A couple of years ago my book club chose to read Frank Herbert’s 1965 scifi novel Dune for one of our summer selections. The whole point of book club is to get me out of my reading comfort zone so I dove in hoping to enjoy it…and I did not. It was a beast of exposition and ambling plot that went nowhere. None of us but one enjoyed the book and I hoped to never hear about Dune again.
Then of course the movie was announced directed by auteur Denis Villeneuve and of course it was delayed last year due to the pandemic. I feel like I have been hearing about this movie for ages. First the endless casting announcements and then trailers and other publicity as it became delayed. The hype for most was building to a promise I knew the film would not be able to meet- ‘the next Lord of the Rings‘ or ‘Star Wars‘ and I knew from the book that’s not what Dune is unless they strayed far away from the source material.
Today we finally arrived at the big screening day and I had moderated expectations, which is what I recommend for each of you. Don’t go in expecting to hate it- that’s idiotic but expect a well made scifi movie and that’s what you will get.
That’s right. I did actually enjoy Dune despite my dislike of the book. I don’t love it and it has its issues but it’s about the best you could do in making a Dune movie and what more can you ask of filmmakers?
The strengths are in the visual effects and production/sound design. The acting is also all competent and they keep the story moving fairly well- far better than the book or some of Villeneuve’s other scifi films.
My problems with the film is in the character development. Timothee Chalamet does a good job with Paul but the character is flat and doesn’t grow in the way we need for this type of Chosen One story. In addition, none of the side characters stand out or are particularly memorable (no Samwise or Han Solo types in the bunch). It also has no comic relief or lighthearted moments to allow the audience to breathe away from the action.
As I said, the visual effects are strong but in the last third of the film there are a lot of night scenes obfuscated with sand storms. I know this is partly intentional as the story has become darker but it lost some of its visual flair to a muddy sameness by the end.
I know many will disagree with me, but I also was underwhelmed by the Hans Zimmer score. I thought it was bland and missing the dynamic theme we need in such an epic story.
After I see a film I always ask ‘did it succeed in doing what it’s trying to do?’ and I think with Dune the answer is yes. Sure I had some critiques but for a very difficult novel to put on film they did a good job and certainly fans of the source material will love it. When you get a chance to see it let me know what you think!
6.5 out of 10