Dune Part One Review
Fifty Six years ago, a man named Frank Herbert published a book called Dune. That book ended up becoming one of the most important novels in the history of science fiction. It inspired Star Wars and showed just what sci-fi is capable of. However, for all its importance to the genre, Dune lacked the recognition of other franchises. It didn’t even get a decent movie. David Lynch disowned his 1984 film, after all.
After all these years, though, Dune finally gets a proper film adaptation. And it lives up to the epic scope of its source material. Sadly, it’s also only half of the original source material.
Think Game of Thrones Meets Star Wars
For the uninitiated, here’s the basic rundown to Dune. It takes place tens of thousands of years into a future where mankind’s spread out amongst the stars into a massive, feudal empire. One day, the Emperor orders the noble House Atreides to become the new stewards of Arrakis, AKA Dune, a desert world and the most important planet in the universe. It’s here that one finds the precious Spice Melange needed to travel throughout the cosmos. He who controls the Spice controls the universe. Thus, Duke Atreides and his young son, Paul, journey to Arrakis to become its leaders.
However, the whole thing is a trap. The Emperor and Atreides ancient enemies wish to wipe them all out. Their scheming leads to the Atreides almost losing everything, and Paul and his mother fleeing into the deserts of Dune to survive. There, they are pushed to their limits as they seek to survive long enough to take back what they have lost.
In other words, Dune is like a fusion of Star Wars and the political intrigue of Game of Thrones. Though, considering how Dune came out years before the former were thought up, it would be fairer to say this was doing what Star Wars and GoT did before it was cool.
A Story Not Big Enough For One Film…
Dune is rightfully considered one of the greatest sci-fi stories ever told. In the span of a single novel, Frank Herbert created a world so vast, so detailed, that he he had to include an index at the end of the book explaining the terms and technology. While this created a very believable world, the sheer depth made making any movie about it a monster of a task. David Lynch tried, and failed. Other directors either abandoned the project or failed to even start. The best adaptation we got before this film was a mini-series by SyFy. So, how did Denis Villeneuve manage to cram the entire story into 2.5 hours of runtime?
He didn’t. Denis knew that this was impossible, as this would ruin any attempts at telling the epic story of Dune. Thus, he didn’t bother. Instead, he decided this movie would only adapt the first half of the book, leaving the second half for the sequel that Warner Bros will have to make. As a result, this film (which Warner neglected to advertise as “Part One”) feels like a movie without a climax. It’s a consequence of the decision to split the movie up.
Much like the Fremen in the film, though, Dune does the best with what it’s got. And what it does with that is still fairly impressive.
A Visual and Auditory Masterpiece
Movie technology’s come a long way since the days of David Lynch. Heck, it’s come a long way since SyFy made their miniseries. And the 2021 Dune takes full advantage of this fact to give us the Dune that people imagined as they were reading the books. The ships and technology are faithful to what Frank Herbert created, and are very impressive to look at. When I saw the Orthnopter’s, I thought they looked less like vehicles and more like mechanical animals, with their stubby legs and buzzing wings.
In addition, despite being largely a setup for the sequel, when fighting does occur, it’s on par with anything the best sci-fi films can give us. At one point in the film, the Atreides army goes into battle at night to the sound of bagpipes playing in the background. It’s so strange, yet so amazing.
Then, we have the sandworms. They are the most famous part of Dune. Big enough to swallow a dragon whole, if one existed in the real world. In the past, creating them onscreen has proven difficult to pull off. Yet Villeneuve manages to do it perfectly. Rather than show them off all at once, we only get glimpses of what the Sandworms are like. The great maws of their razor-sharp teeth peeking out of the sand is like a sci-fi version of jaws. It builds up the tension so that when we get a good look at the Sandworms, we’re both awe-struck and terrified. It’s like looking into the jaws of death!
The combat is also top-notch. It’s clear Jason Momoa and everyone else has practiced for this movie, making it very fun to watch.
A Good Start to A Long-Overdue Film Series
Warner Bros has said that the future of Dune rests on how well it does on HBO Max, not on the profits it rakes in in theaters. That’s a first for a movie, as far as I know. However, if it does do well, we will likely get a sequel to the second half of the book. The real question, though, is what then?
In an ideal world, the entire series of books would be adapted into film. The process would take years, and considering how several of the cast members are around for a very long time (cough*Duncan Idaho*cough), the clock’s ticking. Warner Bros needs to invest in Dune, and they need to do it now.
I honestly hope that Dune does get fully adapted. It deserves to be successful after all these years. Until then, though, I will be streaming it on HBO Max as much as possible.
I Give “Dune: Part One” a 3.8/5. A slow start, but a good start.
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