Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, David Dastmalchian, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Author Harlan Ellison once called Frank Herbert's Dune the book that couldn't be shot. If he'd lived to see director Denis Villenueve's adaptation, he might've changed his mind. This movie is an absolute feast for the senses. Villeneuve serves up nothing less than a living, breathing world, and uses every single shot to convey just how that world works. Not since Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey has there been visual sci-fi storytelling like this. Fans of the book will undoubtedly get the most out of this film, and as one such fan, I wholeheartedly give it two thumbs up.
There is absolutely no question that Dune is one of the most visually impressive films you'll see this year. Every trademark of director Denis Villeneuve is used to create a gorgeous piece of cinema. Unfortunately, that's where the greatness ends. That's not to say Dune is a bad film... it isn't... but it should have been great. With a cast this stellar, no one really stands out, and though the storyline isn’t overly complicated, it's told in a way that makes it so. Worst of all, it's periodically boring. Not the best way to start off a franchise.
While it may not emotionally move audiences as well as some of his other works, Denis Villeneuve's Dune is nonetheless an expertly directed, breathtaking sci-fi epic both worthy of and best-viewed on an enormous theatrical screen. Each performance serves its purpose well (Rebecca Ferguson and Jason Momoa especially shine), but the true stars of this film's phenomenally massive scope are the technical elements - the visual effects, sound design, and score are particular standouts all worthy of Oscars. If part two is as good or better, the two-hander may well be viewed as the defining sci-fi epic of the decade.
You know the cliché of the hot guy/girl that everyone lusts after given how hot he/she is despite having zero personality? That's Dune. It's absolutely stunning to look at, from the too few action scenes to every time the sandworms make an appearance, but the story struggles to stay compelling. It's mostly world-building to set up the sequel, and several things are frustratingly under-explained. The A-list cast is generally wasted, with the majority playing underdeveloped exposition delivery pawns. In the end. It's probably better to judge this and the sequel as one movie because, as a standalone, it feels incomplete.
Dune feels like the start of a once in a generation trilogy in the vein of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Director Denis Villeneuve’s visual eye is striking, especially on the big screen, and every single tech he pulls off is an achievement, from the visual effects to the set design. Greig Fraser's stunning cinematography and Hans Zimmer's spectacular score only complement what Villeneuve has accomplished. Beyond that, it features an engaging, albeit dense, story that pulls off its ending in a way that's satisfying while also perfectly setting up a sequel that I cannot wait to see.
Dune is epic and beautiful in its unfocused vastness. The heart-pounding score is the constant amongst the uneven intertwining of political drama, sci-fi action thriller, and world-building space opera. Exposition smothers the first act, but an intriguing story and committed cast shine through just enough to keep your interest throughout the runtime. Timothee Chalamet's intensity is captivating, but he lacks a balancing warmth that co-stars Oscar Isaac and Rebecca Ferguson carry with more ease. In all, Dune: Part One feels like a cram session necessary to better understand the potential of a mind-blowing finale.