Movie Review: Dune, Part One (2021)

In the year 10191, the planet Arrakis is a harsh desert land, but it is rich in “spice” (maybe we can interest them in our spice club), so it has been a lucrative resource for the brutal Harkonnen, who exploit the locals and the land. When the emperor revokes Harkonnen rights to Arrakis and gives them instead to the duke of House Atreides (Oscar Isaac), an inevitable collision course is set, and complications ensue, including the fact that the duke’s gifted son Paul (Timothée Chalamet) may be the long-awaited messiah the people of Arrakis have been promised.

Confession: I knew nothing about Dune before watching this movie. I’ve never watched the previous movie or read the books. I’ve been wanting to watch this movie ever since the epic trailer dropped for it back in 2020. But even then, I had no clue what was going on–I just thought it looked visually stunning! So, I’m not approaching this movie with an interest in how close it is to the books but rather how well it functions as film on its own merits.

To which I say, I really enjoyed this movie and am looking forward to its second half, slated for release next year! I’d been concerned that not being familiar with the world and its original source would be a barrier to following the story line, but the first 10 to 15 minutes of the movie nicely set up the basic premise, so I didn’t have any issues with following the plot. The movie benefits from an impressive cast of talented actors, including Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem, but where it really shines is in its technical achievements.

A couple of weeks ago, the movie won 6 Oscars (including for original music score, cinematography, and visual effects), and those are well earned. It’s been a long time that I’ve watched a movie and thought “Oooh how cinematic!” But that is very much Dune’s vibe. It’s also incredibly atmospheric, eerie, otherworldly, ominous, and stunning, long before things take a dark turn for Paul and his family.

The movie definitely takes its time–it clocks in at a little over two and a half hours, covering about half of the original book–and I’ve seen some reviewers complain that it was too slow. I didn’t find it slow. I thought the quieter moments were interesting and well acted and the more action-packed ones exciting and easy to follow, though I did wonder if it might have worked better as a miniseries, to allow time for everything to be allowed to properly unravel. Then again, I’m not sure that the same cinematic scope that makes the film so visually impressive would have been achieved in that medium.

In any event, I thought the filmmakers did a good job of making a coherent movie out of what could have been an impenetrably complex universe. They also were successful in structuring a plot that works as a standalone movie but is also clearly part of a greater overarching narrative that is to be continued.

Are you a Dune fan? Have you watched this movie? What else are you watching? Tell us in the comments! As always, please follow this link to our online library catalog for more information on this movie or to place it on hold.

Author: berryvillelibrary

"Our library, our future"

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