Dune has always felt really personal to me. I read the novel by Frank Herbert in my first year at high school and completely fell in love with it. I then made the mistake of watching David Lynch’s film adaption, which I loathed and admittedly, Sting’s costume still haunts me to this day.
During my time at university, a friend suggested that I watch the mini-series and told me that it was “remarkably better than the film”. To her credit, it was better, but it never even went close to reaching the lofty expectations that I had in my head for what the world of Dune should look like and be since reading the novel.
So, as you could imagine I was incredibly nervous going in to watch the Denis Villeneuve version. Perhaps ‘nervous’ isn’t the right way to describe how I was feeling, honestly, I was trying not to feel excited because in the pit of my stomach, I had a feeling that I was once again going to have my hopes dashed. However, I am happy to share that I was wrong – Villeneuve has delivered a masterpiece.
For those who do not know the Dune story, it is told through the eyes of a young Duke-to-be, Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) who watched his father, Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) build their family empire to make them one of the most respected families in the galaxy, accompanied the likes of Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) and Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) training their Army they feel safe and secure.
Both Gurney and Duncan train Paul in combat, in case there is ever a need for it, while his mother, Lady Jessica Atreides (Rebecca Ferguson) trains him to saddle the special abilities that have been handed down to him through his family line. And while Paul attempts this, these abilities provide him dreams and visions of Chani (Zendaya), a young native Fremen from the planet Arrakis. Paul has no idea what the visions mean but is soon worried by them when he learns that the Atreides family have just been ordered to travel to Arrakis to bring peace to the planet, as well as stabilise and operate the ‘spice’ mining operation on the planet.
Villeneuve’s vision of Dune is nothing short of amazing. It is like he somehow went into my head and took my visions of what the Dune universe would look like, and then brought it to the screen. The first thing that hits you when watching Dune is the understanding of the themes and morals from the original novel, the second is the fact that Villeneuve’s filmmaking makes even the harshest scenes look like a thing of beauty.
I was in awe with the way the director kept a dark tone throughout the film without depressing the audience in a way that made the film a chore to watch. Villeneuve also doesn’t spell out everything to the audience like they are dunces, he makes you work at times to figure out what is happening, the result is that you become so engrossed in the film itself, that you feel like you are part of the universe alongside the characters.
The power of this adaptation really comes through with the way that it looks on the big screen, there is a dark, foreboding feeling that remains throughout. And while it reaches epic heights that match the moments and excitement of film franchise Lord of The Rings, there is still an alternate indie vibe to it that allows for more character development then you would normally expect from a film of this magnitude. Villeneuve never fails to remember one thing, even during epic battle scenes and remaining a learning curve for Chamalet’s character Paul, at its heart, Dune is a coming-of-age story.
I don’t say this often about films that are supposed to be blockbusters, however, Dune truly is a masterpiece. It shows that is okay to make a blockbuster film and still have an alternative edge to it. This is a film of true beauty, and I honestly cannot wait to revisit it again.