Bringing a project like Dune it is not easy: 700 pages written by Frank Herbert, which over the years have become a timeless classic of science fiction, it is certainly a task that no director would like to take on his shoulders, as long as he does not already have a curriculum capable of facing a challenge of this caliber. Not to mention that willy-nilly fans will inevitably pull out the power of the 1984 film directed by David Lynch, a film capable of re-reading the myth of Dune in a way that is as visionary as it is unique in its genre, capable of leaving an indelible mark in the history of cinema.
Denis Villeneuve, a director who over the years has brought a large number of sci-fi projects to the big screen with often fluctuating results at the box office (just think of Arrival, oppure a Blade Runner 2049), he therefore had to carefully plan “his” project linked to Herbert’s work.
Dune Villeneuve’s therefore has the delicate task of capturing both the attention of viewers who have never read the original work, and those who know inside out the intergalactic family feuds of the Atreides family. From the very first minutes, the incipit of the film immediately plunges us into a universe thousands of years away, a magnificent and dangerous world in which the characters that move within it are sketched.
The plot in fact retraces that of the novel: in an unidentified future of humanity, the duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) accepts the management of the named planet Arrakis, also known as the Dune. This world holds the source of the most precious substance in the universe, called “the spice”, a drug that can extend life, as well as provide extraordinary mental abilities.
The battle for Arrakis begins
Leto immediately realizes that his new task on Arrakis is actually a trap set by his opponents, although despite the danger he decides to leave for the planet danger, accompanied by his concubine. Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), the young son Paul (Timothée Chalamet) and some trusted advisors. The task related to the extraction of the spice is made even more complex by the presence of huge sand worms, as well as the encounter with the native people of Arrakis, known as Fremen, will change the fate of the Atreides forever.
Villeneuve immediately gives a breathtaking scenic rendering (as he has almost always accustomed us during his long career as a filmmaker), inevitably linked to a truly successful photography and a sumptuous soundtrack, edited by a Hans Zimmer in a state of grace. Despite a certain underlying slowness, the story that accompanies us throughout the film will be in all respects faithful to that of the Frank Herbert novel, able not to lose along the way the amount of information that could easily get lost along the way during the “Transition” from book to film. The conversion work for the big screen was in fact planned in the smallest details, despite – as is well known – Dune retraces only half of the story of the original book.
Although therefore the awareness of attending the “Part One“Of a larger project drags inexorably to the end credits, the ability to turn one of the great science fiction novels into film always deserves undisputed applause, much more than what Lynch was able to do in the 1980s with his feature film , as ambitious as it is bizarre and not very faithful to the original work. The Dune Villeneuve was born from the idea of do justice to the universe created by Herbert, succeeding in large, very large, part.
Where the film seems to show its side to criticism, is when one tries to identify it as a work in its own right: telling a narrative universe characterized by dozens of characters, houses and planets, condensed into a single film, makes Dune pure science fiction, as complex as it is rich in philosophical meanings. Sometimes, the feeling that the film cannot bear the weight is evident, so much so that Villeneuve prefers to indulge in long dialogues often ends in themselves, rather than pushing his foot on the accelerator with regard to events (which instead happens in less pretentious but equally complex space sagas, such as that of Star Wars).
Villeneuve pays homage to the myth of Dune
Thumbs up also with regard to the stellar cast of actors who took part in the project: Timothée Chalamet proves to be an actor in constant growth, ready to take on a really demanding and thick starring role (and which will give the best, if he will be allowed, even in the next films dedicated to the saga), which will be accompanied by the remarkable interpretations of Josh Brolin (as Gurney Halleck), zendaya (in the role of Chani), Stellan Skarsgård (unrecognizable as Baron Harkonnen), Dave Bautista (the MCU Drax, now as the massive Glossu ‘Beast’ Rabban), Jason Momoa (Duncan Idaho) and last but not least, Javier Bardem (Stilgar). The stars are directed with rare skill by a Villeneuve who moves the strings with extreme intelligence, making sure that each role works to the best of its ability.
Dune he therefore takes his time, does not run straight to the point because in reality this would have represented a defect more than any other, with the risk of “stumbling” and thus ruining a work with many other ambitions. Villeneuve in fact preferred to direct a film that laid the foundations for what is to come (provided that Warner Bros. gives the go ahead for the production of one or more sequels, including the spin-off series), sacrificing that fast-paced pace that would have turned the film into a blockbuster in the most commercial sense of the term.
If on the one hand, therefore, the first act of the adventures of Paul Atreides is a film that will risk burdening the casual viewer, on the other hand it is difficult not to label it as a wise attempt to propose excellent cinema, in a historical moment in which entertainment as an end in itself is often synonymous with great box office receipts. And if the film sometimes seems to want to hazard bold parallels with the reality of some countries in the far east of our present (often exploited by other Western nations for their resources in the area), it is also true that Villeneuve’s work it sums up almost to perfection an immortal work which has now become a legend. And even for that alone, there is to be grateful for this Part One.