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STEPHEN'S MOVIE GUIDE

Dune (2021)

Review: written November 2021

A Masterclass in world building

Dune (2021)


Whether it is fond memories of the classic novel by Frank Herbert, nostalgic or otherwise thoughts of the 1984 version, or even vague recollections of the TV series, you may think this movie is both redundant and a foolish enterprise. However, from the opening sounds and images, there’s a reassuring sense that you’re about to be immersed in another world. Villeneuve’s framing on a huge canvas at once makes this world believable and tangible with details that bring it to life, scale and texture that makes you refuse to believe it can’t exist. Against this backdrop the characters often appear as tiny parts of the picture, mere details, enhancing the feeling that they are at the whim of fate and the elements. And of course, Herbert’s story involves lots of elements, and lots of fate. If there is any problem here, it’s that there was too much narrative in one book for just one film – and so we end up with only half the story. This is Dune Part 1, and you need to be prepared to leave the cinema with a story not ‘finished’. But that’s not to say I left the cinema unfulfilled, far from it. 2 hours and 35 minutes flew past, and I could have sat there several hours more immersed in this world. If you’re one of those people that is frustrated by feeling ‘left hanging’ at the end of the movie you might feel you want to wait until Dune Part 2 comes out in a year or two… but I’m telling you, you’ll be missing out on an experience that benefits from being seen on the largest screen and heard on the most immersive sound system possible.

Dune (2021)


The story is set in a universe where a mysterious substance called ‘spice’ is used for all space navigation, and therefore has become the most valuable substance in the empire. In this empire, there are several families, all vying for their own place with all the intrigue and politics this brings. We find ourselves as a change in management is happening on the planet of Dune (the only source of Spice), at the request of the Emperor. The Atreides family are moving in – but their son has more personal reasons to want to go to this strange planet – he has been having dreams about it. While the book used large chunks of inner dialogue, much of this is sidestepped in the movie version – the richness of the world and the characters and the politics instead conveyed through visuals and Hans Zimmer’s strikingly otherworldly music. There’s a sense that rather than feel the need to put all the description, intrigue and character building up on the screen, the director has found a way of being true to the book while steering a clear path through it, not being tempted by too many side journeys. It’s a masterclass in building a believable cinematic world. The cast, while seeming dwarfed by the scale of what’s happening around them do a worthy job. Timothée Chalamet is convinving in his difficult character arc from callow teenager to man of vision and purpose, and Oscar Isaacs lends sufficient gravitas to the Duke Atreides. If Jason Momoa feels a misstep, it’s not because of his acting (he’s surprisingly convincing) but more because his star recognisability is one of the few elements that remind you this is a movie.

Dune (2021)

Dune (2021)


It’s been a while since I have felt so fully immersed in another world, with nary a thought during the movie as to how it was being delivered, the effects used, or how it was filmed - but simply experiencing a complete giving over to the film. It’s a wonderful feeling when it happens. There’s a new master of the visual medium, and his name is Villeneuve.

Dune (2021)




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