Review: Denis Villeneuve’s tremendous Dune is pure cinematic madness

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Dune

the director Denis Villeneuve

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written by Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth and Jon Spahts, based on the novel by Frank Herbert

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starring Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson and Oscar Isaacs

classification PG; 155 minutes

opens in cinemas October 22


Critics’ Choice


of Denis Villeneuve Dune In its best moments, there is pure and immense cinematic madness.

There are ocean-sized spaceships, ferocious desert creatures fit to swallow cities, and sand storms devastating enough to give T.E. Lawrence a nightmare. As Villeneuve introduces us to the vast (and highly complex) universe of Frank Herbert’s novel – set several tens of thousands of years in the future, when interstellar space travel is the norm, computers are obsolete, and human civilization is only semi-recognizable poses – the filmmaker creates a world (or worlds, rather) with superb skill, intense imagery, and almost fanatical devotion to his source material.

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Decades ago, Alejandro Jodorowsky and David Lynch discovered that you have to be a little more crazy to optimize Dune, what with its royal houses, interplanetary resentment, hallucinations of natural resources and the secret agony of the female psyche pulling all the stars of the universe. But Villeneuve’s new film – After blade runner 2049, the director’s second attempt at reviving a creative asset that was once thought to be nonviolent – proves that the Canadian director is the madman of the big screen.

Still for all the huge of film Offensive – I almost forgot about its levitating Jabba the Hutt-sized villain – Villeneuve’s most gonzo element Dune does it have a full on-screen title Dunes: Part One – And no one is telling when part Two It may or may not be.

There was no filming back-to-back, like on Lord of the Rings And Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and the sequel has yet to be officially flagged off by studio Warner Bros. I admit that compressing all 863 pages of Herbert’s 1965 book into one movie is a folly (see again Lynch and Jodorowsky, as well as the 2000 Sci Fi Channel miniseries that no one likes to talk about). does). But to go into production on such an epic task of storytelling without splitting the story full guarantee There is a special kind of optimistic displeasure over the delivery of the second half.

for all DuneThe grand achievements and ambitions of the film are sure to leave audiences (whether they’ve read Herbert’s story or not) wanting and waiting for Villeneuve’s film—possibly forever.

So, with that caveat, most Dunes: Part OneK 155 minutes is extremely entertaining. It looks and moves like a true Hollywood bonanza: all the millions and millions of dollars that were spent to make the film are right there on the screen, with its IMAX-sized visuals designed to shock and amaze.

2013′s . even before making your English language debut with enemy, Villeneuve has been accused of being cold-blooded, distant and inattentive. I’m not sure it’s quite right. The director works on a takedown, but only so that his audience can access the intimidating, elevated objects (be they characters, stories, cities and/or the entire world) of his film as carefully as he thinks it necessary. You start from afar, then slowly sink deeper.

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In Dune, as Villeneuve takes us from the lush greenery of the planet Caladon to the harsh desert environs of Arrakis—Hans Zimmer’s fast, thumping, relentless score accompanies us—the filmmaker makes sure that we are the other part of this universe. Feel the weight and intensity.

Villeneuve and his co-writers Eric Roth and Jon Spahts are almost as successful in digesting Herbert’s supersized themes – colonialism, environmental destruction, religious folly – and the overflowing narrative. The film’s first half-hour expands significantly, introducing us to the mighty Atreides dynasty, made up of the kind but determined Duke (Oscar Isaacs), his mysterious concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), and their son Paul. Timothée Chalamet).

For reasons mysterious and foreboding, the unseen Galactic Emperor has just recently awarded the leadership of the House Atreides of Arrakis. The sand-covered planet, formerly ruled by the brutal House Harkonnen, is home to the universe’s most precious natural resource: “Spice”—which, in addition to being a prized hallucination for the planet’s indigenous Freemen people, is an essential element in the power of Interstellar. Travel.

Once the Atreides clan is on Arrakis, they face enemies both familiar and unknown, leading to a full-scale war that hinges on strange dreams haunting Paul. There’s a lot of talk about sword and gunship fighting, electronic body shields, Paul’s messiah ability, and, yes, those pesky sandworms: gargantuan, sphincteral desert beasts that consume everything and everyone in their path. It’s all highly engaging, adventurous material, even if you’re the type of person who shirks far away from the words “prophecies” and “space guild.”

Sure, there are moments when things fall apart. The motivations of a major character like House Atride’s doctor Wellington Yuh (Chen Chang) remain hopelessly underdeveloped, and the screenwriting trio pace past what constitutes Lady Jessica’s membership in the secret Bene Gesserit order. Then again, it’s not like Herbert’s original prose gave him a head start. The author was a genius at fictional world-building, less so at producing beautiful and interesting sentences.

But even if Villeneuve tasked his actors with reading Herbert’s dialogue verbatim, they would find a way to sing it. It’s a tremendously stacked cast, which includes regular Villeneuve collaborators (Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, David Dustmalchian) and powerful newcomers to the director’s repertory company.

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Chalamet, for starters, is perfect for the role of the privileged, frustrated and conflicted Paul. Isaac transitions well into the role of the kind and patient patriarch, playing eagerly so far. Jason Momoa delivers very welcome leverage in the form of gang-ho warrior Duncan Idaho, who can also be referred to as Aquadune. And Ferguson walks away with the film, which stars an array of well-executed stars.

It’s a shame that Javier Bardem and Zendaya (who is featured front and center in about 50 percent of the film’s marketing) have about 10 minutes of accumulated screen time as members of the Freemen. But it’s when you film a story that, as soon as it approaches an important dramatic turning point, the chills stop. Maybe one day, in the not too distant future of this planet, we’ll be able to see how it ends.

In the interest of consistency across critics’ reviews, The Granthshala has phased out its star-rating system in film and theater to align with its coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, acts of excellence will be noted with a Critics’ Pick designation in all coverage.

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