“Dune” is a sterile space opera of seismic proportions

Rating: 2.5 / 5.0

Frank Herbert’s landmark 1965 novel “Dune” finds itself in a unique position: it is cited by many as the greatest piece of science fiction literature of all time, yet to date has never been adapted in a way that succeeded in doing the story justice.

Many have – notoriously – tried and failed. Directors such as David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky both attempted to leave their own marks on the material with their ideal versions. Lynch’s (1984) ‘Dune’ was wonderfully fantastic but utterly inconsistent, and Jodorowsky’s version never even got off the ground.

Now director Denis Villeneuve is mobilizing for his highly anticipated inning. Featuring Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya Alongside many of Hollywood’s top talent, the latest iteration of “Dune” aims to introduce new audiences to the beloved story of Paul Atreides (Chalamet) and his family’s struggle to survive the plots complex policies surrounding their management of the planet Arrakis.

Equipped with the size, scale and budget that previous adaptations could only dream of, Villeneuve’s epic desperately wants “Dune” to be the next “Star Wars” as much as the next “Lawrence of Arabia”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t measure up to either.

On paper, “Dune” is a blockbuster of the highest caliber. The film’s star roster extends far beyond its ensemble cast (including Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin and Stellan Skarsgård to name a few) – other notable features include elegant sets by production designer Patrice Vermette and a thunderous, lyrical and distinctly alien score by legendary composer Hans Zimmer.

With the talents of cinematographer Greig Fraser, Villeneuve creates compelling new worlds from the stage locations of the film. His camera transforms the Jordan Desert into the spicy landscapes of Arrakis, and the lush Norwegian peninsula into the ocean coasts of the planet Caladan. Combine all of this with top notch visual effects that make spaceships so large that they make even the largest bodies of water look like kitchen sinks, and you’ve got a movie that in every way. meaning, is too big to fail.

And yet, it’s ultimately the characters at the heart of the story who flatten out under the weight of it all. Villeneuve’s “Dune” seems strangely sterile, a literal and hyper-serious translation of the source material. He’s more determined to insist that you’re watching the sci-fi equivalent of the Old Testament rather than investigating the emotional, cultural, and political nuances that earned history this distinction in the first place.

This means that the talents of film cast members such as Javier Bardem and Chang Chen (not to mention Zendaya’s almost criminal lack) are reduced to what is little more than cameos. The nuances of the characters and their relationships, such as the bond between Paul de Chalamet and his mother Lady Jessica (Ferguson), are left to fend for themselves in the wilderness as the spectacle reigns supreme, adding to a visual experience too. drawn- and misguided as the idea of ​​dividing the story into two films. It really should have been a series instead.

Fans will be quick to defend the size, scope and scale of “Dune,” which leads to occasional successful moments. As Paul Duncan Idaho’s mentor and friend, the always charismatic Jason Momoa serves some of the film’s desperately needed comedic relief in addition to playing a role in some of the rare engaging action sets. And one particular scene featuring the iconic sandworms from the novel manages to make the film’s monumental vision feel like it’s fully realized – sadly, those moments are rare.

Like its source material, this version of “Dune” is in a unique position. Villeneuve and company have created a film which will be celebrated to herald a return to the good old fashionable cinema, a film which succeeds on the technical level but which does not manage to find a disconcerting echo. There is no emotional impact, no clear rhythm, no physics in this film. Despite all its gargantuan dimensions and gravity, why does this “Dune” seem so light?

It’s a shame that, for all the passion involved, the resulting rendition of “Dune” is so simple and literal, spoiling its opportunity to leave a lasting impression and wasting both its “desert power” and star power. . Alas, the inappropriate story remains.

Vincent Tran is the Arts and Entertainment Editor. Contact him at [email protected].

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