Denis Villeneuve is the latest person to take on the first book of Dune by Frank Herbert. It was an ambitious task that others have failed at. Villeneuve only tackles the first half of the book, which I have yet to read. He is best known for Prisoners, Arrival, and Blade Runner 2049. Much like Blade Runner, there are lots of long, lingering, panoramic camera shots. At times they feel a little too long and the film becomes more art piece than film. It clocks in at 2:35 and I do not think it earns that long of a run time. It is not as slow as the Snyder Cut of Justice League, but it gets close at times.
The cast is full of big names, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista, and Rebecca Ferguson. Oscar Isaac is Duke Leto Atreides and Timothée Chalamet is his son Paul Atreides. Chalamet is great at playing aloof characters like in Ladybird and Little Women. He fits in well as an isolated prince that is never seen amongst his people. He doesn’t have to be charismatic to carry the role, something I am not sure Chalamet can be. I think this film had a solid casting and brings the kind of diversity you should see in intergalactic space travel.
I have never read the Dune books and I watched the 1984 film following this version to get a slightly better understanding of the story. The books are filled with the exploration of many characters’ inner thoughts. One way that is handled in this version of Dune is through sign language that is subtitled on screen. There are also a variety of languages spoken, some at convenient times to keep conversations private. It is a solid choice that pays off.
I do not like open-ended science fiction. I enjoy it best with complete stories, like Arrival. This film was always going to be a partial story, that if successful, would get a sequel to finish out the first Dune book. Open-ended sci-fi feels like art pieces to me and not films. Villeneuve is a master of the science fiction art piece. If you enjoyed Blade Runner 2049, this film should scratch a similar itch. It is well-executed, and I understand the overwhelmingly positive response it has received.