There may be spoilers ahead.
Dune is a two-and-a-half hour film that tells the first part of Frank Herbert‘s novel of the same name. According to Wikipedia, in “2003, it was described as the world’s best-selling science fiction novel.” There have been previous attempts to make a film based on the book and these produced mixed results. How does the 2021 version fare?
First, the decision to have two long films rather than try and squeeze everything into one, allows the director a bit of breathing space. There’s time to set up the backdrop and the political intrigue which drives much of the action. For example, there are clear narratives about the major factions of the Emperor, and the Houses of Harkonnen and Atreides as well as the significance of the desert planet Arrakis and its precious melange (or spice). The latter substance is essential for interplanetary travel and is only found on Arrakis.
That having been said, I was unconvinced by the portrayal of the central character – Paul of the House of Atreides – as a potential messiah in waiting for the local, previously subjugated, Fremen. He didn’t seem to reflect his great potential on the screen. In short, there was no gravitas. I couldn’t believe in him.
Second, the visuals are outstanding. With one or two minor exceptions, the film looks gorgeous. (The exceptions: I thought some of the long views of the city were too obviously a model.) Most of the scenes are sumptuously drowning in atmospheric detail.
Third, I found some of the dialog to be wooden and unrealistic.
Fourth, the action scenes were pretty damn good.
Overall it was OK. Not quite disappointing, but not great. In parts, it dragged. If you are going to have a 150-minute movie, you should make sure your audience will be engrossed and involved. This film didn’t do that for me.
It hasn’t quite put me off wanting to see part two, but if the early reviews indicate it’s a dud, I’ll wait for it to be available on TV.
It’s a long time since I read the book. Based on my experiences of going back to read other science-fiction classics, I have avoided rereading this one. I remember it fondly as a good – not great – book. I do not want to spoil that memory.
Certainly, if you haven’t read it, I would recommend doing so because there are a ton of interesting ideas in the novel, even if they aren’t always well expressed.