Dune: The BRWC Review. By Alif Majeed.
Two-parters can often be a tricky proposition for telling a complete story. There is always a risk that the story will remain unfinished if the sequel doesn’t get made. Allegiant was a recent example that killed off the franchise without completing the story. The major concern with the latest attempt to bring Dune to the big screen for me was whether the second part would come out. Given the epic nature of the original novel, it makes sense that they would divide the movie into two parts. (Tellingly, the film is titled Dune: Part One). It needed the breathing space that a two-parter can afford, provided they can tell the complete story.
When it was announced that Denis Villeneuve would take a shot at bringing the infamously unfilmable sci-fi classic Dune to the bring screen, I mixed feelings about it. Dune, being his follow-up to Blade Runner 2049, a movie that deservedly got a lot of respect but ultimately was too slow and took too long to get to its point. But as the movie progressed, he more or less assuaged my fears as a fan of the book. The film still gets a little overlong, but Villeneuve has successfully brought Dune’s world to the big screen with stupendous gusto.
The 1984 David Lynch adaptation was famously desperate trying to explain the various plot points through voiceover. But Denis gets plenty of time here to let the story breathe as he has one more movie (hopefully) to tell the complete story of the ascent of Paul Atreides. It also allows him to introduce the characters and the vast world of the Dune Universe properly.
Explaining the story of Dune can get a little confusing, but the makers follow the story fairly faithfully. The patriarch of House Atreides, Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), is assigned to be the ruler of the planet Arrakis by the Emperor of what is the Known universe. Allegories plenty abound; the rest of the story is about the various machinations of different groups trying to destroy the family and how the Duke’s son, Paul Atreides, accepts his destiny and fights back for his family.
It was also great that he does very little hand-holding and lets the audience discover the world as the movie progresses. Apart from a short voiceover, in the beginning, he avoids it for the rest of the film. The downside of this is that newcomers to the Dune series might find it tricky to keep track. It requires your complete attention to ensure that you do not lose out on the details. Since it is part one of a continuing storyline, it ends in the inevitable cliffhanger, which might disappoint some who want closure in a single story.
But the sheer scale of the world Villeneuve created is magnificent and gives it a feel of a grand sci-fi movie. The cinematographer Greig Fraser also avoids the campy look of its 80s predecessor, adding to its epic scale. Their confidence in the source material and assured stamp on the film is clear here.
Another factor that helped in raising excitement for the movie is its stacked cast. And boy, is it stacked. Villeneuve has cast actors who make an impact irrespective of the screen time, ensuring that they shine.
Timothée Chalamet is perfect as Paul Atreides and truly makes you believe he was destined to play this part. The story (at least in the first book) revolves around the evolution of his character in the classic hero’s journey, and Chalamet sells the gamut of emotions the character goes through throughout the movie. Rebecca Ferguson might seem dubious as Paul’s mother, but after the initial apprehension gets over, she complements Clement perfectly. Stellan Skarsgård as the villain Baron Harkonnen also makes an impact despite his short running time.
Though some actors get very little screen time given the expanded nature of specific roles in the second half, the excitement level increases tremendously when all these brilliant actors share screen space. They ensure you want to continue the journey with them onto the sequel.
Fans of the series would find much to rejoice with this adaptation, even if some newcomers to the series might be left cold. Some might even say that the movie adds nothing new to the sci-fi genre. That has nothing to say about the film itself. But say a lot about the original novel’s tremendous impact and how much of it inspired and has been imitated subsequently. One thing is sure, though, Denis Villeneuve has undoubtedly created the definitive version of the sci-fi masterpiece.
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