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Friday, September 22, 2023

Dune Review: Striking Futuristic Desert Leaves Us Thirsty For More

Warner Bros is no stranger to catapulting audiences to futuristic worlds and epic battles, as seen in Mad Max and The Matrix franchise. With Dune, the adventure begins again.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, it is the feature adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965  science fiction novel. The 1984 version has gained a cult following and this recent one has made waves at Venice International Film Festival.

Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people.

As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence, only those who can conquer their own fear will survive.

Having observed previous works by Denis Villeneuve, I’m aware that his style of filmmaking is a slow burner but there’s excellence in his vision as a storyteller which keeps us hooked.

His camera work is stunning and manages to captivate every detail. He brings Sci-Fi, as a genre, to life. Somehow, he manages to make sinister creatures look so fascinating.

Remember the cephalopod-like, seven-limbed aliens (‘heptapods’) in Arrival?  Well, here, we have the giant sandworms that are as terrifying as the Basilisk in Harry Potter, becoming the simmering threat throughout the narrative.

In fact, when it comes to visual appeal this is arguably his most spectacular work yet. A special goes to the cinematographer Greig Fraser, for capturing the sets and graphics so beautifully.

These technical aspects are enriched by Hans Zimmer’s enchanting background score, which endeavours to keep viewers engaged.

The set creation, costumes are an absolute treat to watch. Particularly, the desert is like an additional character – which adds to the enigma of the story.

Timothée Chalamet delivers a compelling performance as Paul Atreides, the ducal heir of House Atreides and main protagonist. His eyes are very expressive, exuding a sense of vulnerability and budding wisdom.

Rebecca Ferguson too is formidable as the protective Bene Gesserit mother. Again, her expressions/body language convey fear, strength and composure. She is a fabulous talent.

Like many of us, I was very fascinated to seeing Zendaya, but quite frankly, she is hardly seen, only during the latter part of the second half and within Paul’s vision.

At times, during her appearance in the visions, she (unintentionally) reminds one of Mahira Khan in the Zaalima video.

I wanted to see more of Zendaya and I know this is just part one – but her appearance in this is underwhelming.

I saw the film without any prior insight into the creation of ‘Dune’, including its original film, I found myself quite lost and unable to comprehend the premise.

A simple voiceover explaining the situation or even a text scroll would’ve been sufficient to set the scene properly.

As a viewer, I enjoy getting plunged into an extraordinary world and getting straight into the action.

However, here, we are required a great deal of context to at least make us understand the world we are getting into. Subtitles would’ve worked wonders here, even during the spoken English parts.

The slow-burning pace here becomes quite a painful experience and lacks atmosphere. The excitement, thrill and enigma that should’ve been present, lacks majorly.

Also, just to reiterate, I understand that this is just part one of another instalment, but I feel that as a standalone movie, it is quite underwhelming even though the visual appeal is wonderful.

Whilst fans of Sci-Fi and even the original Dune might enjoy this new adaption, I, unfortunately, was left thirsty witnessing the desert of boredom.

⭐⭐.5 (2.5/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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