Is Dune Doomed Because This Film is a Two-Parter?

The first film is ambitious enough to lay the foundation of what’s to come, but it’s better to read the books to know the full story than to wait for part two.

DUNE 2021 Movie Poster: duneBe Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Star power won’t necessarily make Denis Villeneuve’s Dune the most memorable. Names like Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, and Jason Momoa will bring their fans in, but they’ll be disappointed. Just how often they are on screen is no different than the 1984 product. Back then, the stars included Sting and Max Von Sydow. Even Patrick Stewart had a role before becoming widely known in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Ultimately, this film’s success depends on a willingness to sit through a 150min long movie. The many introductions made the pacing tough to get through. Also, Frank Herbert’s very dense work is not for everyone. In a nutshell, the saga he created is about whoever controls the drug, Melange, can hold the galaxy hostage. It’s known as “The Spice” and it can give frequent users prolonged life and psychotropic abilities.

Many worlds will go to war for it. Anyone who controls all the trade is at an advantage. Half the books concern which world (or a person) has the upper hand in their rise to power. When there’s a prophecy of one who will restore order, there’s many a series that has used this trope. What makes this work different is that the struggle is ongoing, and there’ll never be true peace in this particular system of planets.

Another comparable work is Mamoru Nagano’s Five Star Stories. This particular narrative includes giant robots powered by artificial humanoids called Fatimas, fantastic costumes, time travel, and ascension. Both products deal with a particular human turning into a messiah. 

I appreciate how this filmmaker is recognizing the 1984 film. Timothée Chalamet and Kyle MacLachlan look similar enough as Paul Atreides, despite many decades between versions. This prince of House Atreides gets involved in a very political war for stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis–better known as Dune. I also enjoy how Baron Vladimir Harkonnen lifts himself up in the air in this one. FX technology has advanced far enough to make him really float than look lifted by cranes. I can hear him scream, “Unleash the Kraken!” In this film’s case, it’s the sandworms! They’re much more terrifying in this update and they are the only reason why this film should be seen on the big screen.

Dune': Harkonnen design meant for big screen, not TV - Los Angeles Times

The immersive soundtrack gives the feel that the Ancient Middle East is alive once more. Instead of antiquity and huge mason palaces of orange and grey, it’s partly high tech. Half the civilizations represented look like they can belong in the Mesopotamian past. Just like the original work, a lot of attention is made on costuming, and they look even more spectacular.

The first film is ambitious enough to lay the foundation of what’s to come, but it’s better to read the books to know the full story than to wait for part two. Even then, it can’t be fast tracked for 2022. The earliest it can make it to screen is the following year or next. This film is simply world building much like a certain Peter Jackson six movie saga. By the end of this chapter, a new “Fellowship” is established and Paul has a lot more to deal with before he can bring honour back to his family.

3 Stars out of 5

Author: Ed Sum

I'm a freelance videographer and entertainment journalist (Absolute Underground Magazine, Two Hungry Blokes, and Otaku no Culture) with a wide range of interests. From archaeology to popular culture to paranormal studies, there's no stone unturned. Digging for the past and embracing "The Future" is my mantra.

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