Dune Is Pure Sci-Fi Excellence

Dune is one of the most exciting sci-fi movies to come out in recent memory, despite being a glorified prologue. Photo by o_m on shutterstock.com

“Dune: Part One” is the third adaptation of  Frank Herbert’s sci-fi book series of the same name. The book is notoriously hard to adapt, and many have questioned why Villeneuve is attempting such a bold project 

The 2021 version of “Dune” does this by creating one of the best sci-fi movies in years, with the combination of excellent performances of its star-studded cast, breathtaking set pieces and gorgeous special effects. 

Despite being a glorified prologue, “Dune” manages to keep audiences entertained throughout its 156-minute run time.

Director Denis Villeneuve created an incredibly immersive world for the latest adaptation of “Dune.” Wide sweeping shots of the sand-dunes, giant impenetrable sandstorms, along with a slightly grayish hue to the entire film, that makes the world of Arrakis feel incredibly raw. 

The sheer grand scale of the world is captured perfectly by the directorial style. 

Whether it’s the large shots of armies preparing to go to war or a giant sandworm essentially becoming one with the desert floor, the visual prowess of Dune is enticing enough to lure in confused viewers.

“Dune” takes place in essentially a future of space feudalism, with the most valuable resource being a substance known as “Spice,” which is necessary for interstellar travel. The Emperor then assigns the Duke Leto Atreides, played by Oscar Isaac, to the planet Arrakis, the only Spice source in the galaxy. 

“Dune,” however, is not his story. It is about his son Paul Atreides, played by Timothy Chalamet, the 15-year-old heir to House Atreides. He might also be the Kwisatz Harderich, a messianic figure with the ability to have glimpses into the future. 

The film overindulges specific terminology, but it gives way too  one of the most intriguing protagonists to hit the big screen in years.

Paul, understandably,, is not ready to be the galaxy’s savior, nor is he prepared  to  deal with strange and horrifying visions of the future . 

When something as simple as asking your mom for a glass of water becomes an opportunity to test his powers, it is no surprise that he feels woefully unprepared to deal with a role that society thrust upon him. 

To the great strength of the film, it acknowledges that Paul is not ready to be a messiah and deconstructs the notion of a chosen one as a whole. Paul is understandably horrified by visions of an army committing holy war in his name and vehemently rebukes the idea of being a messiah.  

To see a movie so confidently address the trope of the chosen one and what real consequences it would have on one’s psyche is rather refreshing to see. 

Aiding this is Chalamet’s excellent performance, which leaves little room for improvement, as Paul is the perfect amount of introspective, authoritative, and brooding when he needs to be.

“Dune” is a bit of a slow burn. The first hour and a half is almost entirely worldbuilding so that the audience can understand everything going on in the setting, how the technology works, etc. 

While it might seem like padding, it adds a layer of authenticity to the world and makes it feel like a living, breathing world. 

It is admittedly a bit of a slow start though, for the most part, there isn’t too much action happening in the beginning. Those expecting “Star Wars” will likely be disappointed. 

The movie does pick up in terms of action in its second act, considering it marks the destruction and upheaval of Paul’s life as he knows it, but before that, the stakes are limited to training duels and picking up workers from errant sandworms.

The pacing will not be as apparent of an issue except near the end, as the last act feels entirely like the buildup to a resolution that viewers will have to wait until 2023 to see. It is a good sequel hook, but it is admittedly a bit frustrating to see.

Another aspect of worldbuilding that “Dune” executes beautifully is the visual design. From characters to locations, everything is very distinctive and visually striking. 

The blue and red effect of the shields is a contrast from the very angular squares of the 1984 movie. Still, it fits much better given the updated visuals of this latest adaptation and considering most of the action sequences, see frequent use of the shields. 

It’s nice that the effect is not super distracting. 

The Sardaukar are an incredible feat of character design. Their Norse-inspired religious imagery, human sacrifice and unintelligible speech make them instantly iconic villains. 

“Dune: Part One” easily justifies its existence by adapting a sci-fi classic for a more modern audience and doing it exceedingly well. Its pacing and detailed worldbuilding may be a turn-off for some, but those willing to sit back and enjoy the ride will find one of the best sci-fi films in years.