having really enjoyed everything but the thing that struck me the most was just how big everything in this movie was and I felt so small afterward.
There is a lot to talk about with this film. I can understand why people don’t love this movie and I get why it is held in such high regard, but I can say I am happy comfortably in the middle. “Dune” is a slower burn than other sci-fi movies, but, while people say that “Star Wars” is the space opera, I think this movie takes the cake as an actual opera in space. “Dune” is a long but slick and cool couple of hours that may not be for everyone but is definitely worth checking out if slow but cool movies are your thing. “Dune” (2021) earns a hefty “A-” from me and I can’t wait for part two.