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‘…Dune is the must-see movie of 2021 so far, and has the potential to be an iconic Godfather-level franchise for grown-ups in the years to come….’

Most films are eagerly awaited by someone; with Dune, that wait has been substantial for many. Frank Herbert’s 1965 book was a franchise starter, and also a game-changer that led directly to Star Wars, so it’s no surprise that film versions have been mooted for decades. There’s even a feature film about the abortive making of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s un-filmed version, a tv show with James McAvoy and William Hurt, and David’s Lynch’s famously stilted 1984 version, and that might have been the end of that if Canadian film-maker Dennis Villeneuve hadn’t fancied it. The man behind Enemy, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 seemed like an ideal choice to make sense of a deeply tricky property; who would have guessed space-mice and bagpipes would make such a difference?

And different it is, because this Dune looks and feels very different from previous versions in one striking aspect; it makes sense. Yes, even if you couldn’t tell the House of Atreides from the House of Harkonnen, Villeneuve’s Dune takes a classic story and tells it with admirable simplicity, over 150 minutes of complex space opera compellingly told. The narrative has a 60’s feel, spice, drugs and Vietnam all seem to have influenced Herbert’s vision. Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet, finally showing his leading man chops to good effect) is a chosen one who might well lead the sandy people of Dune in revolt against their colonial oppressors, but who are the real enemies? The Emperor is kept off-screen for now, but with Paul’s family and the House of Arteides taking control of an industrial spice operation on desert planet Arrakis after the previous occupiers left abruptly, what political machinations are clicking into gear?

An opening credit immediately clarifies that this is ‘part one’ of an adaptation of the novel, but it’s still immensely satisfying; the final duel in the sand tops off a narrative that’s stronger for being stripped down to the key elements. The film’s look is dynamic, almost like a silent movie, and Villeneuve knows how to use special effects to develop rather than smother a narrative. There’s high-end support from Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, Charlotte Rampling, Rebecca Ferguson and others; for once, all the stars have lots to do, with bags of exposition detail handled in an accessible, creative fashion.

The overall effect of Dune is overwhelming in the right way; you’re left wanting more, a quality rarer than intergalactic spice in the world of blockbusters. While movies like Star Wars and The Matrix have borrowed from the world of Dune, it’s something of a relief to finally see a great story told well. I’ve made a habit of mocking other bloggers about their interest in invented titles like Sandworms of Panopticon IV; The Chyrizalids of Bazingoid 5, but if I’d seen a movie like this at an impressionable age, I might well have embraced the fantasy world from the get-go. With a mind-blowing sci-fi production, a terrific Hans Zimmer score, and all the pieces falling into place, Dune is the must-see movie of 2021 so far, and has the potential to be an iconic Godfather-level franchise for grown-ups in the years to come.

Dune hits cinemas in the UK and US from Oct 21nd 2021, and HBO Max on Oct 22. UK previews tonight (Monday 18th Oct )

Thanks to Warner Brothers UK for advanced access to Dune on the big screen.


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      • I may be way ahead of the curve too on this. But I agree with Ralph Fiennes who would bring quite a distinction to the role as Jose Ferrer did.

          • Because I like Virginia Madsen as the Emperor’s daughter, Princess Irulan, in Lynch’s Dune, I now wonder who will be cast as Irulan for Part 2 of Villeneuve’s Dune.

    • I totally agree. Wasn’t sure if I would like it, but it was way better than I imagined, and I’m looking forward to part 2!

    • have spoken to a few people who surprised me my liking the Lynch version. Like you, I can’t watch it, it’s so awful! Unless there’s a re-cut, I’ll be avoiding it…the tv version looks better, but it won’t be as good as the new 2021 version!

  1. I watched it at the cinema on Sunday and it was a true cinematic experience. We knew the visuals were going to be gorgeous but what blew my mind was the sound. Not just the score but the incredible sound mixing. For those that know the book, when Paul and Jessica used “the voice,” it sent shivers down my spine, in a good way! I want to see it again, and I really really hope Part 2 gets made.

    • That intergalactic subtitled burp before the title cards set the tone. Comedian Ronnie Corbett has a catchphrase “I won’t do the voice…” which came to mind in these scenes. It made the Lynch version look like a cosplay of this one; like you, I hope people turn out and make Dune a sandy tentpole.

        • Lynch could easily add a few layers of impenetrability with another couple of hours. Dino probably has it stashed in a safe somewhere …

    • Thanks! Glad to pass on good news, but this is very much as good as the director’s previous work. Enjoy!

      • Dune can be most interesting as a galactic adventure and society that doesn’t need so many exotic creatures like Star Wars. All the people roles are humanoids and yet it somehow wasn’t too human-centric. That reaffirms Frank Herbert’s unique mark on the SF genre. Denis Villeneuve’s too.

        • This really awakened an interest in sci-go that I have not felt for a while; as you say, less jazzy than the imitations, but grounded in recognisable human behaviour. It’s a landmark movie.

  2. So, my previous attempts at leaving a comment were directly on the site.
    Now I am trying through the reader. Since Fraggle’s went through, I’m hoping this will too.

      • As much as I can be about any movie, I think so.
        I will be debating about whether to watch it on Prime, and shell out the blasphemous amount of money they want, when it hits Stateside. It is really hard for me to justify 20 to watch a movie once :-/
        But the thing is, I do want Part II to exist.

    • Is the correct answer! Now I’ll have to read the books because they’re suddenly interesting!

        • I reckon they’ll do Part Two with Denis Villeneuve, and then farm out books two and three. On this evidence, the first one is pretty sharp, and I’d be amazed if they can keep this up over six films. But I’m amazed this this one is good….I’ll have to find something else to mock the Captain about…

            • That’s right, maybe I didn’t make this clear. This is the first half of book one. Part Two will be the second part of book one. That’s why we need part two.

                • I honestly didn’t know this until I sat down in the cinema, but I think it’s worth telling people about, otherwise you’ll be expecting a whole not of narrative that hasn’t even been shot yet….focus on the ears!

                  • Yeah hopefully by the time I get round to seeing it part 2 will be in the works. Otherwise it’s a bit of a let down. All ears sorted, we’re steady as she goes now.

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