Coming to theatres and HBO Max from director Denis Villeneuve and Warner Bros. is the story of a battle for DUNE: Part One.
Living on the ocean planet of Caladan, House Atreides is ruled by Duke Leto Atredies (Oscar Isaac). Living peacefully with concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and son Paul (Timothee Chalamet), their lives are about to change. There are two that want to hurt House Atredies and that is House Harkonnen and one other person of power.
Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV is the ruling the planet of Arrakis and he does so for only one reason – melange. It is a spice that is coveted for extending life and the Emperor knows that by controlling it, he controls everything except House Atredies. Seeing a way of changing that, he sends Atreides to Arrakis replacing the Harkonnen’s.
Duke Leto is well aware of what the Emperor is capable of but still cannot refuse to go. Taking his son Paul and Lady Jessica, who is part of the Bene Gesserit’s, they prepare to leave. But not before a visitation by the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling) who tests Paul. The Reverend Mother is furious with the Lady Jessica for bearing Duke Leto a son and accuses her of ulterior motives.
Paul has not only been trained by his mother, but also taught warfare by Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) and Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin). All too soon, Leto, Jessica and Paul find themselves on Arrakis and meet the people called the Fremen. It is Leto and Paul who discover the dangers of the desert when Stilgar (Javier Bardem) shows them how melange is harvested.
Sandworms are not the only thing they need to worry about as an attempt is made on Paul’s life. Dealing with it, what Duke Leto does not see coming is a Harkkonen army and is kidnapped. Paul and Jessica are dropped into the desert but instead, survive. Taking over Arrakis once again is the Baron (Stellen Skarsgard) who ramps up production giving power to Rabban (Dave Bautista).
Taken in by Stilgar, Chani and the Freman, Paul now realizes that there is another dream that he plans to honor, and that is what his father wished to do – bring peace to Arrakis.
Chalamet as Paul is wrapped up in his dreams of a girl he does not know. Excited to be going with his father to Arakkis, he seems to go along to get along. When the time comes to get away from the attack that is destroying Arakeen, Chalamet’s Paul goes through a series of realizations and is brought to the point where he must decide whether to listen to his mother and go home – or embrace becoming a Fremen and fight on.
Isaac as Duke Leto is going to win in my eyes no matter what. I truly enjoy his choice of performances and he performs well in the role of a man who already knows his fate. He gives Duke Leto a strength of character which is what I would have expected in this remake. Isaac always gives his characters something special and for that I am grateful.
Ferguson as Lady Jessica is an emotional hot mess and canot seem to keep herself in check. One moment she is walking down the hall falling apart and the next second she’s making oaths to Leto. Her best talent is her own form of sign language that comes in handy a time or two. Zendaya as Chani lost me the second she pronounced Harkonnen’s badly but then again, the rest of the cast also goes along with the destruction of names. So far there is not much of her character except long walks on the desert dressed like a biblical Bedouin.
Momoa as Duncan has his clever moments, a close relationship with Paul and is larger than life. Learning what he can of the Fremen for the Duke, he stands by the family. Clean shaven, he still brings his Momoa-ness to his character as we would expect. Brolin as Halleck gives us his stern face and fast fighting style but then again, we already knew he was extremely good at it. In this role he gives us a bit of poetry and the words he finds in books to keep his focus on what is required to keep House Atredies safe.
Rampling as Reverand Mother may be brutal, but she also sees steps ahead of the Baron. Making deals with men, she is seen as nothing to worry about and that is their first mistake. Every time Rampling is on the screen I am thrilled. Bautista as Rabban is as brutal as he wants to be taking out any who support Atredies yet when he’s around the Baron, he is a whupped puppy.
Skarsgard as The Baron puts on the thick make up and does not forget how to float. He makes promises with every evil intention of going against them and doing whatever it takes to bring the Emperor what he wants. Bardem as Stilgar is abrupt, standoffish and does not take any nonsense from anyone, including the new landlord of Arakkis. Once in the company of Jessica and Paul, Bardem gives his character a hint of the surprises to come.
Other cast include Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Dr. Liet Kynes, Stephan McKinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat, Chen Chang as Dr. Wellington Yueh, David Dastmalchian as Piter de Vries, Babs Olusanmokun as Jamis, Benjamin Clementine as Herald of the Change, Souad Faress as Bene Gesserit Sister and Golda Rosheuvel as Shadout Mapes.
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Dune was written in 1965 by Frank Herbert and was made into a film in 1984 by director David Lynch and is the film most are familiar with. Now, Denis Villeneuve has put his hand into the mix to bring a two-part telling of Herbert’s book.
There is no green light yet for the second half of DUNE as director Villeneuve says he is “standing with one foot in the air, waiting for the permission to make Part Two”. Coming in at 165 million dollars to make, I would not hold my breath to get that kind of budget for the next installment.
That being said, I feel like I could have turned down the sound and had no problem following along with what was happening. At times I wanted to turn down the sound because I just do not understand the need to remake something so epic as Lynch’s version of DUNE, especially if the 2021 version uses the same classic lines. Failing to see the need to break the film up into two over two-hour parts just does not register with me.
So, the film is predictable even if the special effects are updated (dragonfly helicopters are a nice touch), the characters try to say the memorable names in a different, annoying way and the writers changed lines around giving them to other characters. Was it thought that true DUNE film fans would not notice this?
Now let’s address the elephant in the film – sparkling sand? Really? Did TWILIGHT teach us nothing? That’s not the first thing one would think of when describing the spice melange. There is no sparkle in mélange!
I am sure that for those looking for a bit of science fiction mixed into their film watching choices then DUNE will be fine. It is not something that I needed to sit through for over two hours when I am still alive, breathing and have a good memory that goes back to 1984. Perhaps studios should wait until a large group of us have gone to the theatre in the sky before regurgitating our beloved films.
In the end – it begins!