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Movie Review - Dune: Part One (2021)

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Movie Review Writer on Letterboxd and now here on Hubpages. I love movies, TV shows and anime. I also do photography as a hobby.

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Another Villeneuve Masterpiece?

It will just happen to you. That as a director you are given the thankless task of turning a beloved book into a film for the silver screen. No matter how much your heart throbs for the source material, there are always hardcore fans who know the book better than their own in-laws and can't wait to knock you down for the slightest deviation from their 'sacred writings'.

Only a handful of film adaptations have withstood the wrath of fans. Well-known examples are The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) and the Harry Potter films. Both have since established themselves as the definitive film adaptations of the books. Yet the majority of these kinds of adaptations do not get beyond the painful mediocrity, for example The Da Vinci Code (2006), The Hobbit (2012-2014) and The Dark Tower (2017).

For a long time Frank Herberts Dune seemed to meet the same fate. The original 1982 film version was admirable, but director David Lynch's vision was no match for the wonderful world of the book. In addition, Lynch's bizarre directing style made for a film that was anything but accessible to viewers unfamiliar with the source material.

How different is Denis Villeneuve's modern version of Dune. This is the kind of book adaptation that fans dream of. A heart-pounding epic that sums up the expansive story in an understandable science fiction film. Villeneuve takes the time to immerse us in the world of Frank Herbert so that we can calmly get to know the main elements and players in the story.

With films such as Arrival (2016) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017), Villeneuve has already proven his affinity for science fiction, but with Dune he takes his vision to a higher level. The designs of spaceships, worlds and alien beasts are reminiscent of the wonderful science fiction paperbacks of the past; whose covers were often more interesting than the book.

Aside from the futuristic setting, Dune has an almost medieval plot. The film revolves largely around political intrigue, which can make the film a bit too chatty for some. However, viewers who enjoy series like Game of Thrones and House of Cards will have no trouble keeping up with the developments in Dune. For moviegoers who don't like dialogue, there is enough spectacle to see them through the 'boring' bits.

For his film adaptation, Villeneuve opened a can of familiar faces. We see Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Dave Bautista, Jason Momoa, Zendaya, Stellan Skarsgård and Javier Bardem appear in large and small roles. The greatest burden rests on Timothée Chalamet, who strikes the right balance between naivety and maturity in the role of Paul Atreides.

Yet Chalamet visibly needs to get used to the enormity of this production. With mostly small-scale dramas on his resume, Chalamet's acting feels a bit stiff here at times. This is happily disguised by its magnetic presence. A feature that comes in handy, as the story largely hinges on Paul's messianic attraction to the inhabitants of the planet Arrakis.

Unfortunately, Dune (or Dune: Part One, as the opening scene shows) only filmed the first half of the first book. So we hope for an enthusiastic reception from the public, so that Villeneuve can treat us to the rest of this story. Partly because of this, the ending of Dune: Part One is an anticlimax, but one that can easily be remedied by a sequel.

Once again, Denis Villeneuve proves that he is a director with an unerring sense of serious science fiction. He has managed to safely guide this colossus to the cinema, resulting in a spectacular book adaptation. However you view Dune: Part One, whether you are a fan of Frank Herbert's books or a newcomer, one thing is certain: you will be impressed.

© 2021 Wise Clown

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