Dune (2021)- Film Review

Dune (2021)- Film Review

Dune started off as a book series which consisted of six installments. The first novel was published in 1965, by author Frank Herbert, Dune was a mild success upon science-fiction fans of the time, and many wanted to see it be told visually. In 1984, filmmaker David Lynch co-wrote and directed a film adaptation of Dune, the film was met with mixed reviews, with most people criticizing it for its poor writing, bad pacing, and average acting. The film went through the story of the first novel, a sequel was never made, and Lynch often regrets making the film, wanting to disown it and not counting it in his filmography. Another attempt to tell Dune visually was a television miniseries, released in 2000, all three episodes directed by John Harrison. This was also met with mixed reviews by critics an audiences, but like with Lynch’s film, it got praise for visuals, but still had issues with story and pacing.

Poster for David Lynch’s “Dune” released in 1984.
Cover art for the Dune miniseries, released in 2000.

In the early 2010s, Warner Bros. acquired the rights to the franchise and decided they wanted to make a film adaptation, it took a while to get people involved in it, but in 2016, Denis Villeneuve was set on to direct and co-write, after the success of the film “Arrival”, Villeneuve is also popular and highly praised for his 2017 film “Blade Runner 2049”. When Villeneuve was added onto the project, he proposed the film to be split into two parts, claiming that there is no way to tell the whole story of the first novel in just one film. Warner Bros. agreed and started to develop a Two-Part Dune film, both of which will feature the same cast, and have the same writers, and have Villeneuve directing. Dune was released in theaters and on HBO Max on October 22, 2021, after being originally set for a release in October 2020, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and legal issues with the film streaming along side HBO Max between Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures. While it is on streaming, it has done well in theaters, making over $300 Million worldwide. The film was met with positive reviews by critics and audiences.

Denis Villeneuve and cast on set.

As I often do, I went to see this film opening day in theaters, I was really surprised with how good it was. I am not a big fan of action films, I think most of them reuse the same formula and just go overboard with action, but this took a different approach and had most of its runtime focusing on the plot and drama of the story, which for the most part was very investing, the third act of the film especially had a lot of good tension and I was kept on edge.

I had some issues with pacing and sound mixing though. I still was surprised by the film. I watched it again a few days later on HBO Max to give more thoughts on it, and to fully comprehend the story, and I still really liked it, and I can call it one of the best films of the year, and for sure an epic a long time in the making.

This is so far the best adaptation of the book, and a huge improvement over the 1984  film which I found to be at best average. The visuals, cinematography, a fantastic ensemble cast, and narrative are probably what Dune does best to me, it looks great just as it tries to feel, it doesn’t shove too much in your face, and it shows enough for most to understand the basic setup for the story.

Dune was shot on film using Arri Alexa cameras, which also provides the changing aspect ratio for certain scenes to be shown in IMAX (Only in IMAX theaters, but will likely be available on the home video release.) Most films of today are not shot on film, but shot on digital cameras, while they both have pros and cons, I prefer most movies to be shot on film/filmstock, mainly for overall look. In today’s age, it is mainly used as a creative choice, but it was still nice to see that here, even though it does have film grain, it was the better choice for this film mainly due to the cinematography and lighting, even though it was harder to add visuals. While this is a Part One of a two-part film, the first does not only feel like its purpose is just to set things up, like how most two-part back-to-back projects feel like, Dune was more like Lord of the Rings in the terms of telling a story, focusing on that as its goal instead of setting things up just for the sake of a strong finale.

The ending leaves a perfect place for viewers to be excited for the second film, but also leaves them with just the right amount of material for the first half of the story.

Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atredies, the main character of the story, in the final moments of the film.

“Dune: Part Two” will release in October 2023. Other than the issues I had with pacing, the runtime, and the sound mixing, I really liked Dune and I am looking forward to what Denis Villeneuve has in store for Part Two.