I Saw 20 Minutes of ‘DUNE’
Updated: Jul 25
Disclaimer: Event screening courtesy of IMAX. The following review is not indicative of the full movie, which will release October 22nd, 2021.
DUNE, Denis Villeneuve's newest epic, has been on the radars of many for quite some time. Adapting a beloved book with a massive budget and a completely stacked cast, the movie is set to succeed. To create buzz, Warner Bros decided to hold a series of limited screenings showing off a portion of the film. I was lucky enough to attend one, so allow me to share my thoughts. Now, let me begin by saying that this will not be my typical review. Similarly to when I cover tv shows’ initial episodes, I only have a very limited piece of the story, so I will be basing my criticism on the acting, scale, and quality of the cinematography alone. Additionally, I’d like to add that I went in completely blind, having never read the books.
The film opens with panning shots of the cascading dunes of Arrakis while Zendaya’s character dumps piles of exposition in hopes of bringing the audience up to speed on the state of the planet. Through this, glimpses of the events that led up to the present day are shown. While this method of exposition worked to an extent, it was difficult to take everything in at once before being dropped headfirst into the world I was only just introduced to. This confusion does seem intentionally manufactured, however, as it represents the clouded and unsure mind of Timothée Chalamet’s Paul. Paul feels forced into tackling issues far beyond his years as shown by his resistance to using “The Voice” at breakfast and is hinted to be clinging to his youth by studying in his free time. Villeneuve goes to great lengths to establish his characters through simple conversation, including not utilizing music to produce a more natural dynamic. The opening section ends with Oscar Issac signing a legal deal to maintain peace in his nation.
Despite if it was intentional or not, the segment was disorienting to a fault, and it would have been nice to get some more context beforehand. Even so, it’s hard not to find yourself immediately growing attached to these characters, and sympathizing with the issues they face. Chalamet stands as a highlight, excelling in scenes requiring intense emotion from his facial expression. Issac also pulls no punches, showcasing his range; as he plays a leader formidable in the face of danger.
Above all else, DUNE is purely immersive. Capturing a feeling I’ve not enjoyed since Star Wars: Episode IV, the world feels like a vast place full of species, both good and evil. Hans Zimmer, who helms the movie’s score, created a range of “new” digital instruments. Their psychedelic melodies created a bizarre feel fitting for a foreign realm of the universe. However, chief among the factors working towards the immersion was the camerawork. The second sequence shown highlighted the characters’ encounter with a ”Sandworm.” While flying to save a doomed ship of allies, the viewer is placed in first-person view. In one section, during a ship’s nosedive, I felt my stomach rising, almost as if I were riding a rollercoaster. In that moment, I realized that, while potential issues issues such as plot convolution still plague my excitement, DUNE has real potential to be something special.
While I wish I could elaborate more on the film, I only got a taste of what is to come. Stay tuned for my full review on October 22nd.