“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
It’s no surprise that science fiction is the genre that pulls out all the stops—driving the audiences’ eye to the wondrous worlds and places that are far beyond the simple rock we live on. Though it is not my favorite genre, personally, I do have some favorites. Why do I preface with this? Because Dune felt like it would be, “too much science fiction” for my taste. Nevertheless, I sat down to watch what unfolded before me. Denis Villeneuve doesn’t shy away from his kid in a filmmaking candy store as he now leans towards remaking some of his favorite science fiction classics. As a reminder, Villeneuve directed 2017’s Blade Runner 2049 with Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. This time he sets his eyes on Frank Herbert’s novel and 1984 remake of desert people and large sand worms.
Dune is not for the faint of heart, I will say that. It’s a rather complicated story. And to get this out of the way, yes, this is only part one. We first meet the Atreides family—Paul more importantly. They’re a noble family who have been ordered by the Emperor to now control the planet of Arrakis—a barren desert planet. However, unbeknownst to them, the emperor has grown jealous of the Atreides family and their growing respect among the people. This new assignment is only a mission of failure and soon death. But there’s more to this mysterious planet as it houses a mineral called “the spice,” a powerful and lucrative element.
Throughout the film Paul finds himself overpowered by vivid dreams of the sand people who live among the desert dunes. Especially, a young woman who flows in and out of his visions like grains of sand. As the political power struggle between the Atreides and the Emperor escalates into violent fervor, and his mother’s background creates personal revelations within him, Paul must decide what to do next as the weight of responsibilities begins to fall around his shoulders.
Timothée Chalamet continues in his soaring career as he takes on the character of Paul. I never question Chalamet’s ability to portray his characters as he’s shown time and again that he’s more than up to the task. The abrasive scene between himself and Charlotte Rampling, who plays the Reverend Mother, as Paul puts his hand in a box that ravages his hand in pain, is probably one of the most psychologically disturbing films of the film. Dune is filled with notable names from Rebecca Ferguson and Oscar Isaac to Jason Momoa and Josh Brolin. The supporting cast make up such a sophisticated talent for this film to embrace.
Though the screenwriters of this film may classify Dune as a Lord of the Rings type blockbuster—no doubt in order to toot their own horn—I would say no. Though I wouldn’t deny them the satisfaction of a decent pat on the back, I will say that Dune is extremely good. I just find both films to be vastly different. Villeneuve, who continues to produce such stunning films from start to finish, creates these far away planets with such realism. Dune looks absolutely breathtaking with every scene, creating even the most minute detail within the aesthetics. But what sets Dune apart from nearly every other science fiction movie is Villeneuve’s talent for storytelling.
Throughout Villeneuve’s films, there’s a remarkable ability to shape his characters, revealing a complexity that is beyond what’s simply being stated through dialogue. It is no different with Dune. There’s a grittiness, a fear of the unknown that Paul has to brave along his journey. And right alongside this is the audience, inserted right in the middle, walking hand and hand with them. Villeneuve cuts deep into what these characters are feeling. With Dune dealing heavily with the themes of “overcoming of one’s fear, ” it’s no wonder he wants to continue with this project, he excels at it.
Dune in its entirety is an epic novelization—a gargantuan task to adapt for film. It is Villeneuve’s goal to make this into a trilogy, fulfilling his dream of seeing out Paul’s journey from start to finish. However, as Herbert’s story grows mind-blowing in its tale, it may become more complex to transfer onscreen. Part One shows real promise for where Villeneuve plans to take this franchise. However, we’ll have to wait and see if future films remain as promising.
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Stellan Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling, Dave Bautista, and Zendaya