A review of the new blockbuster sci-fi movie “Dune”

Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction novel of 1965 was first filmed by David Lynch in 1984. I found that adaptation visually impressive but hard to follow plot-wise. So I was looking forward to seeing this second attempt to translate the novel and determined to see it soon and in IMAX; indeed it proved so popular that I had to go to the cinema in the morning to see it on the date and in the format that I wanted. 

But ultimately French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve – who thrilled me with “Blade Runner 2049” but left me rather flat with “Arrival” – has disappointed me again. In terms of cinematography, the movie is outstanding with splendid locations and dramatic settings but, as entertainment, the pacing is poor and the narrative is ponderous with too little genuine excitement. After two and a half hours, the film ends with a character declaring: “This is only the beginning”. In fact, this “Dune” is only about half the novel and “Dune: Part Two” is still to come. I will certainly view the second part, but I can’t say that I’m overly excited about the prospect.

The cast is splendid, led by Timothée Chalamet as messiah figure Paul Atreides and Oscar Isaac and Rebecca Ferguson as his parents Duke Leto and Lady Jessica, with some familiar supporting actors including Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista and Stellan Skarsgård. It’s rather a male-dominated world but it’s good to see veteran actress Charlotte Rampling and young Zenaya. However, the cast is let down by the leaden script. Lines like “Dreams make good stories, but everything important happens when we’re awake” do not exactly stir the blood.

Even for a science fiction movie, spectacle and special effects are not enough; one needs a decent script and livelier direction.


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