Film Review: Dune – 6/10

‘I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer…’

As with the recent output of Christopher Nolan (specifically Interstellar and Tenet), I felt compelled to seek out Dune immediately upon release, not because I was excited by it, but because it felt like a cinematic event. I’ve never seen the infamous David Lynch adaptation or read any of the numerous books, but I have seen Star Wars a bunch of times and George Lucas cribbed so much from Frank Herbert’s book that that’s basically the same thing, right? Not quite…

The plot… hmm. Imagine if Luke stayed on Tatooine instead of travelling the universe and doing a bunch of exciting stuff. That’s Dune.

Where to start with the things that I found underwhelming about Dune? Firstly, why assemble such a talented cast and then give them so little to do? Timothée Chalamet does his very best as Neo Paul Atreides and is surely the future of cinema for the next decade at least, but the dialogue he is given here is both sparse and forgettable. Oscar Isaacs, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem aren’t given anywhere near as much screen time as their talent deserves despite a running time that stretches over two and a half hours. The plot may have been revolutionary upon the release of the book, but not it seems derivative and old hat. Obviously, this is a difficult conundrum for director Denis Villeneuve to overcome without upsetting all the vocal fanboys of the source material but ultimately, all of this feels like stuff we have seen before and seen done better. I don’t really know who this film is for? It’s too complex for children. Too grown up for the Game of Thrones/sci-fi crowd and not arty enough for the cinephiles. It just kind of is. Visually, there are moments of genuine beauty but too often the action is shrouded in an overpowering darkness that just becomes frustrating rather than atmospheric. Not darkness in terms of atmosphere, just actual darkness. Way too much of this movie takes place in the shadows.

And yet… I can actually imagine a great sequel to this film that takes all these disparate chess pieces and makes them into something wonderful. This film feels like two and a half hours of world building with no coherent beginning, middle or end. The scene is set now, and maybe the sequel will save this franchise, but as with those aforementioned Nolan movies, Dune is undeserving of the hype.

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