Director Denis Villeneuve‘s highly anticipated film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel “Dune” gives the impression that it is crafted with two major goals in mind: to please diehard fanboys and sci-fi loving critics (in that order). The end result is a visually dazzling spectacle, a true feast for the eyes that will satisfy (if not excite) anyone who loves cinema. Look, I’m not the audience for this, and I didn’t really enjoy it. But I sure as hell respect it.
The film stays true to the story of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), a young man who is tasked with ensuring the future of his people and his family (Oscar Isaac and Rebecca Ferguson). Paul must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe if he is to succeed, and conflict awaits him at nearly every turn.
The plot is confusing, especially to those unfamiliar with the source material. There is a lot to take in, and it’s not an easy story to follow. Thankfully the film is so visually dazzling, because Greig Fraser‘s impressive cinematography is engrossing even when the rest of the movie is not. The first hour is an arduous undertaking, with lots of confusing plot exposition and needlessly slow pacing (the material is stretched thin so there will be plenty of story left for a sequel).
The story is bleak, and the film is full of disturbing images. The whole thing is really weird in a way that may make it difficult to cross over into mainstream audiences, especially with folks who don’t enjoy science fiction. Even the costumes (which are a knockout; major applause for designers Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan) have a nightmarish quality that could prove challenging for some.
Chalamet is terrific as Paul. He’s a very skilled actor, but doesn’t yet feel like a true leading man who can carry an entire big budget movie on his shoulders. He’s getting there, but his performance benefits from the supporting cast.
In the end, audiences whom “Dune” is created for aren’t going to be disappointed. Villeneuve set out to make a spectacle, and he succeeds.