“My desert, my Dune” bellows Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. But, is it? In the year 10191, the House Harkonnen’s brutal treatment of the Fremen on Arrakis is about to end after 80 years. The Emperor decides to place Arrakis under the control of House Atreides. Arrakis might have been a paradise, but once “spice” was discovered no one wanted the desert to go away. To the Fremen, “spice” is a sacred hallucinogen which preserves life. To the rest of the universe, the invaluable substance makes interstellar travel possible. “Spice” made House Harkonnen rich. The Baron does not intend to go away quietly.
There are several things you need to know about Dune. First, this is Part One. HBO promised director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049) a sequel if it performs well. Second, if you dislike snakes, these 400 meter long sandworms just might enter your nightmares. Still, the last scene indicates “desert power” is about to take us on a “ride” unlike we’ve seen before. Third, only the Fremen adapted to survive the extreme temperatures and powerful sandstorms of Arrakis. Their bright blue eyes are the result of prolonged exposure to “spice.” Fourth, like The Game of Thrones, the author is not hesitant to kill off key players.
Arrakis is not the only world in Dune, you travel to Caladan, Giede Prime, and Salusa Secundus. Creating new worlds is never easy, nor is multiple characters in multiple Houses. Based upon a book proclaimed to be “unfilmable,” Dune appears to be a valiant effort. I give Dune 4.0 Gavels and it receive an 83% Rotten Tomatoes rating with a very good 8.3/10 IMDb score.
Duke Leto Atreides accepts the “honor” of the appointment as steward of Arrakis. His goal is not the “spice,” not the riches, but to ally with the Fremen. He understands the Emperor is jealous of the strength of the various Houses and seeks to pit them one against the other. His concubine, Lady Jessica, bore him a son, Paul. She trained Paul in the ways of the Bene Gesserit. For centuries the Bene Gesserit prophesied to the Fremen that The One will join them. He will have the power to bridge space and time. Is Paul their Messiah? Will there be a betrayal?
After being The King, how big a leap is it to become The Messiah for Timothee Chalamet? In Part One, he might be the weakest link, but then he’s just beginning to tap into his powers. Certainly, Rebecca Ferguson is a sought-after A-List actress (Reminscence, Men in Black, Mission Impossible). As Lady Jessica, she disobeyed the Reverend Mother. Will that come back to haunt her? Zendaya is another actress zooming up the charts (Greatest Showman, Spider-Man, Space Jam). Seen in Paul’s visions, Chani’s role gets much bigger in Part Two.
Science fiction always brings great CGI and the ornithopters mesmerize, think large insect helicopters. Dune also brings us the Crysknife. Will it be Dune‘s version of the light saber? I’ve not yet mentioned the Sardaukar, the Imperial Army, aka the Emperor’s Blades. Each of the the entities has great warriors, worthy of respect by the others. Eventually, only one can prevail.
“Villeneuve’s Dune takes a bit of time to set up the necessary palace intrigue and family dynamics before finding its shape as a relentless, propulsive chase movie.” The Ringer
“You will be stunned and amazed by the astonishing worlds on the screen, one of the most remarkable examples of cinematic world-building magic ever made.” Movie Mom
At a runtime of 155 minutes, many critics felt Dune too slow, too boring. With the interplay of politics, ecology, religion, etc., Villeneuve deals with a myriad of moving parts. Part One made on a budget of $165 million, I hope he gets his shot at Part Two. Maybe, I’ll watch it again.