HOLLYWOOD—I never saw the 1984 sci-fi adventure “Dune,” so I was able to enter the theater to see the 2021 remake “Dune” with an open eye and little to no comparison to that flick which many consider a classic. This is a big movie that is the first thing I have to point out and it’s not the easiest to follow. I would not call it a thinking movie, but it does force you to pay attention, and upon reflection it does raise some questions about society and our desire to take sometimes what doesn’t belong to us.
Helming the sci-fi adventure is famed director Denis Villeneuve. This is the man who has crafted classics like “Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049.” Both of those films were fantastic on visual fronts and this updated version of “Dune” is absolutely stunning. This futuristic world that one could only imagine is stunning to watch, and the technology used in some of the epic, and choreographed fight sequences will leave audiences speechless. If we are talking solely about visual effects and technical advancements this movie gets an A plus. However, we’re NOT talking solely visual effects, we have a narrative to get to that did not immediately hook and grab my attention.
It took almost a good 45 minutes before I found myself somewhat intrigued to follow where things were taking place between Caladan and Arrakis. The dichotomy between the two planets are interesting; one that is full of water, the other, full of sand, dry land and a special resource known as ‘spice’ that the ruler of Caladan want to claim as their own, particularly Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac). That resource is needed for travel and it is also an important resource for human vitality.
So Leto leads a mission to manifest a coup to take over the planet of Arrakis, however, that planet’s people, which includes a bevy of fearless heroes, known as Fremen who are not willing to just roll over and allow their planet to be overtaken without a battle to the death. Leto is closely aligned with Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), who is part of a very powerful female order, but she has a bit of an issue, she was to bear a daughter, but instead bore a son, Paul (Timothee Chalamet), who is the heir of House Atreides. Paul has the ability to see into the future and those visions are a sign of trouble headed his way.
So there is a bulk of the narrative force of the film and from there it is an introduction of characters who come and go as we’re forced to believe Paul might suffer a troubling fate, as he battles through the planet of Arrakis and its people and battle warriors, sandworms and betrayals from within. The problem is I did not care about a vast majority of these characters and it is frustrating because the level of talent here is amazing. Zendaya portrays Chani, a mysterious woman that Paul has a vision about, but her presence in the movie is so minute it’s frustrating because the trailers appear to tease her role is significant and that is not the case at all.
You have sensational actors in Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgard and Dave Bautista, and let’s not forget the talented actress Charlotte Rampling who portrays Gaius Helen Mohiam, who wields a power that we all wish we had. I wanted the story of this move to weave in a fluid way where all the characters aligned in a way that didn’t feel forced. Things feel forced here and because of that it makes it harder for the viewer to open that door to just follow where things are going. In addition, this movie clocks in over 2 hours and 30 minutes, about 20-30 minutes longer than what it needs to be. If a scene serves no vital purpose to the story or character development leave it on the cutting room floor people.
“Dune” had massive potential and perhaps its sequel will make up for the lackluster first outing because Warner Bros. has already approved a sequel slated for release in 2023.