It's been 37 years since the last version of "Dune" hit movie screens, in master filmmaker David Lynch's much (and somewhat unfairly) maligned attempt. Before that, cult classic icon director Alejandro Jodorowsky tried but was unable to bring it to theaters in the '70s. That attempt was captured in a fascinating documentary called "Jodorowsky's Dune." Now, the amazing visionary Denis Villeneuve, the man behind films like "Sicario," "Arrival," and "Blade Runner 2049," is up to bat. How does his long-awaited "Dune," opening in theaters this weekend, fare? Here's our take.
Reasons to Watch…
- Villeneuve has hit this one out of the park and to the stars. This is epic, smart, commercial sci-fi filmmaking at its absolute finest. From frame one, "Dune" announces itself as a massive accomplishment. Everything is big and spectacular: the cinematography, the score, the visual effects, the production design, the cast, everything. It's a must-see theatrical experience that rates an A+.
- While "Dune" has been seen in book and movie form before, the story still resonates in a great way. These are the roots for future sci-fi space operas like "Star Wars." And like J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" text that preceded it, author Frank Herbert's "Dune" is a timeless monument.
- The cast is outstanding. Timothee Chalamet is a revelation in the part of budding leader Paul Atreides. He's a brooder, but there are thoughts going on behind the façade. And his parents, Duke Leto played by Oscar Isaac, and Lady Jessica played by Rebecca Ferguson, capture all sorts of fine dynamics, as House Atreides manages their new role as caretakers of the desert Planet Arrakis. Throw in fine performances from Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, and others, and you have almost every fan demo covered. Zendaya is enigmatic as Arrakis' Fremen warrior Chani. However, she's more just hinted at here. Her part will emerge more in Part Two, if this movie does well.
- This is an uncompromised film that loves the source material and trusts audiences to stick with it. "Dune" is a massive sci-fi tome with lots of themes, social, political, and ecological concerns. It's not light-hearted and not for the faint of heart. It's a sprawling tale and Villeneuve knows everything's in the details. For some, this will test their patience.
- Older audiences might not be as into the relationship that's hinted at between Chalamet and Zendaya. They're new era icons, and the movie isn't afraid to play up their Gen Z appeal. Still, both actors are fantastic and look the part. Their relationship is essential.
- Action is an integral part of "Dune." But the sequences aren't as showy/dynamic as anything in the MCU, DCEU, or "Star Wars." They're more just heavy. There's a palpable dread throughout "Dune" that’s consistent with Villeneuve's "Sicario" and "Blade Runner 2049." Especially, though, in combination with Hans Zimmer's pounding, thunderous score, it's awesome.
'Dune': Watch Or Not?
Watch "Dune" asap on the biggest theater screen with the best sound system possible. This is an experience that must be felt. For people who love movies, this will be one to remember for years. Regardless of whether Villeneuve and his crew and cast are able to make that second part (and we sure hope they will be), we're grateful we're able to see this tale of space opera, spaceships, sandworms and so much more. This is what cinema and the theatrical experience are all about.
Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.