'Dune' Venice Film Festival Review: Timothée Chalamet In Denis Villeneuve's Spectacular And Defining Version Of Sci-Fi Cult Classic


Deadline 03 September, 2021 - 11:45am 20 views

Reportedly the director is already hard at work on a screenplay for a proposed Part Two, the plan being to bring the book fully to life in more than one film — but not as a television limited series. This is meant for the biggest screens imaginable, which is probably why Villeneuve became so vocal upon hearing the pandemic plans of distributor Warner Bros, which is opening all its 2021 films day-and-date in theaters accompanied by a one-month run on its nascent streamer HBO Max, Dune included. All of this led to a clash among Legendary, the production entity behind the film; Villeneuve; and Warner Bros. Although it is clearly headed for HBO Max as part of this deal, Dune must be experienced, as I did at Warner Bros’ Steven J. Ross theater, on a large screen with immersive sight and sound. No matter what your opinion is of the source material, this vision for bringing it alive as a movie deserves only premium exhibition.

Of course, Dune has been tried before. David Lynch’s 1984 attempt was poorly received. Lynch himself feels it is the one failure of his film career, a nut he just couldn’t crack. In fact when it came to television the network split it into two parts by adding about 45 minutes of outtakes to pad the presentation. Lynch was so upset he took his name off the TV version and used the DGA-approved pseudonym of Alan Smithee. For more on Lynch’s production, see our new interview with that film’s leading lady, Francesca Annis.

Villeneuve was clearly born to bring this one home. A devotee of the novel since first reading it at age 14, the director always had Frank Herbert’s novel on his bucket list of films he would love to make. Villeneuve has gone faithfully, with co-writers Jon Spaiths and Eric Roth, to the heart and soul of Herbert’s vision, focusing on the human element of the futuristic story, set some 8,000 years or so from now when a crisis of ecology and the environment sparks a massive turf war between two families — the Great Houses of Atreides and Harkonnen — as the battle for survival moves to an imposing planet named Arrakis, aka Dune as its native Fremen tribes call it.

Extreme heat, blinding sandstorms, killer sandworms and, well, lots and lots of sand make it a challenging place for anyone to conquer, but it is also home to Spice, the substance needed in order to exist, to power flight, and to energize the population in numerous ways. In a close-up, Spice looks kind of like paprika; next time I am in Whole Foods I will have a whole new appreciation as I walk past the spice racks.

In the lore of Dune, whole worlds can vanish without Spice. The filmmakers here — including cinematographer Greig Fraser, production designer Patrice Vermette, costume designers Jacqueline West and Robert Morgan among others — have fashioned worlds ready for epic battles, but Villeneuve, married to the more urgent themes in Herbert’s prescient novel, alssees all this is played out on a more intimate level as a family story, a father-son tale as well as a mother-son story.

Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) is a young man given an extraordinary opportunity and dangerous assignment as the reins to his powerful family’s fortune are increasingly placed in his hands by his father Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) and equally important mother Lady Jessica, a warrior priestess played winningly by Rebecca Ferguson.

Paul is green, but eager to take on the fight on Arrakis where alliances will make all the difference in battling the Harkonnen dynasty led by the ruthless and evil Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (a virtually unrecognizable Stellan Skarsgård, buried under pounds of prosthetics) who will stop at nothing to continue control of this barren land and its ever-valuable resource. His No. 1 henchman, Glossu “Beast” Rabban (Dave Bautista), is even more vicious. The stage is set for a battle, but equal weight is given to defining not just Paul, but also mom and dad. Those situations may be set far in the future, but they will have a ring of familiarity for anyone today.

The issues we deal with now — particularly taking care of our planet and its resources through conquering climate change — are not that far off from the singular vision of Herbert’s novel. Devotees like Villeneuve and his crew have elevated his story to a large scale onscreen, but not allowed it to be overwhelmed by special effects.

Regarding the latter, Villeneuve and his team has captured much of this in-camera, though his VFX team — led by Paul Lambert and Gerd Nefzer — has contributed some astonishing set pieces in all that sand. A big shout-out is necessary to the massive musical contribution from Hans Zimmer, as well.

Chalamet, playing it earnestly and effectively, is perfectly cast here, and both Ferguson and Isaac are excellent, as is Skarsgård, who seems to be relishing his over-the-top character. Among the women, Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Dr. Liet Kynes — a character written as a man in the novel — is very good in her brief screen time, as is the iconic Charlotte Rampling as Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, who offers sage advice to Paul early on in assessing his readiness to take on the mantle. Josh Brolin is solid as Gurney Halleck, essentially a father figure as well to Paul in the House of Atreides, as is Jason Momoa as the daring Duncan Idaho and Javier Bardem as Stilgar, the inspirational voice of experience on Arrakis. The list goes on.

Producers are Mary Parent, Cale Boyter, Joe Carraciolo Jr and Villeneuve, who can safely now add Dune (Part One) to his list of impressive deep dives into very distinct sci-fi worlds, a list that also includes the Oscar-nominated and -winning Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. Warner Bros will release Dune in theaters on October 22 and HBO Max the same day.

Check out my video review above with scenes from the film. Do you plan to see Dune? Let us know what you think.

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It’s just too brown and dusty to be a hit. And too plot-laborious to watch without the the ability to pause and restart like the novel. Yes, the impact of the spectacle will be limited on smaller screens, but at least it will be watchable in viewer-controlled segments. Yawn.

What a stupid comment. You really think the color palette determines box office success? Uhm, remember a little movie called Seven?

You confuse lighting with design and palette.

Would like to see it in large format 3D, assuming it goes the 3D route.

WB should be thanking Legendary for this one (though it may underperform due to the pandemic). They have been on a colder than cold streak for years. Time for some exec changes me thinks?

Thank you for this review. I read the book when I was in my late twenties and I hated its shamelessly unmasked anti-soviet propaganda, as much as I hated its homophobic representations of Vladimir Harkkonen. But the story itself, setting aside anti-Russian and open homophobic imageries, was as human as human gets. The love between the Duke and his Lady as mush as the love of each parent with their adult child was taken to an instinctive level. The love between father and son was that of a new father with a newborn baby. Paul represented the child I wanted to be but could not, the father figures were those I wanted to imitate and I knew I could not. I am looking forward to seeing the version.

I have read all the Dune novels. This movie version of the of the first novel has so many of my favorite actors, I cannot wait to see it. And if they make more movies of the subsequent novels, I just hope I live long enough to see them.

This will likely not generate the theatrical income it is due because of Covid-19 and not because of the effort. This movie looks great, the cast, the sets, everything. I am really looking forward to it. It looks like epic sci-fi far exceeding anything else out there. And maybe anything that has come out in a long time. If it flops, it will be in good company. John Carter was one the best flops I ever saw.

No-one seems to remember the the Sci Fi channel did a Dune mini series in 2000. This edition was arguably unfailingly a great rendering of the Dune Novels Dune and Children of Dune. It as – in my opinion – one of the best moves ever made by Sci Fi and deserves mention and viewing.

As a fan of both the book and sci-fi in general, the Lynch movie sucked. It absolutely sucked. There is very little about it that is redeemable. I was glad when the sci-fi channel came out with their miniseries in 2000, because that rinsed the bad taste of the Lynch movie out of my mouth.

This will be a major flop. If you didn’t read the book, you will be lost. So in that aspect, it has the same problem as Lynch’s version.

That’s not true! I watched, so here it is. If you have never read the books or watched the prior film & miniseries, there will be moments where you are lost. But overall it can be enjoyed by anyone. I hope no one is deterred by going in fresh. It’s a beautiful film and I’m anxious to hear about what fans of the franchise think.

I have read opinions of people on Twitter that said they hadn’t read the books or know anything about the story, and still enjoyed the movie very much and some of them even referred to it as a masterpiece. So, not everyone was lost apparently.

I agree. if you haven’t read ANY of the novels, you will be lost.

I do and in IMAX. Lynch’s version wasn’t bad–it just assumed you had read the book; most people hadn’t and found themselves lost. I’m assuming Villeneuve and the writers have not made the same mistake.

If DUNE gets a Part Two, it’ll be as part of some deal between Warner/Legendary to placate Villeneuve and keep him in the fold, or as a face-saving move to try and make the hybrid strategy look more successful than it was. No way this generates enough revenue for a sequel on its own merits, even in a non-pandemic world, certainly not right smack in the middle of NO TIME TO DIE, VENOM 2, HALLOWEEN KILLS and ETERNALS.

Shang-Chi theatrical is going to be Well-Attended by audiences who love the movie and the brand new character they just got introduced to. Dune is going to be another Financial BOMB for Warner Bros. Just pretend like I wrote this comment on November 1, 2021. My words will age well 😀

And if your words don’t age well you’ll be eating crow. I’ll be happy to provide you the utensils.

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Read full article at Deadline

Dune has finally premiered, and it's a staggering sci-fi spectacle

The A.V. Club 03 September, 2021 - 11:45am

His Dune covers only half of the events of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel. But it preserves much of the palace intrigue of the book, set in a future feudal society spread across the cosmos. The film follows Paul Arteides (Timothée Chalamet), son of Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) and Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), a member of the religious sisterhood the Bene Gesserit. The Emperor gives stewardship of the dessert planet Arrakis to Duke Leto, home to the colonized Fremen and the only place to mine Spice, the most valuable substance in the universe—a choice that enrages rival House Harkonnen. Perhaps one of the best choices Villeneuve has made is bisecting the story: Even at a colossal 2 hours and 35 minutes, Dune unfolds at a thrilling pace, with just enough room for effective world building and the young Paul’s coming of age, which Chalamet depicts as a seamless transition from sheltered boy to heroic leader.

It’s a cosmetic wonder. The costume design by Jacqueline West and Bob Ward is particularly fascinating, dressing the Fremen in the Dune universe’s water-recycling, so-called “stillsuits” and Lady Jessica in translucent silks and shimmering beads. Best of all is the grotesque design of the Harkonnen, led by the nauseatingly realized Baron Harkonnen (Stellen Skargârd), his twisted “mentat” Piter De Vries (David Dastmalchian), and his sadistic nephew, Glossu Rabban (Dave Bautista). Villeneuve presents them as sallow, hairless, bloated fascists, encased in layers of kinky black leather.

Most science fiction reflects the anxieties of the time in which it was written. That was certainly true of Herbert’s novel, penned as the first men were going to space, second-wave feminism was gaining traction, the Vietnam War raged on, and the world became increasingly reliant on Middle Eastern oil. While a very faithful adaptation, the new Dune plays to current anxieties, like our collective fear of climate change and dwindling resources. It’s interesting to see a vision of the future arguably less reliant on technology than the contemporary world, allowing for more visceral action set pieces than the destruction of Death Stars and the pursuit of Infinity Stones. Applying a modern lens, this Dune emphasizes that even the most benign forms of colonialism are inherently destructive, and allows the female characters far more complexity and independence than in previous incarnations.

What is certain is that while this version corrects the complete white washing of earlier adaptations, there are some troublesome racial dynamics still at play. The Fremen are clearly influenced by Middle Eastern and North African culture (as they were in the text), but though they have more members of color than House Atriedes or Harkonnen, Villeneuve stops short of casting any MENA actors. The best faith interpretation of this erasure is that maybe Villeneuve was trying to make a distinction between MENA people and the Fremen, who are tragically heroic but ultimately zealots who end up following a false messiah on a jihad—a problematic portrayal straight out Edward Said’s Orientalism. Anyway, with far more Fremen and House Corrino characters in the second half of the novel, the absence of MENA actors could be rectified in part two.

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