‘Dune’: Villeneuve’s Epic Adaptation, Deserving of the Big Screen

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Dune 2021 (Courtesy of warnerbros.com)

By Luke Jackson, Arts Writer

 

Since his 2016 film “Arrival,” Canadian director Denis Villeneuve has been slowly drifting into the harsh wastelands of science-fiction cinema. A warzone dominated by the likes of “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” Villeneuve has tactically navigated the trenches in order to survive.

With “Arrival,” we witnessed a heart-filled and beautiful time-travel film grounded in realism. Following with “Blade Runner 2049,” Villeneuve showed us that he is not afraid to take on big Hollywood and deliver a big budget spectacle. Now we arrive at “Dune,” Villeneuve’s most ambitious project to date.

One Word: Big

“Dune” is a larger-than-life, star-studded science fiction epic. While the franchise itself — based on the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert — has been around for a good while, it has never achieved rousing mainstream success — until now.

Villeneuve’s “Dune” breathes life into the politically charged, spice-filled world of Herbert’s imagination. One word was on my mind throughout my 155-minute viewing — “big.” Just looking at the cast is an overwhelming cacophony of big names. From Timothée Chalamet to Zendaya, everyone’s come out to play.

Then we’ve got the visuals, something that Villeneuve has proven extremely adept at. With scaling concrete structures, vast open cathedrals and, of course, enormous sand dunes, “Dune” is an express pleasure to look at. Each scene was decorated beautifully and delivered visuals that were simultaneously majestic and comfortable. It’s no wonder Villeneuve has recently pushed movie goers to catch “Dune” in theaters. There will truly be something missing if it isn’t viewed on the big screen.

Vast, Yet Approachable

Equally as vast and impressive as the visuals of “Dune” is the complex and mysterious world it takes place in. The universe of “Dune” is politically intricate and culturally nuanced. These tropes of course are familiar to the science fiction genre and can make films difficult to grasp. “Dune” however masterfully avoided this common pitfall by intricately giving the audience just enough information to comfortably understand. If I ever began to feel confused by the complex relationships between the Fremen, Atreides or Harkonnen, the film gently grasped my hand and led me onward.

The films narrative did an excellent job of making the audience feel at home in this foreign world. While those who are familiar with the book series may be able to comprehend the contextual nuances of the “Dune” universe, newcomers like me are not left behind. Instead of confusing the audience, the narrative prompts us to pay close attention, drawing us in and holding us tight.

Much More to Come

“Dune” is intentionally meticulous, detailed and a bit slow. One of Villeneuve’s primary intentions with the film was to ensure the original story would be preserved. The film is clearly setting up a broader universe and is to be used as a jumping-off point. Moviegoers who are hoping for a conclusive and neatly tied up epic will be disappointed as the film leaves much to be wanted. Yet, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Those of us who are looking for our next obsession will be right at home in the deserts of “Dune,” for it is clear, there is much more to come.

While ambitious in its length and content, “Dune” did not once feel like a drag. I was shocked that nearly three hours had passed when the end credits rolled. I excitedly tip my hat to Villeneuve who may just reign over the science fiction wasteland for many years to come.

 

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