“Dune”: A sci-fi epic reimagined for the big screen

Dune is a new adaptation of a novel that has now been crafted for the big screen.

“Dune” is a new adaptation of a novel that has now been crafted for the big screen.

Carlos Eduardo M. Botelho

The 1965 book “Dune” raised the bar of science fiction literature at the time. Its rich level of detail in mythology, world-building and character depth was unheard of and until today is considered one of the prime examples of its genre.  Since then, Frank Herbert’s dystopian world was adapted into a live action movie and tv series, however neither were able to capture the true essence of the book. 

Canadian director, Denis Villeneuve, rises to the challenge and delivers the best adaptation of “Dune” yet. He crafts a sci-fi epic that is large in scale but also personal and relatable on its character motivations. “Dune” is finally done right and it reminds audiences how immersive and transportive movies can be. 

For those not familiar with the book, “Dune” takes place thousands of years in the future. It follows the story of Paul Atreides (Timotheé Chalamet) as his family immigrated to the desert world Arrakis after an imperial decree. Previously inhabited by the house Harkonnen, Arrakis is a hostile yet valuable planet to the empire. It is rich in spice capable of prolonging life and enabling interstellar travel. 

Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), Paul’s father and leader of house Atreides, is given the hard task of harvesting the deserts of Arrakis and supplying the empire with the spice. As tragedy strikes and the story develops into something further reaching and Paul must step into the spotlight and carry the title of the chosen one. A spiritual and temporal leader capable of restoring universal peace and justice.

Unlike other modern science fiction movies, this is a film that requires patience from the audience. Part of the beauty of “Dune” lies in the politics, religion and mythology and because of that the first act is all worldbuilding and set up. The scope of this film is enormous, however the characters and human moments balance it because at its core this is still a story about a family and how a hero must overcome his past and answer his calling. 

Despite the first act being a slow burn, this doesn’t mean there are no action scenes in “Dune”. Within the desert of Arrakis, huge sand worms hunt down anything that causes vibration or noise. These predators offer great action set pieces that feature one of the best visual effects ever put on screen. Filmed on location within the deserts of Abu Dhabi and southern Jordan, there is a level of authenticity when filmmaking is practical and green screens are avoided. 

Every technical aspect of “Dune” is done to perfection. The sound design, cinematography and soundtrack are all top tier and for audiences to get the most out of it they must experience it in theaters. Hans Zimmer, who also scored Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049”, returns with a soundtrack that feels different from his previous projects while remaining true to his style of intense and dramatic sounds. 

The acting is top notch across the board. Rebecca Ferguson as Paul’s mother Jessica, and Javier Barden as Stilgar stand out above the rest. Ferguson carries a lot of the emotional beats of the film, and she delivers in every single one. 

No movie is perfect, and “Dune” does have one narrative problem. This film is half of the book and because of that there is no perfect way to end the film. For some, the ending might be unwarranted and unsatisfying but whenever the sequel comes along perhaps this criticism will be overlooked. 

In the end, “Dune” is everything you expect from director Denis Villeneuve and more. Frank Herbert’s science fiction epic is finally done justice through great cinematography, sound design, score, performances and a gripping story that will leave everyone who watches wanting more. If you are a sci-fi fan looking for the next “Star Wars” or “Game of Thrones”, this just might be the next big thing.