‘Dune’ is a visual masterpiece but lacks in world building

Devon Martinez  

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4 out of 5 stars

Visually stunning, epic and unapologetically bold, “Dune,” directed by Denis Villeneuve, is a well-made film with a massive story that ended with me wanting more. Unfortunately, I, along with everyone else, will have to wait at least two years to see the next installment.  

     “Dune” takes place in the distant future as humanity has evolved in many scientific and spiritual aspects. The story centers around the imperial family of Atreides as they are tasked by the emperor to move their people from their lush homeworld of Caladan to the desert planet Arrakis to harvest “spice,” a drug that helps prolong life, strengthen vitality and awareness and is vital for space travel to assist ships going through warped space.  

     It is also a metaphor for crude oil. So, there’s a little something for the environmentalists at UCCS. 

     “Dune” is an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel of the same name and is often compared to “The Lord of the Rings” for its size and scope of the story. The 1984 film version — directed by the legendary David Lynch — is infamous as being his biggest mistake, so bad that he disowned it because the studio cut and changed it.  

     No real fan of “Dune” ever utters anything about the 2000 mini-series that was aired on the Sci Fi Channel. 

     Villeneuve’s film version is the first well-made “Dune” project (audiences and critics both agree). He is a master director who I admired before I entered the film. His previous films include my favorite science fiction film ever “Blade Runner 2049,” and the Academy Award-winning films “Arrival” and “Sicario.”  

     I was brimming with excitement to see his vision because I see him as an artist I can trust. The studio gave him a $165 million budget and full creative rights to make the film, so I was not the only believer.  

     Paul Atreides, portrayed by Timothée Chalamet, is the son of Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), the duke of the House of Atreides. He has access to powers that he is still learning to use and control with help from his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson). The story may seem large, but at its core is a coming-of-age story as Paul grows and his responsibilities shift in ways he never could have imagined.  

     I watched the movie at the right time in my life. Being a digital filmmaking major and currently taking cinematography, I felt as if I was witnessing a master class for filmmaking. Villeneuve relies so heavily on visuals to tell the story that you might get lost in it and miss important plot points used in dialogue. 

     The long shots of the sprawling desert mixed with special effects are just breathtaking. Nothing feels fake in this movie, and you feel as if you are transplanted to another planet; nothing reminds you of Earth.  

     The production design, wardrobe and music all play together in harmony to achieve a totally different experience that does not feel like a rip-off of any other science fiction film.  

     There is also not a bad performance; every actor perfectly delivers what they need to move the storytelling forward. Chalamet as Paul Atreides is the focus of the film and he delivers this with everything in his performance; he inhabits the character so well that people might see him as just this character once the series is finished.  

     However, fans looking forward to seeing Zendaya will be disappointed, because she played a small role.  

     The only flaw in the film is in its lack of clear explanation about the universe it exists in. People who know almost nothing will be lost at times because, despite the story being easy to follow, the reasons for the characters’ actions are not explained like they are in the book.  

     But to really judge this movie’s impact, we are going to have to wait for the second film. Imagine a great beginning and terrible ending or a great beginning with an even better finish? Now that is how we will truly judge it.  

     But my hopes are high with Chalamet returning as Paul, and Villeneuve returning to helm the sequel and complete his vision.  

     “Dune” is a movie you should see in theaters. The cameras used, the large sprawling shots and sound design were all made for that experience, not your smartphone.  

Photo courtesy of reddit.com.