"Dune" is a really new American movie from 2021 that just got released and I saw that people really liked it, so I got curious and decided to check it out myself. It is a pretty long movie at slightly under 2.5 hours and the director is Denis Villeneuve, perhaps one of the most influential filmmakers right now and maybe number one from Canada. He is also one of the writers and the writing staff also includes an Oscar winner. You can check out the names there yourself. I shall instead elaborate a little more on the cast. Villeneuve being in charge resulted in many big names becoming a part of this project. The lead actor here is Timothée Chalamet, definitely a rising star, but I must say I am not the biggest fan of him really. This is a bit of a problem as he is basically in this movie from beginning to end, but luckily, the supporting cast includes more than a handful actors that I like quite a bit. These would be Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem. With Brolin and Bardem, it felt like a bit of a reunion from No Country for Old Men, especially during the one brief scene/moment in which they clash to some extent. And as we are already talking Coen Bros movies, Isaac's Inside Llewyn Davis deserves a mention as well for sure. So you will find a few actors in here who have worked with the maybe most famous filmmaking brothers duo in the past. Brolin is featured heavily in the first half of the film, but then vanishes completely. Isaac also has more screen time early on. Bardem has a brief scene when his character is introduced, but appears in the last 30 minutes again. I personally thought that he would not show up again with this film, but play a central role in the second movie. Yes, there is a sequel indeed. This already becomes clear when this film here starts as we see a "part one" or something and also the way this one ends makes it very obvious that this is not it. As for the rest of the cast, Rebecca Ferguson is almost lead as well, which was okay. Zendaya I am still not buying the hype and she is only really in it near the end. Momoa is on the good side, while Skarsgard and Bautista are on the enemy team. The latter is really making himself a career now if you take a look at everything he has been in, even if it is always supporting parts. His recognition value probably helps as well. Oh yeah, Charlotte Rampling also has a memorable scene in here. I will get to that/her later. Of course, people will immediately think of the David Lynch Dune movie from decades earlier. I will not talk about parallels or differences now with that one because I have not seen it. Let's just focus on this one here instead from a standalone perspective. There is enough to elaborate on anyway. I must still say that I struggle with seeing Chalamet as some kind of hero or chosen character. I don' think he has the props to really pull it off. Of course, this is the idea that he does not look like Hulk or Thor or something, but when I see him show his dedication like how he really wants to join Momoa's character or how he can defeat Brolin's character in a duel or how he leads his mother in the desert and knows exactly how his items and uniform work because he is such a natural or how he in the end says his path leads through the desert, it is difficult to believe. Also how he of course wins the battle against this fella near the end who challenges him. And he has to kill in the process, which also shows us how much of a kindred spirit he is that he has never killed somebody before. Death is a crucial component in here. Still I must say seeing how literally every single good guy, be it Isaac's character, be it Momoa's, be it the seer, goes out in a heroic manner that puts harm to the enemy side was a bit much and eventually also repetitive. There were other issues I struggled with here in terms of the plot. Take a look at the idea of Chalamet's character playing a real hero. Basically he is the future. And yet, his own folk (Rampling's character) were ready to kill him immediately with this poisonous needle if he pulls out his hand from this box that caused so much pain to him. Or his dreams and premonitions linked to Zendaya's character were also not exactly new or inspired the way they were put on display here. I could go on by saying that for example the introduction did feel too long and this movie could have been (or should have been) half an hour shorter perhaps. What I cannot say anything negative about is really the way in which the bad guys attack. When they come for Isaac's character and the others, it is really spectacular and this is when this film is at its very best and an incredibly tense thrill ride. In the middle of the film. Unfortunately, when this is over and the bad guys have won for the moment, it gets a bit weaker again and here and there it drags a bit and has some lengths. What also can be said is that this film is never really intended for comedic purpose. The way you could see it a lot on another Bautista fantasy/sci-fi movie. There was this one moment when Momoa's character talks about Chalamet's character's muscles that was a bit on the playful comedic site and maybe one or two other inclusions as the film went on, but yeah this is not a movie to pick for light relief or something. It takes itself very seriously. Does it have the right to? I am not sure. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with sets, cinematography, costumes and all other visual/audible production fields, but this is pretty much a given now with a film of this dimension, even if we maybe should not see it as a given. With the likes of Zimmer, Roberts and West in charge, however, there is at least as much competence available in "minor" departments as there is in front of the camera. If not more. But back to the action itself: With the spectacular visuals, this is definitely a movie you'd rather want to check out at a theater than at home on a small screen. Unless you have a home theater of course. Oh yeah, another moment that will maybe make you smile is how Isaac's character tries to get Brolin's grumpy character to smile really early on. The latter reminds me a bit of the man Brolin played on Sicario. Anyway, I guess we will see more from Brolin's character in the sequel here as well. As for Villeneuve, I must say I liked his earlier stuff like Prisoners, but his recent take on Blade Runner did almost nothing for me unfortunately. Quality-wise, this movie here is somewhere in-between. It's not a revelation or anything and I think the reception is way too positive (I even saw people consider Chalamet for an Oscar nomination, like come on!), but it is worth seeing if you like the genre and some of the cast members I suppose. Not a must-see by any definition though. Seems as if Villeneuve really enjoys giving us his take on some films that are considered classics. It certainly could have turned out worse here, but I hope that with whatever he does in the future, also after this sequel here, he can manage to be a bit more essential again. The pathos felt a bit much at times and did not always ring true. This maybe also could have had to do with Chalamet for me though. If you like him more, you will maybe not see it. The attention to detail at times was still pretty good. I liked Brolin's words during the training sequence linked to Chalamet's character expressing he is not in the mood for fighting or so and how he has to fight when the time is right and how this felt connected to his battle with one character near the end. Completely aside from that, I initially struggled with the sand component, but in the second half they turned the background and location into something special and you could feel the endless desert element finally. Also the idea of these sandworms was depicted nicely. Or how a ring is used to print a seal or signature. Or these helicopters that look like insects. Or the little drone, so it is not just the big spectacular inclusions where you can see all the talent that was included in the making of this film. Unfortunately, there were also many struggles. I mentioned most of them, but while I already stated that the introduction felt too long, the real introduction at the very start felt incredibly rushed and it was impossible to remember all they mentioned there. Pretty much a no-go for a film with this running time. All in all, I still give it a thumbs-up and I think the good is more frequent than the weak, but there's no way I would say that this is among the very best films of the year 2021 so far. Maybe the better, but not the best and I hope that Villeneuve can step things up with the second film, but given the lead actor I kinda doubt it. Anyway, if you like this one, you can probably keep watching. Maybe said sequel is out already once you read this review of mine and then you can decide for yourself anyway.
Adventure / Science Fiction
Adventure / Science Fiction
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Feature adaptation of Frank Herbert's science fiction novel, about the son of a noble family entrusted with the protection of the most valuable asset and most vital element in the galaxy.
October 23, 2021