Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ is an extraordinary voyage of astronomical proportions


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Sydney Flem, Contributor

“Dune” also referred to as “Dune: Part One,” directed by Denis Villeneuve, was released on Oct. 22, 2021. The film is now available to audiences in theatres and on HBO Max at no extra cost with a subscription. Fans of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel have been waiting for a film to encapsulate special effects to do this science-fiction masterpiece justice, as some believe David Lynch’s 1984 version fell short of this goal. Whether “Dune” (2021) has satisfied all fans in full is controversial; however, in comparison to “Dune” (1984), fans seem to believe this film is a masterpiece.

Within the film’s runtime, a colossal 2 hours and 35 minutes, not much introduction is given to audiences unfamiliar with details in the original novel. For a universe as expansive as “Dune,” which even features a glossary in its book, many filmgoers unfamiliar with its territory may be puzzled while watching the 2021 film. Embracing this confusion during one’s first exposure to the world of “Dune” is exciting for many.

For any cinephiles looking for a brief synopsis, “Dune” embodies a world far into the future, following the journey of the young protagonist, Paul Atreides, who is destined to rule the ocean planet Caladan as his father, Duke Leto, is called upon by the emperor to take over the extremely dangerous planet Arrakis. Arrakis is a desert planet and is the only place that possesses spice, an ingredient necessary for navigation, healing and life extension. The high demand for spice among civilizations drives enemy force Harkonnen, previous leaders of Arrakis, to attack House Atreides. The film goes on to follow Paul through a series of thrilling events such as encounters with Arrakis’s deadly sandworms and thrilling battles that have audiences on the edge of their seats, all making for a gripping and riveting odyssey.

It is no secret that for some, the film felt like a drag due to its complexity. The film may have benefitted from including more introductory information and including less bulk of the actual plot, even if this means making the anticipated second part continue into a trilogy. 

Regarding the complex plot, Film and Screen Studies major Emily Savona says, “At first I really didn’t know what was going on… I feel like the first hour I was staring at the screen like, ‘what’s happening?’”

Savona continued, however, saying, “Once you learn the characters’ names and who they’re trying to protect, it became a lot easier to understand what’s going on. I really liked it.”

Director, Denis Villeneuve, did a fantastic job in the portrayal of this complicated, futuristic universe. The architecture in Villeneuve’s portrayal of “Dune” is phenomenal. He took his own style, like the stone-like structures seen in “Arrival,” one of his other films, and flawlessly meshed it with characteristics from the world of “Dune.” Everything in the film feels so unfamiliar because of the exceeded expectations in these special effects. The detailing made it impossible not to immerse yourself in the unfamiliarity being shown on the screen.

The inevitable portrayal of foreign objects native to the novel gave audience members an exceptional feeling of how large the structures and creatures are. In multiple scenes, the dangerous sandworms that inhabit Arrakis are shown next to humans and other machinery, which provides the viewer with an immense feeling of depth. The architecture and transportation systems also serve the audience in this way, providing an even more prominent sense of depth on the big screen.

Many fans advise those who haven’t seen the film to see “Dune” in theatres. Film and Screen Studies major Jay Servedio says, “The reviews are right, you can’t really capture the scale of the movie on a small screen, and when you watch it on a large one, it is incredible.”

The performances in “Dune” also exceeded expectations. Timothée Chalamet did a fantastic job in his portrayal of Paul Atreides. Servedio says, “I’m not really a big Timothée Chalamet fan, but this made me like him a lot.”

Fans of Zendaya, who plays the Freman warrior Chani, were disappointed in her lack of screen time, as the marketing tactics for “Dune” primarily included Zendaya as a main character alongside Chalamet. Fans are hoping to see more of her performance in “Dune: Part Two,” which has already been announced with a release date in 2023.

Overall, this film was some of Denis Villeneuve’s best work with groundbreaking special effects and is a fully immersive experience for fans of the novel. Internet dwellers are already buzzing over “Dune: Part Two,” expected in 2023. Familiar with the novel or not, fans are encouraging people to go see “Dune: Part One” on the big screen!