Review: Dune

Reboots and remakes are still going strong in Hollywood. The most recent is Dune – a remake of the 1984 film based on the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert. Warner Bros put this “Game of Thrones in Space” story in the capable hands of visionary filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, and Sicario).

For people not familiar with Dune and its massive story, the film does a great job making it very digestible and enjoyable. The plot follows House Atreides relocation to a desert planet. Leto (Oscar Isaac) accepts a call from the Emperor to take over a planet named Arrakis aka Dune. The planet is the only home of a valuable substance known as “spice”. Spice has a ton of useful properties for humans, most importantly it is the key element needed for light speed travel.

Leto and his son Paul (Timothee Chalamet) and wife Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) make the trip to Arrakis with the rest of House Atreides. Once on Arrakis they must make things work with the native people known as Fremen who have suffered under the hand of other Houses that have inhabited their planet to get spice – Most recently the brutal House Harkonnen led by Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard) and his nephew Glossu (Dave Bautista).

In the background of these moving pieces is Paul. He’s having visions of a young Fremen woman (played by Zendaya) and not sure why he keeps seeing her, what those visions are, and what exactly is happening to him.

House Atreides isn’t on Arrakis long before they’re betrayed. They’re stabbed in the back (literally and figuratively) The chaos leads to Paul and Lady Jessica seeking refuge with the Fremen and trying to survive the giant sandworms.

Dune has an all-star cast…but like Game of Thrones, a lot of your faves aren’t going to survive. While the cast is there, they’re fantastic. Oscar Isaac is as noble and regal as you’d expect Leto to be. Timothee Chalamet is a bit clueless and confused so that works perfectly for Paul. Jason Mamoa is fantastic as Duncan Idaho. Javier Bardem as Stilgar is great. Stellan Skarsgard is perfect as the creepy Baron.

Part One doesn’t feature a lot of Zendaya as Chani besides the visions/dreams but I’d expect more of Chani and her story during Part 2.

Director Denis Villeneuve and Hans Zimmer together is absolute perfection. Denis’ grandiose filmmaking style paired with Zimmer’s bigger than life score is a match made in heaven. The score is prefect for the gorgeous wide shots of Arrakis, slow-motion fight sequences with the Fremen (LOVED), giant sandstorms, and the big betrayal attack. It’s everything you’d want to see on a big screen.

Dune’s biggest successes are 1) being able to pull this off with this cast. 2) Taking a beloved story from 1965 that’s goes so deep down the nerd rabbit hole and making it palatable for general audiences. That’s extremely difficult, yet Denis and crew pulled it off. 3) Its fun. It’s a lot of fun. Even with the lengthy runtime (156 minutes) it’s never boring or feels like it’s overstaying its welcome. My biggest gripe with Blade Runner 2049 was there was too much of nothing happening. Dune avoids all those warts and the film is better for it.

This version of Dune is what’s expected when something so loved is updated/rebooted/remade. Make it with care, make it fun, and stick to the source material as much as possible. Denis promised Part 2 would be more cinematic. One can only hope.

Grade: A-