Review: “Dune,” the new adult “Star Wars,” requires a lot of attention from its audience

Hollis Masterson, Staff Writer

I find myself sitting in the theatre seat, my eyes darting across the IMAX screen as the room’s lights fade, and a rumbling hum is made from the sides of the theatre that fill my ears with ambient sounds, followed with a deep thumping similar to that of a Fremen Thumper, as production company logos form on the screen.

The smell of popcorn and the intense interest of other theater-goers surround me, all of us in worlds of our own, prepared to be taken into Frank Herbert’s “Dune” adapted by Denis Villevenue for the movie screen and released this year in theatres across the world.

“Dune” is a sci-fi literary epic created by author Frank Herbert in 1965 depicting the tales of prince Paul Atreides thousands of years in the future as he comes in contact with rival houses, indigenous peoples on planets far away, and his fight for the freedom of the desert planet Arrakis. It was first recreated for the cinema in 1984, written and directed by David Lynch who was also considered to work on the third Star Wars movie, “Return of the Jedi,” but turned it down for “Dune” (1984).
The movie flopped terribly, making $31 million in the box office compared to its $40 million budget.

It also received many negative reviews from acclaimed critics of the time who found it extremely confusing and poorly produced.

“This movie is a real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time,” said movie critic Roger Ebert in his review on the Chicago Sun-Times.

However, since it’s release “Dune” (1984) has gained popularity as a cult-classic favorite according to Box Office Mojo.

Legendary Entertainment, upon receiving rights to produce “Dune” in 2017, set to work on a new release scheduled for 2021 and believed to have 2-3 parts with Canadian director Denis Villevenue to direct all films according to Variety.

“Dune” features many big league actors with plenty of experience in sci-fi movies who were perfect choices for the film: from Zendaya to Timothee Chalamet. Combined with the fact that many are from a hodgepodge of sci-fi franchises such as Oscar Isaac from “Star Wars,” Jason Momoa from “DC,” and Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, and Zendaya from “Marvel” movies. While Timothee Chalamet has little sci-fi movie experience, the young actor has been in many drama films and really brought his all to “Dune.”
The soundtrack was incredibly well done and honestly could be enjoyed separate from the movie. Hans Zimmer is known for his works with films including “The Dark Knight Trilogy,” “Inception,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” to name a few. His use of ambient sounds and cultural music from many peoples has made him very critically acclaimed.

Also considering how far cinematic effects have come since the 1980s, I was impressed to see such well-done sets and action sequences as well as better shots of sci-fi locations and vehicles. It wasn’t overdone with computer graphics to the point of a Michael Bay “Transformers” film. It had enough to be a true spectacle for the eyes, especially in IMAX which incorporates a larger screen and better surround sound than standard theatres.

Concerning the negatives of this movie, there are two ways to approach them, from that of someone who has never read or seen adaptations of “Dune” or one who has seen or read them all. As someone who has never heard of “Dune” until now, you will find the film very interesting and surprising, but also realize that it drags on at times.

For those who have read and seen “Dune” before, the film will seem very redundant because retelling a story doesn’t make it better. “Dune” (2021) is stunning and has new scenes that develop the story as well as better world and character building. However, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still the same story being retold.

“Dune” is like “The Phantom Menace” from the Star Wars franchise. It’s long, at 2 and a half hours, has terminology that no one knows and only a few incredible action scenes. However there is excellent composing, exceptional acting, and they set up great future trilogies. But, in the end both “Dune” and “The Phantom Menace” are super long and political.

I have read the book, seen the fairly well-done 1984 adaptation, and followed this new adaptation closely, but it left me bored and confused at its conclusion of Part 1.
Many details from the book were kept and can be seen in the film, but little bits were dropped from the production such as the term “melange” for the spice on Arrakis, and the extra layers of double-crossing between houses. Had these been included, the audience would have been even more confused as to the plot.

Compared to the adaptation of the novel “The Lord of the Rings” made for a trilogy in the early 2000s by director Peter Jackson, many claimed that Jackson favored violence and action sequences, unlike author J.R.R. Tolkien who focused on the characterization of members of the journey.

Denis Villevenue avoided breaking from the “Dune” novel by staying as close to the book as possible concerning characterization, but also made sure that his action sequences packed a punch of amazing effects.

While Villevenue did incredibly better at explaining the complexities of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” universe than David Lynch, it is still very dialogue heavy compared to the action that myself and many others saw in the trailers.