"DUNE #3" by Gláucio Dutra is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Dune is a Fascinating Movie, but its online reviews don’t make sense

Dune ruled 2021 cinemas across the globe

By: Chinmay Kulkarni

Setbacks in the movie industry are highly commonplace after the advent of the pandemic. The ensuing travel bans and location restrictions may have forced studios indoors, resorting to higher levels of CGI and green-room shots resulting in often fake and unauthentic viewing experiences. Therefore, it offers a fresh, new type of realism when a movie is shot on location and combined with stunning CGI scenes that complement the beautiful landscapes in the shot. Director Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 movie Dune is an excellent example of such a type of cinematography and is one of the best movies of 2021 despite pandemic-related setbacks.

The plot of Dune is pretty much Game of Thrones in space – consisting of the political aspirations of House Atreides, House Harkonnen, and their Emperor, as they engage in diplomatic space chess to gain power and prominence on the planet Arrakis – a harsh desert world known as the only source of ‘spice’. The spice has several psychoactive properties, including providing its users a heightened sense of consciousness and reality. Throughout the plot, we’re guided through a series of backstabbings, broken alliances, warmongering, and exploration, as the main character Paul of House Atreides explores the planet in search of the Fremen, the native population of Arrakis. Paul (Timothée Chalamet) is suffering from visions of a Fremen girl (Zendaya). His visions are explained in the movie as being part of a prophecy/being the ‘chosen one’, but we don’t get a clear answer throughout this movie as to its true meanings.

Dune can be characterized as a full audiovisual masterpiece and is best experienced in a theatre rather than on HBO Max. Regardless, the visuals of the movie aid the viewer in visualizing the operative scale for mining spice, and give the home planets a sense of loneliness as we experience their conflicts, diplomacy, and technology. Chaotic scenes of spaceships emerging from still water, dragonfly-like helicopters scouring a desolate desert, and massive metal war machines standing prominently in an alien forest – such scenes show the pure scale of the world explored as a viewer and ultimately make the characters feel small and hopeless in comparison as they try to battle for control of a vast wilderness.

The movie score was also directed by legendary composer Hans Zimmer and furthers the feeling of inconsequentiality and mystery as we traverse through this audiovisual experience.

A common complaint voiced from online message boards to reputed reviewers characterized Dune as ‘slow and lacking grip’ with respect to plot, voicing a lack of pace in storytelling. Personally, I disagree with this sentiment. The sweeping scenes, captivating landscapes, and seamless integration of CGI make the movie special and keep the plot headed in the right direction through a mire of backstory. I constantly wanted to experience the alien planet with Paul and his party and was pleasantly surprised as the story moved from bleak cliffsides, dark libraries, to sandy palaces, and imposing stone sediments. The constant variation of settings throughout the movie stole the show and furthers the plot at a palatable rate.

The plot, however, is extremely dense. The 155-minute runtime attempts to contain the backstory, character development, and politics that Frank Herbert’s Dune Saga portrays in the complete 15 book collection. Fortunately, moviegoers are given only a taste of this story, but active watching is required for full plot comprehension. Therefore, an ill-timed restroom break (hand up for me) during the movie will likely result in missing valuable plot and character-defining details that the movie churns out every minute.

Overall, a very well-directed, well-composed, and extremely cerebral movie-watching experience. The entire team behind Dune was very skilled and they clearly wanted to bring this little-known world to the big screen for great success.

Final Score: A-

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