Movie Review: Dune (2021)

A sci-fi action film based on the classic 1965 novel of the same name by Frank Herbert, Dune was directed by Denis Villenvue and released in 2021. Set in the year 10191, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalemet) is the heir to House Atreides, currently under the rule of his father. Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), who has with him a concubine, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), a sister of the Bene Gesserit religion, and Paul’s mother. Under Duke Leto’s rule House Atreides is a beloved and respected house, and also includes weapons master Gurney (Josh Brolin), doctor Yueh (Chang Chen), and pilot and soldier Duncan Idaho (Jason Mamoa). House Atreides soon find themselves assigned to harvest “Spice”, a substance only available on the planet Arrakis, formerly held by House Atreides’ enemies, House Harkonnen, who are under the rule of Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard).

+ on paper, the cast is just phenomenal; a movie featuring Chalamet, Isaac, Ferguson, Brolin and Mamoa, and Stellan Skarsgard in particular, as well Zendaya, Dave Bautista, Javier Bardem and David Dastmalchian in supporting roles sounds incredible. It’s a shame that most of them amount to extended cameos at best, and literal cameos otherwise
+ one of the soundtrack songs, “Ripples in the Sand”, was pretty good, if only because it reminded me of Wonder Woman’s “Is she with you?” theme

– the story felt like coming into something like Game of Thrones in season 3, with limited or no backstory beforehand. Family names, planets, races, and concepts are namedropped with very little explanation, worse so that many of them are seemingly only mentioned for the sake of world building. I get that this is based on a novel, but it was nearly unwatchable without prior knowledge – seriously, that opening blurb was about as short as I could get it and I didn’t even include half the semi-important stuff
– my understanding is that this is the first film of a planned duology, it just felt like this was the prologue to the first movie not the first movie itself. The inclusion of named characters that amount to no importance on the story of this film made it come across as a primer to whatever comes next
– the whole thing is literally just another garbage Star Wars style series of scenes that happen. Paul himself is such a Mary Sue character — handsome; royalty; totally super cool sword fighter; the prophesised saviour of the vaguely racist sand people — that it was hard to feel any attachment to him. This is what a power fantasy looks like
– the movie is not a visual spectacle at all. The supposed highlight example of this, the city base on Arrakis, was just a big hunk of Brutalist architecture, which for those of you playing at home is actually a style I enjoy. Arrakis is a desert planet with a few rocks now and then, and all of the space ships are either ‘super duper sleek, boring to look at’ designs or intentionally kind of dated, ‘like a helicopter but’ machines (which makes sense given the novel’s publication date)

> all of the advertising for this movie is incredibly misleading, bordering on disingenuous. I don’t know if it was intended as a bait and switch, maybe akin to something like Cabin in the Woods (and I don’t know why that would be the case) but even rewatching the trailers after viewing this movie in full makes little sense
> Jason Mamoa shaving his beard reminded me a lot of Tama Tonga from New Japan Pro Wrestling. They both look significantly better with beards

Should you see this film: Unless you are already a big fan of the novel, and know the backstory of these characters, there is not a lot on offer here. There is far too much exposition dialogue, far too little action or intigue to keep you invested, and by the time it was all done I was left wondering how anybody could think this was good.


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