Dune (Denis Villeneuve, 2021, USA/Canada)

Long-delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Denis Villeneuve's Dune has built up almost feverish anticipation leading up to its release. Even the release of the film was marred by controversy, with Villeneuve expressing displeasure over Warner's decision to release the film simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters. Like Christopher Nolan, Villeneuve is one of the modern auteurs who makes films expressly for the theatrical experience, and his latest is no exception. Like Blade Runner 2049 before it, Dune is a visual and auditory feast for the senses. It is a loud and immersive film that pummels you with drones, hums, and various passages of Hans Zimmer's score. 

Dune was billed in its advertising as a standalone film, but the title credits indicate that this film is "Part 1". For those familiar with the source material, it is clear very early on that the film will cut off right before Paul Atreides' (Timothee Chalamet) ascendency to prophet status. This leaves something to be desired, as characters like Chani (Zendaya) are effectively sidelined for the entire film. That being said, the film does a remarkable job of synthesizing most of the essential aspects of Hubert's novel into the film form. It is remarkably light on dialogue for a film that is based on an extremely wordy novel. 

Villeneuve's greatest strength here is his decision to express in visuals what could have - in a lesser adaptation - been expressed through copious amounts of dialogue and exposition. This allows the film - despite its two-and-a-half-hour runtime - to move along at a quick pace without sacrificing integral scenes ("What's in the box?"). Overall, Dune is an incredibly impressive ensemble piece that may even appeal to those with no familiarity with the source material. We look forward to seeing how things develop in Part Two.  


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