Dune (2021)

It’s worth mentioning right away that I have always been a fan of David Lynch’s admittedly flawed adaptation of Dune from 1984. I saw that movie on cable television sometime in the mid-1980s, and though I didn’t understand a lot of what was going on, I found myself captivated by everything happening on screen. I couldn’t have been more than eight or nine years old at the time, so I clearly hadn’t read the novel yet. It was, in fact, the impact of that barely remembered movie that influenced me to read the novel later in life. Since then, I have read and re-read the original six novels as well as almost all of the supplemental books written by Frank Herbert’s son, Brian, and Kevin J. Anderson. Dune is something I can’t seem to get enough of, and it all started with a young boy seeing the confusing experience unfold on an old box television.
I’m also somewhat fond of the 2000 miniseries John Harrison directed for the Sci-Fi Channel, though substantially less so than the version provided by Lynch. I’ve seen multiple versions of the 1984 release of Dune, owning it on VHS and later on DVD and Blu-ray, with collector’s editions that included multiple cuts of the film. There are a lot of things to love about the 1984 adaptation of Dune, from the dark tones to the dialogue ripped directly from the novel, and the overall aesthetic from set design to costumes and makeup. There are also a lot of things to dislike about it, most notably the significant deviations from the source material and the condensed narrative that ignores some of the most important components and sidelines numerous characters to the background. For most of my life, I expected Lynch’s vision, as corrupted as it was by studio interference, to be the best possible version of Dune I’d ever see on the screen. I was wrong.
As soon as I heard Denis Villeneuve was going to direct a two-part adaptation of Dune, I knew something I’d wanted to witness most of my life was finally coming to be. After seeing Arrival, Villeneuve’s adaptation of the Ted Chiang short, “Story of Your Life,” and the spectacular sequel to Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, Blade Runner, I knew there was no other director who could bring Dune to life with any chance of successfully capturing everything important. His previous movies like Sicario and Prisoners were good, and they showcased an impressive directorial talent, but it was Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 that blew me away and made him one of my favorite directors.
Having seen his vision for Dune, or at least the first part of the narrative terminating as Paul and Jessica meet up with the Fremen, I felt like a childhood dream had finally come true. Everything about this movie was more than I could have hoped for. Though it lacked the directly adapted dialogue Lynch brought over from the novel, it more truly captured every beat of the story in a way Lynch’s vision didn’t even attempt to approach.
Timothée Chalamet’s performance as Paul Atreides is nuanced and captures the fear Paul experiences in response to the changes he feels in himself as well as the visions of a future he’s horrified to witness. More age-appropriate to the role than Kyle MacLachlan was, he captures the youth and aborted innocence of the young Atreides.
Similarly, Rebecca Ferguson captures the role of Lady Jessica Atreides spectacularly well, portraying a woman torn between two worlds and two vastly different sets of loyalties.
The rest of the cast is no less fantastic in their designated roles. Each individual proved themselves to be capable of thoroughly projecting their characters with such quality that I never once felt like I’d have preferred the original cast. I look forward to experiencing more of the performances from Zendaya (Chani), Josh Brolin (Gurney Halleck), Stellan Skarsgard (Baron Harkonnen), Dave Bautista (Rabban Harkonnen), and Javier Bardem (Stilgar) when the second half of the epic story hits the screen in 2023.
The cinematography was jaw-dropping at times, and the sets and landscapes were captured with vivid detail that made the experience of watching the movie an immersive one.
The score provided by Hans Zimmer was the most surprising aspect of the movie, incorporating hints of the score TOTO provided for the 1984 adaptation of Dune. At no point going into this had I anticipated that there would be such a respectful nod to what had been a stellar score, one that I still consider one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of hearing.
I will spend the next two years eagerly anticipating the release of the second half of Dune, and I will also spend that time daydreaming that Villeneuve gets the green light to direct an adaptation of Dune Messiah.

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