By Julia Barth, Features Editor
The long-awaited science fiction action film “Dune” premiered last week in the United States, finally releasing after being postponed by the pandemic. Director Denis Villeneuve, known for films like “Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049,” had a goal of making a movie that accurately portrayed the beloved book unlike other film adaptations of the 1965 novel.
Starring Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides with Rebecca Ferguson and Oscar Isaac as his parents Lady Jessica and Leto Atreides, the movie follows the first half of the novel, portraying the Atreides family as they take control of the planet Arrakis and the trials they face from the native lands and overarching universal government. Set in the year 10191, the powerful Atreides family is set to take over the planet, a place that carries an abundant amount of a commodity called spice, a good used for interstellar travel and an economic gold mine.
“Dune,” which is confirmed to have a part two releasing in the future, tackles the commentary on colonialism in a familiar way. It opens with descriptions of the powerful families that have tried to take over Arrakis and use it for their own political and economic gain in the past, including House Harkonnen, a group portrayed as ruthless and violent. The natives to the desert planet — known as the Fremen — continually see their home fall to these powerful Houses, who arrive on the planet looking for financial gain without any experience with the planet’s climate, territory or functions. House Atreides is no different, except for their one asset that no one knows about; that is, Paul Atreides’s ability to see the future through visions and his dreams.
Paul continues to see a woman in these visions, who later turns out to be a member of the Fremen, played by Zendaya who regretfully did not get as much screen time as fans anticipated. With Paul’s abilities, Lady Jessica — who is a part of a group known for their enhanced physical and mental abilities — believes that he may be the final form of their kind, and he sees himself as ruling alongside the Fremen and bringing peace to the planet.
Without spoiling, House Atreides was not sent to Arrakis just to take over the Fremen and cultivate the resources to acquire spice. A secret plan between other government actors in the universe is put into action, testing their strength and their hold on the desert planet.
Chalamet stepped into the role of Paul carefully but successfully. Known for roles that are opposite of Paul, like Laurie in “Little Women” and Elio in “Call Me By Your Name,” he portrays the intensity of the plot well, as well as his mental abilities, in a convincing manner. Ferguson stole the show in my eyes by balancing perfectly on the line between caring mother, elusive figure and ruthless fighter.
Although there were no significant fight scenes besides some awesome shots of Jason Momoa doing his thing, the special effects on the film were subtle in a necessary way. Filming in a real desert definitely helped, and one could tell the setting was futuristic without it being filled with unfamiliar technology and moving parts. The desert worms of course got their well deserved screen time, and looked absolutely incredible on that desert background.
The film’s score perfectly matched the aesthetic of the film. Hans Zimmer, one of the most famous film composers known for movies like “Interstellar,” “Dunkirk” and “Inception,” took his familiar sound to a whole new level using unique instruments, voices and noises to complement his typical, thumping score. The New York Times covered his process in an extremely fascinating article for movie score lovers out there.
The most important part of this new “Dune” adaptation, however, is its similarity to the book. Fans have seen many attempts at this point, but it seems like Villeneuve really got it right. People all over the world have been looking forward to this new and improved version, and Villeneuve’s directing skills as well as his tight hold on the book proved to be successful, with fans already looking forward to part two.