DUNE Review: The Next Great Sci-Fi Franchise Has Arrived
Lisa Johnson Mandell’s Dune review says the epic film is a scintillating work of art — it should be an immediate sci-fi classic.
It’s actually quite thrilling to witness the birth of the next great sci-fi franchise. The latest iteration of Dune is the film stellar director Denis Villeneuve was born to make, and will hopefully keep him happily occupied for the next decade, at least.
It’s as if all the excellent genre films Villeneuve has made up to this point (Bladerunner 2049, Arrival, Sicario) were preparing him for this epic. And yes, it is a grand and glorious epic—the ultimate cinematic spice for movie lovers.
“Spice” is the substance essential to the plot of author Frank Herbert’s seminal series, some say it’s his answer to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, which has been so grandly adapted into a series on Apple TV+. It’s a good year for sci-fi.
But don’t worry if you haven’t read the Dune novels. It’s been decades since I have, and I was still able to discern the plot details without confusion.
In essence, in the distant future, the powerful House Atreides, led by Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) is commissioned by the galactic Emperor to take over the desolate desert planet of Arrakis, which is essential because it’s the only planet where the most valuable asset in the universe can be harvested: a substance with almost magical powers called “Spice.”
This is a perilous commission, however, as the Emperor’s motives are suspect, and the House Harkonnen, the previous managers of the planet, are reluctant to give up their power, and the planet natives, known as Fremen, are reluctant to give up their land and Spice. Then there are those giant sand worms to contend with— theyalso protect the Spice.
Emerging from the intense intrigue is Paul Atreides (the perfectly cast Timothée Chalamet), son of Leto Atreides and his concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), an acolyte of the all female, mystical and powerful Bene Gesserit. Dune is the story of Paul’s legacy, survival and rise.
And it’s told here with brilliant subtlety. Whispers and profound images give intricate details, with no obvious character ‘splaining to be found. Pay attention to the monument and meaning of images like water spilling through fingers, later replaced by sand, and to the first boot step on a new world. Allow yourself to be mesmerized by Hans Zimmer’s lovely and lyrical score.
Simply go with the flow, and you will be amazed. I am aware that those more accustomed to non-stop space chases and futuristic battles may find the film tedious. Dune does have sophisticated and thrilling action scenes as well, but they’re dolled out with more discrepancy. They’re not jammed in just to pander to short attention spans.
If you give reign to your more cerebral nature, you will appreciate the beautiful gestalt of Dune. It absolutely must be seen on the big screen.
2 Hours 35 Minutes
If Lisa Johnson Mandell’s Dune review makes you want to jet out to see it on the big screen, get local times and tickets on Fandango.com.