[ExI] Dune (2021) Review

John Grigg possiblepaths2050 at gmail.com
Mon Sep 6 22:08:51 UTC 2021

"If the *Part One* approach means *Dune* tells essentially half of a story,
it allows that half all the breathing room it requires. After a dreamy
opening reel in which Chani establishes the story’s anti-colonialist themes
in voiceover (“Who will our next oppressors be?” she wonders as the
Harkonnen armies depart Arrakis), we spend a comfortable amount of time on
Caladan, establishing Duke Leto’s sense of duty and suspicions of imminent
betrayal; Paul’s anxiety over his doom-laden dreams, his skill as a fighter
under the tutelage of the grizzled Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin
<https://www.empireonline.com/people/josh-brolin/>), and his camaraderie
with sword-swinging warrior Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa
<https://www.empireonline.com/people/jason-momoa/>); and Lady Jessica’s
potentially conflicting responsibilities as Paul’s mother and a member of
the Bene Gesserit order. The pacing is perfect — Villeneuve makes you wait
*just* long enough, so when the action moves to Arrakis you’re just as
eager to venture into the desert as Paul.

When you finally get there, the overriding emotion *Dune* evokes really
kicks in: a near-constant jaw-on-the-floor awe. The sense of scale conjured
up is, from moment to moment, frequently astonishing. Cinematographer Greig
Fraser — who previously delivered the mind-blowing planet-explosion shots
in *Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
keeps the camerawork largely static and stately, with lingering wide shots
that let you drink in all the detail of the gorgeous sets, and bask in the
vistas of Villeneuve’s galactic visions. In one shot, the transport ships
bound for Arrakis are of ant-like insignificance against the deep expanse
of space. At ground-level, they’re colossal. The visual vastness is matched
by a Hans Zimmer <https://www.empireonline.com/people/hans-zimmer/> score
that is, to use a technical term, full-Zimmer —with howling human voices,
clattering drums sure to make any cinema seat rattle like a 4DX chair, and
inexplicable space-bagpipes.
[image: Dune]

This is blockbuster filmmaking in the Christopher Nolan
<https://www.empireonline.com/people/christopher-nolan/> mould — smart,
propulsive, and *really* big. But more than any one Nolan film in
particular, Dune feels most reminiscent of *The Lord Of The Rings: The
Fellowship Of The Ring
Like *Fellowship*, it’s merely the opening part of a story, but manages to
feel like a masterwork in its own right. Like *Fellowship*, it establishes
a sprawling and complex world that feels both familiar and utterly new with
the lightest of touches. And like *Fellowship*, its biggest set-piece comes
just after the midway point — after 90 minutes of setting up dominos,
Villeneuve finally lets them clatter into one another in spectacular style,
scattering the characters to the winds as the final hour becomes an all-out
survival movie.

Among the uniformly excellent performances, Timothée Chalamet holds his own
in his first blockbuster leading role. In a film this size, there’s every
chance he’d get swallowed up by the sandworm-like enormity of everything
around him — but even against the colossal spectacle, the magnetic charisma
he displayed in smaller indie fare shines through."

I can't wait to see it!

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