Dune reminds us of the power of a Hollywood blockbuster.
Denis Villeneuve’s fantasy epic reminds us implicitly, its message carved in the sand again and again, that big-budget spectacles don’t have to be foolish or hyperactive, that it’s acceptable to allow the occasional peaceful interlude amid the explosions. Dune, adapted from Frank Herbert’s 1960s masterwork, is deep, dark, and at times magnificent — the missing connection between multiplex and arthouse cinema. It was like stumbling onto some fantastic lost tribe or a breakaway branch of America’s founding fathers who put forth the blueprint for a different and better New World when I came across it here.
Villeneuve has decided to dress the local ladies in hijabs and make the majority of his interiors appear like North Africa, as if the story’s real-world resonance wasn’t evident enough. Paul and the Duke are escorted down the gangplank in golden livery, serenaded by bagpipers. They could be a couple of old-style colonials looking to impose civilization on the indigenous while amassing wealth.
Timothée Chalamet plays Paul Atreides, the typical hero who is dubious of his abilities and doubts the importance of the huge task at him. His father, the Duke (Oscar Isaac), has been given command of the desert planet Arrakis, which is home to a mysterious substance known as “spice,” which extends life and powers space travel, among other things.
In the meanwhile, wow, what a movie. An ensemble cast (Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa) relishes the drama, and Villeneuve is confident enough to build the tension gradually before launching into the great operatic set-pieces. He’s created an entire world for us here, full of myth and mystery and devoid of any narrative cues or even much in the way of useful explanation.
Dune premiered at the Venice Film Festival and will be released on October 21 in Australia and the United Kingdom, and October 22 in the United States.
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