Dune (2021): An Overwhelming Space Epic

For a break from usual anime posts, here is some talk about a new science fiction epic. It feels like I have two personalities on this blog. Anime or Science Fiction. This is a film that reminds me how Sci Fi has been in my blood for years. My parents have a history with the 1984 Dune film as in when they were dating, and before I was even a concept, they watched this together. To this day, mom still refuses to come into contact wit attached with Dune. While I’ve read the book and a few of it’s sequels, my dad knows it cover to cover, so you can see where some of my love for Sci Fi comes from. I saw this film last Friday afternoon at the local movie with my dad and 10 other people six feet or further apart from me. This was the film that I was looking forward to ever since it was announced and it’s finally here. Yes! This was the film that I wanted for a long time.

When it comes to Dune, do I have to give a synopsis of this film or anything related to it? The original novel came out in 1965 by the infamous Frank Herbert. It has been adapted, pecked apart, came with sequels, and so many other things for literal years. Dune is apart of our cultural consciousness ever since it comes out because I know that memes around Sand Worms and “The Spice Must Flow” have been around in the internet for years as well. It may not be as huge or cultural defining as something like Star Wars or Star Trek are in this day and age, but it’s still there by being spread around nerd circles for what seems like forever. Maybe I should do it anyway just as a reference point.

Dune (2021) is the first part of a hopeful two part journey of the original Dune novel. It is the story of imperialism, of oppression, of resources, of religions, and of clan war. The story involves the trials and tests of Paul Atriedes, a man who is the son duke Leto Atriedes and also may be the chosen one by his mother Jessica of the Bene Gesserit, a line of women with super natural powers with stealth control through out the empire. The emperor commanded the Harkonnen family to leave the money center now as Arakkis where spice is mined for ftl travel and installed the Atriedes family in their place out of jealous and to cause a war between them. This first part of the fall of the obvious Atriedes family as they are betrayed leading to Paul and Jessica living amongst the Fremen of Arrakis in hiding/building up their strength for revenge. That is the end of Part 1.

The casting of this film is excellent. In fact, I don’t think that there is a single acting choice that feels wrong or out of place. It is a very international cast with talent from all over the world appearing in it in ways that just work. Timothee Chalamet does a fantastic job of taking the role of Paul Atreides and the many positions and trials he must face on his own personal journey of discovery through the film. Other actors like Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto, Zendaya as Chani, Stellan Skarsgard as Baron Harkonnen did a fantastic job in their roles as well. Though, a lot of personality was added by Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho and Dave Bautista as Glossu or Baron Harkonnen’s nephew. That’s not all of them, but just know this cast is excellent as already stated.

Dune (2021) is a very self aware film. Especially cultural. Denis Villeneue is a very smart director and he knows how Dune has been processed and looked at by society for years. Especially with the way Dune’s imperium could be easily compared to the United State’s own bits of modern imperialism in the middle east for years since 1965. The film knows this by first introducing and outlining everything from the Fremen’s point of view. We see the ruthlessness of house Harkonnen and their treatment of the people living on Arakkis for their greed and glory while it is voiced over by one of the Fremen we haven’t met yet. That line asking “who will be our next oppressors” as the Harkonnen are ordered to leave really frames the rest of the movie.

This film also has its own distinct directional and visual story through out it which will strongly make Denis Villeneue’s Dune stand out from the rest of them. I don’t mean just the ships and mechanical design, which I will get to later, but by ho dark and oppressive it looks like. For instance, there is a strong focus on the film’s environment. On Calladan, there is a lot of focus on water which allows us to miss the water when it disappears because we are going with the film to the very oppressive Arakkis desert. A desert that is so oppressive that it doesn’t look like a normal hollywood desert like in Star Wars or something like Space Balls. There is way that the colors are filtered in which it makes the viewer stuck into it too. I’ve never seen that choice before.

Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack is something that is something that at least needs to be commented on as well. It’s so unusual and off beat just like how the Fremen walk across the desert. So, in my mind, that means the soundtrack is the desert or at least the Fremen themselves. For all the effort and focus on the conflict between the Atriedes and Harkonnen houses, it is filled with a lot of Fremen style visuals and sounds in a way that makes both of these houses like they don’t belong. A very unique and wise choice that I can’t help but decide that I love. It brings the framing device of the Fremen flashbacks and Fremen voiced opening sequel with it on a sound track level which makes sure you know the film isn’t just about them.

Even in terms of scale, Dune (2021) is amazing. The large things in this film feel real out of this world large. I don’t mean just the sandworms, but the gigantic space ships, space, and the desert itself. There are great works of smaller and functional mechanical objects like the Ornithopters, the castles, and various other locations which are very well detailed, thought out and lived in, but the true stars of this film are the things that don’t fill up the screen. Some of the space ships feel large because they can’t be defined by the film line distance. Sandworms feel huge because their tracks go beyond the screen or are never fully shown on the screen, only their mouths. Its a film that makes humans feel small and their environments as the things that can kill them easily.

On a personal level, I have no major flaws with this film. It is a more then solid adaptation of Dune from the point of view of Denis Villeneue’s point of view. If I had to give a film a score, probably 9-to-9.5/10 because this is a visual experience I haven’t felt in a while. It really is a visceral film. The overly serious tone of this film might not connect with people as well as it could Especially if people are not as well into the story as much as they could be. Though, I think people who haven’t watched Dune before may get into the film because of how good it is. I am not sure about people who haven’t been affiliated with Science Fiction before, but I can almost guarantee that Science Fiction fans will love this film.

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