This week, we review Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, the first part of his adaption of the novel of the same name.
Anthony’s Written Review
After the long, long delay, we finally have Dune… Part 1.
So, before I begin my review, lets get all the mambo out of the way. Dune is a film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s original novel by the same name. Starring Timothe Chalamet, Zendaya, Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Dave Bautista, Javier Bardem, Stellan Skarsgrad, and finally Rebecca Ferguson. And a simple plot synopsis is that a young man, Paul Atredias (chamalet) is thrust into a political, ecological, and spiritual fight for a foreign world where it’s resource, Spice, fuels and drives space exploration. This adaptation is directed by the one and only Dennis Villeneuve and by the cinema gods does he direct the *insert preferred curse word* out of this film.
Now let’s begin!
This film is without a doubt a stunning display of riches. Let us begin naturally with the visuals
Villenevue and his Cinematographer Greg Frasier create a towering visual showpiece with Dune. There is not a single frame of this film that does not feel immediately transportive and fully realized and the way these two choose to capture and shoot this film is simply wonderous. Its visuals imprint a sense of scale and enormity that I’ve never seen before in cinema. And not only does it capture an epic sized sense of scale and world, somehow it does all this without losing the reality and down to earth that this film ends up capturing in the moments of personal and familial conflict. Somehow also, the beauty of the lighting in this work also feels minimal and naturalistic, vs Denis last film, Blade Runner 2049, shot with master Roger Deakins, whereas that film felt like a very intense visual flex of flair, this film feels textured and tangible in a way that can only be described as magical.
Which leads me to the what’s in front of the camera. The art direction, costume design, props, special fx, cgi, production designers, and the locations of this film are truly monumental in every single aspect. I haven’t seen a film operate at this scale of immersion and believability since The Lord of The Rings. Every woman and man who worked in these departments truly deserve all the praise as they establish sound a rigid and gorgeous foundation for this film to succeed. Literally any one scene, any scene, in this film feels leagues above any other sci-fi film that I have ever seen, just in the craft aspect. I felt awestruck by it, I felt gob smacked, I felt overwhelmed so many times during this film just because of the craft and precision and imagination of this team. Truly, a testament of filmmaking at display.
But the film doesn’t stop with just perfect visuals, it begins with a sound/score that is by far one of the most immersive, intense, emotional, and enthralling soundscapes I have ever heard in my life. I felt everything in this score, Fear, Panic, Pain, Anger, Enlightenment, Hope all created by the wonderful Hans Zimmer. I remember hearing he dropped Nolan’s Tenet for this film and my immediate reaction was “better be worth it” and eating my own words have never felt better. What Zimmer does here sonically is astounding. He uses a female choir during some of the most intense moments. One singer, Lisa Gerrard, screams and shouts so fiercely I literally began to nervous smile in the auditorium every time I heard her. Not only that, but Hans even employed a sculptor to manufacture odd and alien creations, meshing different instrument with each other to create impossible sounds, he goes even further by digitally altering all these sounds and layering organic sounds over each other to the point of abstraction. Somehow through this meshing and mashing of sounds he creates a score that feels futuristic, feminine, dangerous, alarming, and textured yet maintains this weird organic sound to it. The score literally left me breathless in the theater.
The other component to the soundscape was all the sounds that the sound department captured and created for the film. Every small sound felt believable and rich.
Now of course we need to talk about the ensemble of this film. This film is nearly the definition of a star-studded. They all do wonderfully in their roles. Its rare to see a film cast every character to perfection. Literally all of them deliver exactly what I would want from them in the role they are in, and they truly make the characters and the lines of dialogue feel lived in and real. The stand-outs for me are Skarsgrad, for delivering such a disgusting and muted performance and of course Rebecca Fergusson for having to carry much of the emotional core of this film on her back. I loved seeing her performance of a mother with a burden and a sense of guilt.
Now, before I wrap this up, I do want to bring up minor negatives.
I love Chalamet and I think his performance was great in this role, but there is something about his character or the lines or actions he was given that didn’t allow for his character or performance to really grow into anything with immense weight. Maybe its chamalet’s performance, maybe it’s the script, or the book its based on, but I never felt like he was equal to any of his other castmates, they all had this undeniable weight on screen, where Paul felt weightless to me, he felt like the weakest link, which again may be the novel’s fault, I find this fault in most fiction work that deals with world-building and ensemebles, the protoganist is always the least interesting for me, but in all honesty this is a small nitpick because maybe it will be corrected in the second part of this story as it doesn’t conclude, and there is enough evidence to suggest the second part will be where Paul shines and grows into his own.
Which, leads me to my 2nd nitpick, which is the story is incomplete as it stands, which obviously it’s a part 1 but, this dilemma is a strange and unexpected one, as this is the first time I’ve experienced a part 1 film released with no planned or Green-lit second part announced (as of 10/24/21) and It made the end of this film feel incredibly deflating for me. Not because I have to wait for a part 2 but because if there is no part 2, then I don’t think this film by itself, as a single film, satisfies what I think it aims too. I don’t think the film ties enough narrative and thematic threads on its own, therefore I find the narrative and story the weakest link of this film. So far. I’d say the same of the LOTR trilogy if I had to review one single piece, they are individually, just like this film, just a part of a whole.
So, in ending.
9/10 – Phenomenal
This film made me feel things I have never felt in a cinema. I felt awe-struck, gob smacked and breathless. The film envelopes you into this foreign alien world and doesn’t let go, it is relentlessly beautiful and uncompromisingly designed and textured in a way films of this scale never are, or ever have been. It’s a 165 million dollar indie film directed by the king of Sci-Fi Dennis Villeneuve. It is a technical masterpiece of cinema. The score by Hans Zimmer is one of his best works, and the production/ art design is a defining moment in the craft.
Now… we wait for part 2.