Dune Review: To Be Continued

Asia's Tech News Daily

Dune Review: To Be Continued
Warner Bros. Pictures

In 2016, when discussing David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of Frank Herbert’s “Dune,” in which she played Princess Irulan, actor Virginia Madsen said she thought the filmmakers were out to make “Star Wars for adults.” Two years later, when he was first announced to adapt the novel anew, director Denis Villeneuve said the same thing. A full year after it was intended to hit multiplexes, Villeneuve’s attempt to bring the storied novel to life will arrive in theaters simultaneously with its home release on HBO Max, a pandemic content strategy the director has been vocal in criticizing. 

Under normal circumstances, wondering whether or not “Dune” will be a success at the box office would be an irrelevant question in reviewing the film’s quality, but given the strange nature of this adaptation, it’s unfortunately a very important topic. In trying to unpack the dense and layered 412-page novel, Villeneuve and his collaborators, screenwriters Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts, cleaved the book in two, with this film covering (roughly) the first half of the book. But because the studio was leery of committing to filming both halves before releasing the first, we won’t know if the rest of the book will be adapted until after more number-crunching post-opening.

That means “Dune” ends on a cliffhanger and arrives missing significant chunks of its source material. (Princess Irulan, for instance, is never even introduced.)

Villeneueve’s “Dune” is a stunning achievement in terms of awe, in terms of spectacle, and in its standing as one of the few new films that can genuinely lay claim to needing to be seen on as big a screen possible. But what it peacocks in visual splendor it lacks in depth in a way that feels hard to excuse, especially for a film with a two-and-a-half hour runtime. 

Ultimately, “Dune” is ambitious to a fault, for what use does the marketplace of ideas have in a “Star Wars for adults” when the vast majority of adults these days seem to prefer the comforting, weaponized nostalgia of endless “Star Wars” ephemera?

The sleeper has awakened

Dune Review: To Be Continued
Warner Bros. Pictures

For the uninitiated, “Dune” is a sci-fi epic set in a far-flung future, exploring a cosmic feudal society and the desert planet of Arrakis alluded to in the title that this society circulates around. Arrakis is an unforgiving terrain where “spice,” a drug essential to interstellar travel, is harvested; whoever controls the spice controls the universe. The film begins as House Harkonnen (led by Stellan Skarsgard’s Baron) is commanded by The Emperor to cede control of Arrakis to House Atreides (led by Oscar Isaac’s Duke Leto), prompting the entire Atreides clan, including Leto’s son Paul (Timothée Chalamet), to move from their home world of Caladan to this dangerous new planet. 

There, they find themselves the center of an elaborate trap, with threats on all sides from the Harkonnens who want their cash cow back, forces within the Emperor’s circle working against them, the Bene Gesserit’s centuries long machinations coming to the fore and the Fremen, Arrakis natives tired of seeing new oppressors come and go. Also, Paul might be some kind of messiah. It’s … a lot.

What follows is an intricate web of political intrigue, dense mythology requiring artful exposition dumps, and a story that in some ways feels familiar even to newcomers. The novel, from 1965, was massively influential on mainstream science fiction in the ensuing years, so even outside of the 1984 film, “Dune” has thoroughly permeated the pop cultural consciousness. That means this is a film that comes with a heavy burden of needing to please ardent fans of Herbert’s work and those otherwise unfamiliar with the source material. Villeneuve struggled to find this balance but didn’t come to this battle unarmed.

“Dune” has assembled one of the most stacked and pedigreed casts in recent memory, including Zendaya, (Chani, a Fremen woman featuring heavily in Paul’s prophetic dreams), Rebecca Ferguson (Paul’s Mother Lady Jessica, a Bene Gesserit concubine), Jason Momoa (charismatic swordmaster Duncan Idaho), Josh Brolin (weapons master Gurney Halleck), Dave Bautista (Glossu Raban, Baron Harkonnen’s bloodthirsty nephew) and Javier Bardem (Stilgar, a Fremen tribe leader). Coupled with Greig Fraser’s striking cinematography and Hans Zimmer’s thunderous, oppressive score, “Dune” is doubtless one of the most visually appealing and aurally sumptuous viewing experiences to come out of Hollywood since Villeneuve’s last megabudgeted sci-fi epic “Blade Runner: 2049.”

While that film was certainly more colorful, more zeitgeist-y, and tethered to a classic in its own right, “Dune” is better paced, more sharply written, and bears the mark of a filmmaker who has learned from his last tentpole effort, having grown as a storyteller for his trouble. On a surface level, “Dune” works remarkably well. The locales are dazzling and well realized. The texture in the world-building is impressive. It looks, feels, and sounds astonishing. But digging deeper reveals some drawbacks. 

Having a veteran scribe like Eric Roth bringing his pen to the table certainly helps to distill the complex web of the film’s plot into something somewhat digestible, but audiences will have a split reaction to the narrative. Viewers who have never read the books before will likely be enveloped by the richness in the visual storytelling, too hypnotized by the presentation and engrossed by its depiction of this world to want for more in the way of characterization. People more familiar with the story might be too frustrated by how much is left aside or abstracted to the point of nothingness to care how pretty the pictures are or how much collective gravitas the cast has amassed. It is easier to be pleased with what is presented when unaware of what is missing.

This split runs through every aspect of the film. Chalamet’s central performance is captivating, to be sure, but so much of his character’s interiority is lost through the way his story is told. There is so much to keep track of, regarding motivations, circumstance and positioning, that paying attention to the galactic politics and its ensemble cast will be enough work for a viewer whose concentration will be repeatedly and abruptly interrupted by Zimmer’s cudgel of a score. So while it’s impressive to see how good Villeneuve has gotten at grafting his arthouse sensibilities to the multiplex, it’s still a little sad how much depth is lost in translation. Great if you just like seeing a gorgeous space opera writ as large as financially possible, but less so if you yearn for more from your science fiction.

And that’s not even getting into how unsatisfying the film’s sudden conclusion is.

Star Wars for adults or Star Wars for cinephiles?

Dune Review: To Be Continued
Warner Bros. Pictures

The last notable time a beloved filmmaker worked this hard to spend more than $100 million in studio money on making a franchise film “for adults” was in 2011, when David Fincher thought “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” could be an antidote to a direction the industry has veered even further into. But he was wrong. The era of star-driven, not IP-driven, major motion pictures made “for grown-ups” might never come back, but it certainly couldn’t explode in the wake of the underwhelming returns that greeted “Dragon Tattoo.” Sure, that film’s R rating didn’t help, but even with a PG-13, Villeneuve is fighting an uphill battle here.

Compare “Dune” to “A New Hope,” the first “Star Wars” film. Obviously, it began a sprawling saga with endless spinoffs in various media still continuing to this day. But watching it as its own entity, it is a satisfying experience. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. Even if audiences left wanting more, they could still be sated by the picture they’d just watched. “Dune” doesn’t function that way. It isn’t even like “The Fellowship of the Ring,” where the entire trilogy was produced and filmed back to back. As it stands, “Dune,” which is titled onscreen as “Dune: Part 1,” just stops. It’s a movie that is thrilling and engaging and easy to be swept up in, until its closing 20 minutes or so when becomes increasingly clear this is not a story you can pause mid-way through in any meaningful fashion.

But the nature of the film’s structure isn’t likely to inspire the hunger for more the filmmakers here seem to think it will. Best case scenario? “Dune” does well domestically and a sequel gets greenlit in the next few weeks — one which won’t reach audiences for another few years at the earliest. And not for a sequel or because they loved this world so much they just have to have seconds, but to literally get the rest of the story they paid to see. In an attempt to counter-program against the Marvels of the world, for whom a sprawling shared universe can protract forever off the strength of dogmatic fervor, Villeneuve and company have made “Dune” the Kickstarter project of tentpole motion pictures. No matter how well made it objectively is or how beloved the story, this, in the end, is an expensive proof of concept asking audiences to crowd-fund interest in … finishing the damn thing.

That’s a harder sell than they think. 

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related


The Mind-Blowing Way Hogwarts Was Actually Filmed In The Harry Potter Movies

Warner Bros. Pictures Over the course of eight feature films, the “Harry Potter” franchise delivers sights, sounds, and storylines that can only be described as, well, magical. That’s obviously quite ... Read more »

15 Best War Movies Of 2021

Roadside Attractions A number of war movies that were originally scheduled to drop in 2021 got pushed back to the following year thanks to the coronavirus pandemic (the biggest being ... Read more »

The Unusual Way That Zoey's Extraordinary Christmas Came Together

Roku/YouTube In musical TV series “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” Jane Levy portrays a computer programmer named Zoey Clarke who one day acquires a sort of superpower with which she can hear ... Read more »

The Best Time Ewan McGregor Broke Character In Star Wars

20th Century Studios/Disney/YouTube More than two decades after the premiere of “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace,” the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy is still inspiring discourse. Ewan McGregor, who co-starred in ... Read more »

Batman's History With Penguin Explained

Batman's History With Penguin Explained DC Comics Blood money is what fuels Oswald Cobblepot, the criminal kingpin known simply as the Penguin in Gotham City. There isn’t any bar too ... Read more »

The Climbing Documentary Netflix Fans Are Going Crazy For

Courtesy of Netflix Every few years, Netflix or some other media giant churns out a hit documentary of some sort that gets gobbled up by viewers like a Christmas Eve ham. ... Read more »

Action Movies That Flew Under The Radar In 2021

Netflix This content was paid for by Netflix and created by Looper. There were plenty of high-octane action vehicles to keep audiences on their toes throughout 2021. If you were ... Read more »

Things You See In Every Holiday Romantic Comedy

Netflix The tree’s been decorated. Candles have been lit. Perhaps you’ve just gotten through another workday during the holiday season. However you got here, it’s the end of another bustling ... Read more »

The Smartest Decision Luke Skywalker Ever Made In Star Wars

Lucasfilm/Disney In his time transforming from farm boy to Master Jedi, Luke Skywalker had a life well-lived. He mastered the ways of the Force, saved the galaxy from the Empire’s ... Read more »

The Jurassic Park Scene That Aged Poorly

Universal Pictures Universal Pictures and director Steven Spielberg’s production company, Amblin Entertainment, famously bought the film rights to Michael Crichton’s novel about dinosaur clones before it was even published, figuring ... Read more »

The Worst Action Movies Ever Made

Although they’re often sneered at by critics, action movies can make for some pretty excellent cinema. Even if you exclude superhero and sci-fi flicks, “Die Hard,” “John Wick,” “The Raid,” ... Read more »

The Christmas Chronicles' Darby Camp Confirms What We All Suspected About Goldie Hawn's On-Set Behavior

Amy Sussman/Getty Netflix has gone all-in on Christmas flicks over the last few years. It appears the streaming giant won’t be satisfied until it takes the crown of the preeminent ... Read more »

Spider-Man: No Way Home Cameos Ranked From Least To Most Likely

Sony When a third MCU “Spider-Man” film was first officially announced, few probably suspected that it would feature the introduction of the Marvel Multiverse. That all changed when reports surfaced in ... Read more »

What You Don't Know About Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man

Sony Pictures/YouTube One can argue that among all the actors who portrayed Spider-Man in live action over the last two decades, Andrew Garfield has faced the toughest battle of all. ... Read more »

Past And Present Collide In A New The Matrix: Resurrections TV Spot

Warner Brothers/ Youtube “The Matrix: Resurrections,” which releases on December 22, 2021, will continue the original story that the famous Wachowski siblings first launched back in 1999. Over the course of ... Read more »

The French Comedy Taking Over Netflix's Top 10

Netflix/YouTube One of the most significant advantages Netflix has to offer is the power to find films and TV shows produced around the globe. Unless you live next to an ... Read more »

Ebenezer Scrooge: The Best Movie And TV Versions Ranked

Walt Disney Motion Pictures Charles Dickens is considered one of Britain’s greatest writers, and while his novels like “A Tale of Two Cities,” “Oliver Twist,” and “Great Expectations” (to name ... Read more »

Hannah John-Kamen Reveals What It's Really Like To Audition For Star Wars

Gareth Cattermole/Getty Over the years, “Star Wars” has had its fair share of celebrity cameos. Actors such as Daniel Craig and Simon Pegg – and even Prince Harry and Prince William ... Read more »

Should Hollywood Be Resurrecting Actors With CGI?

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Since 1959, when schlock auteur Ed Wood hired his chiropractor to finish the part of Bela Lugosi in “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” Hollywood has grappled with ... Read more »

Stellar cast in 'A Year-end Medley' promises mix of nostalgia, escapism

From left, actors Ko Sung-hee, Kim Young-kwang and Han Ji-min attend an online press conference for the film, “A Year-end Medley,” Wednesday. Courtesy of CJ ENM, Tving By Kwak Yeon-soo ... Read more »

(LEAD) Star-studded Korean rom-com to hit theaters in Christmas season

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 10, 12-13)By Kim Boram SEOUL, Dec. 1 (Yonhap) — With the Christmas and year-end season fast approaching, a heartwarming romantic comedy film will hit ... Read more »

Star-studded Korean rom-com to hit theaters in Christmas season

By Kim Boram SEOUL, Dec. 1 (Yonhap) — With the Christmas and year-end season fast approaching, a heartwarming romantic comedy film will hit South Korean theaters later this month. “A ... Read more »

The Worst Christmas Movies According To Rotten Tomatoes

G2 Pictures / Vertigo Média Kft. Making a list of horrible holiday films (and checking it twice) is easier said than done. Most of us have a soft spot for ... Read more »

The Character Pedro Pascal Almost Played In Venom

Jeff Spicer/Getty Images When “Venom” first hit theaters in 2018, the movie became a hit with fans who had long awaited a worthy adaptation of the lethal protector. The success ... Read more »

When Will There Be A Scrooged 2?

Paramount Pictures/YouTube The 1988 comedy “Scrooged,” starring the ever-iconic Bill Murray, has been a staple of the holiday season for decades. The film, directed by the late Richard Donner, took ... Read more »

The Real Reason Behind Voldemort's Wand Design In Harry Potter

Warner Bros. After the recent announcement of the “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts” special on HBO Max a few weeks ago, Potter fans are more excited than ever. ... Read more »

The Ending Of The Double Explained

Studio Canal/YouTube English filmmaker and actor Richard Ayoade’s 2013 darkly comical film “The Double” is loosely based on the Fyodor Dostoevsky novel of the same name. The film is a dystopian ... Read more »

Why Scarlet Witch's Costume In The MCU Makes No Sense

Marvel Studios Historically, female superheroes have not been up to par with their male counterparts in terms of costumes. While some outfits are undoubtedly cool, others totally miss the mark ... Read more »

The Nicolas Cage Vampire Comedy You Forgot Existed

Hemdale Film Corporation Nicolas Cage’s résumé is, in a word, eclectic. It contains everything from thought-provoking character-driven dramas like “Pig” to over-the-top, big-budget horror remakes like “The Wicker Man.” He ... Read more »

Keanu Reeves' Highest-Grossing Movie Isn't What You'd Think

Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock If there’s anyone in Hollywood who deserves to be called breathtaking, Keanu Reeves is certainly at the top of that list. As The New Yorker pointed out, he ... Read more »

The Fast And Furious Movie You Didn't Know Keanu Reeves Turned Down

Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images There aren’t very many action heroes as successful as Keanu Reeves. From films like “Speed” to “The Matrix” franchise and (most recently, of course) his success in ... Read more »

The Emotional Last Jedi Moment Mark Hamill And Carrie Fisher Improvised

Araya Doheny/Getty “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” arrived on the big screen in 2015, breaking a decade-long streak of no new Skywalker saga entries at the movies. ... Read more »

The Trinity Theory That Could Change Everything In Matrix Resurrections

Warner Bros./YouTube When it comes to “The Matrix Resurrections,” it seems like practically anything is possible. Countless fan theories have surfaced in the months since the release of the first teasers ... Read more »

Adam Driver's Best Movie And TV Roles To Date

Paramount Pictures From supporting roles in TV shows to playing the main villain in one of the most beloved sci-fi franchises of all time, the journey of Adam Driver has ... Read more »

The Ending Of Lady In The Water Explained

Warner Bros./HBO Max M. Night Shyamalan has had a notorious roller coaster ride through Hollywood. He started as a promising talent with “The Sixth Sense,” wowing critics and audiences alike. He ... Read more »

Here's Where You Can Stream Elf This Holiday Season

New Line Cinema/HBO Max Every year, movie studios are trying to make the next beloved Christmas movie, hoping to use the perfect recipe of warm holiday cheer and cute family ... Read more »

Here's Where You Can Watch Jumper

20th Century Fox Only three short years after the release of “Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith,” Hayden Christensen returned to the big screen in “Jumper.” Starring ... Read more »

The RoboCop Scene That Aged Poorly

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer With possibly the most generic ’80s action-movie title ever (apologies to “Commando”), 1987’s “RoboCop” was an unexpected hit that went on to achieve serious cult status. Starring the then-unknown ... Read more »

Tom Holland Teases A Big Change In Spider-Man: No Way Home's Fight Scenes

Tinseltown/Shutterstock “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is set to be one of the biggest movie events of the year, especially after it was just recently announced that the third Spider-Man-focused MCU film ... Read more »

The Game You Should Play If You Love James Bond And Tarantino Films

Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic