Courtesy of Legendary/Warner Bros.
By Dean Robbins
“The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve but a reality to experience,” says one character during one of Dune’s many breathtaking action setpieces. Dune is this philosophy born out on the silver screen over approximately 155 minutes.
Dune, released on October 22nd, 2021 after over a year of delays due to COVID, is a science fiction epic about one of the most interesting story subjects: the politics of natural resources. All jokes aside, the film is about political and ideological rivalries played out on a galactic scale. Timothee Chalamet, best known for his leading role in Call Me By Your Name, plays the protagonist, Paul Atreides, heir to the throne of the House Atreides. The House Atreides, under the rule of Paul’s father Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), has been given a planet called Arrakis to rule and govern. Arrakis is the production center of spice, a necessary resource for interstellar travel and it is akin to a drug. Arrakis was previously under the control of the brutal House Harkonnen, led by the baron (Stellan Skarsgard). Amidst galactic politics and the many dangers of Arrakis’ desert landscape, Paul must find his destiny.
As implied in the title, Dune is very much a beginning. The title reads Dune: Part One. Two parts are currently planned, although part two has yet to be officially greenlit. This will surely frustrate many viewers. The inherently unfinished story of the film is something that provides a challenge to those trying to evaluate its quality.
Is it fair to praise part one when part two may never come? The same question could have been posed for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. So with all that, Dune can be described as one of the greatest introductions/beginnings ever filmed, even if part two fails or never releases.
On just about every technical level, Dune is very impressive. Hans Zimmer’s score blends perfectly with multiple vocal compositions and incredible sound effects. The score is easily Zimmer’s best, especially impressive from a composer as legendary as him. Worldbuilding is woven deep into the score and there is a surprising amount of variety in it from throat singing to bagpipes.
The film is not simply style over substance, though. The story, while incomplete, is thematically whole–an allegory about the tension between political and religious duty and the ambiguities in-between. The characters feel fleshed out and the world feels lived-in. The cultures in the film such as the Fremen felt like real groups of people. Dune is one of the most immersive science fiction films ever made. This is thanks to not only the writing but also the cast. Rebecca Ferguson seems born to play Lady Jessica and even actors with small parts like Javier Bardem leave a major impression.
At the end of the day, one can sing the many strengths of Dune but none of it comes even close to capturing the experience of it. Words cannot sufficiently capture the beauty of a sandworm devouring a spice harvester or the clear waters of Caledan. You must feel the spice, hear the winds, and see the great starships, preferably on an IMAX screen.