Dune ★★★★

Dune is the unadaptable novel that three auteurs of their era have now braved - David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and now with the most self-serious tone, Denis Villeneuve and only Villeneuve had the foresight to split this story into two parts with the massive worldbuilding element of the novel. Now, it's hard to judge the entire product without seeing the result, but knowing what is left in the story has me incredibly excited for part two. Part one does an excellent job setting the stage for the more philosophical journey into the nature of spice, Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) as Kwisatz Haderach, the Fremen's purpose, and the sandworms.

Part one is a visual feast meant to be experienced at its most awe-inspiring. The combination of the atmospheric Hanz Zimmer score, the ethereal, golden Greig Fraser cinematography, and the glorious visual effects that achieved the unthinkable and brought out the world of Arrakis in the way described by Frank Herbert himself. Villeneuve took the complex visual language of the story and transferred it to the screen in all the evocative ways of the novel, layering in a much deeper journey that speaks to the nature of the world all through beautifully time editing and the breathtaking look of the film. He's able to capture the galactic impact of spice, and the planet of Arrakis on the rest of the universe while telling a deeply involved personal journey of Paul Atreides, going so far as to establish all the essential players and not mashing their impact for the sake of time. It takes on the massive detail of the novel honestly. While part one does serve as an exposition dump for portions of its runtime, it approaches all the world-building with a sense of wonder and accentuates every character, plot, and world detail to match the imposing feel of the Dune novels. It also captured the sheer force of the sandworms in all their glory that genuinely gave the story its sense of scale.

As for the casting, it was important for Warner Bros to have big names attached, considering it's based on a long-forgotten epic science fiction series. While not every casting decision worked out, for the most part, they did an excellent job. Every actor was fully bought into the rhythm of the film and matched the importance of the moment. Chalamet as Paul Atreides was the most crucial cast, and I think he rose above the rest to immerse us in the otherworldly journey of the Kwisatz Haderach. It's a layered performance where he wishes to become his father (Oscar Isaac) but also submits to the Bene Gesserit and the influences of his mother (Rebecca Ferguson) - showing off the full scope of the universe and his importance to the plot. The rest of the cast is filled with fantastic actors who fit into their roles: Stellan Skarsgard as the Baron was perfect, and seeing him embrace the slimy, obtrusive Baron figure was magnificent. Jason Momoa immediately understood the role of Duncan Idaho and his importance to Paul, and come on, we all wish we had a pal who hypes us up the way Duncan does Paul. Overall, extremely well cast with actors that fit their characters, and we'll see a helluva lot more of Zendaya in part two.

However, my one major gripe about the film is the dialogue and some of the delivery. It's not precisely the actor's fault because a lot of the writing felt contrived. Conversations were matter-of-fact based due to the heaping amounts of story that needed to be incorporated. This leaves out some of the emotion and makes many interactions heavy on exposition. And the script, in general, is filled to a fault with exposition. It's needed, but at times, especially in the first thirty minutes, it becomes overbearing. The other thought is this being a two-part series is that it's essential to get all the expositional world-building out now, setting up for pure character and plot in part two. So while the script isn't perfect, I see where the end goal is and how it will look when we experience the whole story. Nevertheless, the exposition was handled artfully and felt organic. It's just that understandably there was so much of it to add in the script.

Finally, the wait to see Dune in a theater matched my expectations and showed Villeneuve was the right man for this grandiose storytelling style. If anything, it was a setup for the second film, saving a lot of the best character moments for part two. However, part one still delivers a monumental look at this universal conflict and all the backstabbing and inner workings of a corrupt system. It has explosive moments and plenty of juicy foreshadowing. I can't wait to see how Villeneuve finishes off his vision for this story.

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