Dune: Part One
By Obin Nguyen
After a long delay Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part One, one of the most anticipated films of the 2021, has finally arrived on the big screen. Many have previously proclaimed that Frank Herbert’s bestseller novel Dune is impossible to adapt on the screen, due to its breadth, complexity, and power of detail. Previous screen adaptations produced rather mixed feelings – hence it is no wonder Villeneuve’s ambitious concept has been highly anticipated by the public and hard-core fans. And oh boy, words can’t describe the levels of awesomeness the film evoked in me. The film has barely sunk in my mind and already I can’t wait to see Part Two.
This epic science fiction film begins with the House of Atreides lead by Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), accepting the rule of the desert planet Arrakis given to them by the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV. They are replacing the previous masters, the Harkonnen House, lead by grotesque Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård). The planet has a unique source of valuable substance known as “spice”, commonly used for faster-than-light travel navigation or human-enhancing properties. This cuts off the valuable resource from the Harkonnnen House and creates friction between the two families.
Despite the political tension between the two houses and Atreides’ precarious assumption of power over the Arrakis, the story is more focused on Leto’s son Paul Atreides. Timothée Chalamet brilliantly portrays the emotional depth of his character who is haunted by uncertain visions of the future and vivid dreams of Chani (Zendaya). His journey is further troubled by his complicated relationship with his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) who is a member of a powerful mind-control sisterhood Bene Gesserit. With Villeneuve’s direction and Chalamet’s portrayal, the audience can dive deeper into Paul’s troubled mind and into the subsequent development of the character throughout the film.
It comes without saying that the cinematography and the visuals are absolutely breathtaking. Villeneuve has once again proven he is a maestro in creating visually stunning images as he previously did in Arrival (2016) or Blade Runner 2049 (2017). The film was shot for the IMAX format with Arri Alexa LF IMAX cameras, hence, to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the cinematography I would highly recommend watching Dune: Part One in IMAX cinemas. The gorgeous shots and images produced by the film really evoke the sense of wonder and excitement that I have not experienced in films for a while.
Of course, one cannot pay enough credit to Hans Zimmer’s score, which I would rate as his greatest piece of music he has composed. The eerie out-of-the-world sounds create an experience that fully immerses you into the world of Dune. Both Denis Villeneuve and Hans Zimmer have been huge fans of Herbert’s Dune since they were teenagers, hence, this film has been a personal matter for both. Zimmer even refused to work on Christopher Nolan’s mind-blowing Tenet (2020) to work on Dune: Part One. In case you haven’t noticed, most of Nolan’s recent film scores have been composed by Zimmer. So, for him to reject the proposal in order to work for Villeneuve, shows his ambition for creating something truly exceptional and unique was real.
Villeneuve has successfully convinced Warner Bros. Pictures to agree on a two-part adaptation with the first part covering less than half of the book which gave enough room to convey the book’s depth. This film’s main purpose was world building and character introduction. Considering the complexity and enormous amount of information depicted in Herbert’s Dune, the writers Jon Spaihts, Eric Roth and Denis Villeneuve have done an exceptional work on succinctly introducing the space and the characters. It’s not as confusing as one may think but there will be quite a lot of information to absorb so brace yourself and pay good attention.
My expectations for the film were high and despite that being true, the film did not disappoint me at all. I truly loved every aspect of the film. It’s been some time since I could really immerse myself in the world of science fiction. The last time I felt a similar sensation was with the Lord of The Rings Trilogy. Big credits go to Frank Herbert for creating such a complex world and praise to Villeneuve for his faithfulness to the book and successful depiction of the world on the big screen. The only weakness I would point out is that as the film is only a first part of the epic story, it may feel like the film ended a bit abruptly leaving you with little sadness that you didn’t get to see how the story unveils. With character development and build up throughout the film you really wanted to see more. Nevertheless, once part two is released all shall be forgiven and brilliance accomplished.