Dune: Part One (2021) - 7/10
I wasn’t all that excited to see Dune. Until I listened to the score. Zimmer really has done a beautiful job, so I was very intrigued to see the images to accompany it. There’s a lot of expectation with Dune. Everything from the book, which I confess I’ve not read and the misstep that is the 1984 film in the otherwise flawless Lynchian catalogue. I did wonder about watching Lynch’s version again, but decided I really didn’t need to see Sting in his fancy underpants again. That version is famously a butchered mess, in all its various cuts from what I can gather. How will Villeneuve’s version handle this epic? Well I’ll get to it, rather well. Perhaps because most sensibly he’s opted to tell half the story. This being Part One, made with no guarantee of the concluding Part Two. Villeneuve said he made his peace with this potentially being his only Dune film, getting all his favourite elements on screen from the outset. It shows and he’s been rewarded with the concluding film being confirmed only a matter of days after this opening salvo was released. I’m going to look at this as an outsider, seeing as that’s how I feel. I know people obsess about this story and sci-fi nuts lap it up. I really don’t fall into these camps. Dune I think feels like it can be a bit impenetrable. A serious sci-fi epic. So here’s the skinny. The year is 10191. The planet is Arrakis. Timothée Chalamet is Paul Atreides our young hero. He’s a posh kid, who because of his noble heritage is to be charged with looking after the planet and it’s ‘Spice’, a valuable asset in the galaxy that’s both a trippy drug and the secret to interstellar travel. This stuff is found on the sandy planet (hence the name Dune), populated by blue eyed desert soldiers protecting it from the evil bastards. I’m not gonna lie, on paper it sounds shit. This though right from the off is a visual treat. The shots are wide open and beautiful. Filled with fantastic spacecraft, creatures, costumes and militaristic pageantry. It’s this that draws you in. The whole aesthetic feels earthy, dusty, real despite the obvious fantasy. Now I’m not a fan of Chalamet, but here he feels he fits, as Keanu Nenoo fits in The Matrix, he also looks great in a long black coat. He’s in good company too. His dad is Oscar Issac. Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa bring the yahoo macho muscle to fight the bad dudes lead by Stellan Skarsgård in a shit-ton of prosthetic make up. For all it’s relative simplicity though, there’s a lot of spiritual set up and exposition. Be prepared to dig in and stick with it. The rewards will come, but it requires some patience. There’s enough touch points to lead even the most sceptic through its dense first act. Charlotte Rampling as a reverend mother decked out in the most badass headdress testing Paul’s powers to bridge space and time in his mind in the infamous hand in the box scene. It’s a slow burning twisting tale of mystics and politics told with some of the most beautiful cinematography I’ve laid my eyes on. But fear not, there’s action too. The Worms. They’re treated as they would be in a monster movie. Teased and hidden, building the tension. Massive creatures lurking in the sand, ready to swallow machine and man whole. There’s also mahoosive big smashy explosions as wars are waged and that Zimmer score goes full bombast. It’s all very balletic. I’m not going to dress it up. It’s good, but more so for it’s style than it’s substance. Even an effortlessly cool and underused Javier Bardem as a righteous protector of Arrakis can’t convince me otherwise. That’s not to say the substance isn’t there, but it’s hidden in the narrative and it asks a lot of the viewer to find it. I rather like this to be fair, but I wonder what the casual viewer will make of it. If you’re here just for intergalactic conflict with spaceships and monsters, you’ll be sorely disappointed. For the patient though, the final act delivers but retains its soulfulness right to the credits. I’m a little surprised that Villeneuve would be satisfied to leave it here, there’s much more to play out. It’ll certainly be interesting to see what he does with Part Two.