‘Dune’ is a fantastic first installment

Jack Muscatello, Contributing Writer

After enduring several delays at the hands of COVID-19 restrictions, the ambitious “Dune” was finally released in theaters and on HBO Max Oct. 21. Well, at least half of it.

“Dune” is a film adaption of the 1965 novel, and focuses on the life of Paul Atreides, played by Timothée Chalamet, as he is pulled into an intergalactic war over the planet Arrakis. Paul stands alongside his father in the family’s core of leaders and feels pressure throughout the film to succeed him as duke of the family.

The complex politics, large-scale battles and slightly supernatural undertones in “Dune” are comparable to “Game of Thrones” and “Lord of the Rings.” The casual space travel between several planets is also reminiscent of George Lucas’ “Star Wars” saga. It is easy to see how influential the novel has been on science fiction and fantasy genres, and this new adaptation shows how important the story has been for Hollywood.

There have been several attempts at translating the novel’s storyline into movie form over the years. The perpetually controversial director David Lynch, now known

for his popular TV series “Twin Peaks,” produced an adaptation in 1984. His version is a collection of outlandish visual effects and odd dream sequences and cemented the idea that “Dune” is unfilmable. A miniseries was also released 20 years later but was dismissed for downplaying much of the novel’s scope.

With Warner Brothers’ new adaptation, though, it is clear that the novel has found an ideal director to capture its visual nuances.

Denis Villeneuve, known for “Blade Runner 2049,” constructed each scene in “Dune” with meticulous attention to detail and a keen eye for visual splendor. The expansive sand dunes of Arrakis are always framed with the human characters in the foreground, and cinematographer Greig Fraser paints important character moments with beautiful, realistic lighting.

The performances all around are fantastic. Chalamet shines as Paul, bringing a certain tenderness and youthful gaze to the role. Rebecca Ferguson provides much of the film’s soul through Lady Jessica, who is Paul’s mother and mentor. Josh Brolin and Jason Mamoa share several of the

film’s funniest moments, and Oscar Isaac turns in an ideal portrayal of a subdued yet proud father.

The editing is flawless, Hans Zimmer’s musical score is powerful and the production design is second to none. The film’s only shortcoming is its plot, since “Dune” is presented as an incomplete story. Villeneuve and his team of writers cover the first half of the novel in the screenplay, which reserves much of the emotional payoff for an upcoming sequel. He even titled the film “Part One” in its opening scene.

This is a smart choice. The novel is too complex and intricately structured to cram into one film. However, the result is a finale that feels almost too open-ended and the definitive example of a cliffhanger.

“Dune” is cinema at its finest. Villeneuve has delivered the ideal blend of art-house imagery and action thrills, cementing himself as the definitive visionary director working today. Though the film does not reach the emotionally satisfying heights of “The Fellowship of the Ring,” it succeeds in generating high expectations for “Part Two.” As Zendaya’s character Chani says in the film, “this is only the beginning.”

4.5/5 Sandworms

Illustration by (Connor Lawless)