Dune: A Sci-Fi Masterclass

Ahmad Ijaz   
Arts & Entertainment Editor

Fully immersive, true to Frank Herbert’s highly influential novel, and with a brilliant young star (Timothée Chalamet) leading the cast, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is a stunning sci-fi epic with top-notch visuals and an engaging storyline. The movie is re-made after nearly 40 years since David Lynch directed the original Dune (1984) that went on to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Sound.

The film is set in the year 10191, likely the most futuristic movie to exist. Oscar Isaac is Duke Letto Atreides and Rebecca Ferguson is Lady Jessica Atreides, though the story mostly focuses on their son, Paul, played by Timothee Chalamet. The story revolves around the protection of spice, the most valuable resource in the universe/galaxy. However, the real focus is on politics and power. There is much talk of ‘the plan’ with emphasis on whether young Paul is ‘the one’ mentioned in their legends. Paul does have some special abilities, but Chalamet’s understated and monotone portrayal makes everyone, even Lady Jessica, a bit unsure of whether he’s the leader they need.

The supporting cast is impressive due their part in driving the action and story forward. Jason Mamoa is Duncan Idaho, the warrior who humorously belittles Paul’s fragile physical frame. Josh Brolin is Gurney Halleck, the bodyguard to the noble family, and Charlotte Rampling plays the Reverend Mother (a creepy nun). Oscar winner Javier Bardem is under-utilized as Stilgar, while Zendaya shines as Chani, one who bonds with Paul. The most outrageous role finds Stellan Skarsgard (with some heavy make-up and special effects) as the grand emperor of Harkonnen, with Dave Bautista as his brother, the Beast.

The movie’s technical aspects are what stand out. It received Oscar award consideration in multiple categories, including best picture, best original sound, best original score, and best cinematography. Oscar winner Hans Zimmer delivers a score that compliments and enhances what we see on screen. Cinematographer Greig Fraser’s special effects are out of this world and include the sandworms, as well as dragonfly choppers that are quite impressive. 
On the downside, while I loved how patiently the story unfolded, I couldn’t help but think that economics were behind the decision to break it into two films, and this one felt incomplete when it ended. I also thought that some of the decisions in editing left a little to be desired, with cutaways from important scenes coming at odd, unnecessary moments.

All in all, though, it is an outstanding film, and one for sci-fi fans to sink their teeth into at 156 minutes, and with such high production quality. The film ends with “This is only the beginning”, and Denis Villeneuve has Dune Part Two in the planning stages. As far as sci-fi epics go, Dune is at the very top of the pile, and I am sure fans will eagerly await the second part.