It’s hard to remember the last time anyone in Hollywood ventured on such a suicidal adventure as Dune . And she is suicidal, do not hesitate.
First, the brand is not really recognizable. Yes, Frank Herbert’s novel has a lot of admirers, but they are incomparably fewer than it takes to pay off the big picture. The casual audience (let’s expand this concept to the cinema), at best, has heard about the not very successful film by David Lynch (well, there will still be a certain number of older gamers who remember a series of strategies based on motives). The soil is so-so, agree.
Secondly, “Dune” is categorically not suitable for turning into a blockbuster. This is a large-scale sci-fi saga in a very unusual near-Arab aesthetics with a complex mythology, terminology (all sorts of shai huluds with quizats haderachs), an intricate plot and, at the same time, a measured, unhurried narration. Basically, everything that today’s studio bosses try to avoid.
And thirdly, they entrusted the picture to Denis Villeneuve, whose latest film, the insanely talented Blade Runner 2049 , collected unforgivably little, despite the famous brand and star cast. And then there’s the pandemic, transfers, hybrid rental … In short, if the film industry still obeys the established rules, “Dune” is doomed to box office failure.
Although … “Shang-Chi” managed to surpass analysts’ expectations. Maybe Villeneuve’s tape will still reach a wide audience and collect its cashier? After all, this is truly an outstanding movie.
One hundred and second century AD. Humanity has successfully conquered space and now exists in the form of a galactic feudal state. The main resource in this outlandish world is the so-called spice necessary for interstellar travel. The only place for its extraction is the desert planet Arrakis. For many years the hard-hearted Harkonnens ruled there, but suddenly, by the will of the padishah-emperor, the noble Duke Leto of the House of Atreides was appointed governor. Everyone understands that this is not a manifestation of royal mercy, but another political intrigue, an attempt to play off the most influential aristocrats, but one cannot disobey. Gathering their strength, the Atreides go to the planet of the sands, where young Paul, the duke’s son, will face great trials and great achievements.
True, you will not see the latter, and you need to be ready for this. After all, probably not everyone followed the news and not everyone knows that only half of the plot fit in two and a half hours, so at the end you will find a shameless cliffhanger. On the part of the creators, it would be more honest to add the subtitle “Part 1” to the title, but this would only aggravate the rolling prospects of the picture. However, what you have is enough for your eyes, if, of course, you formulate your expectations correctly.
In no case should you go to a movie like the new Star Wars or, as some reviewers write, the Lord of the Rings of our time. Dune is different. The picture is not trying to entertain you, it has no such task. The goal of the creators is to transfer the work of Frank Herbert to the screen, revive it and pay tribute to its monumentality in full. Of course, there will be sword fights, and explosions, and giant worms – but only when it is necessary according to the novel, and not a scene earlier. Villeneuve is not Peter Jackson – he does not lighten the tone of the original, does not dilute the narrative with hook scenes in different genres, as was the case in the Tolkien trilogy. On the contrary, “Dune” feels extremely solid, consistent, without a single extra shot. This is a film illustration by some of the best artists on the planet.
The trailers didn’t lie – she really is so beautiful that it might be worth shelling out for IMAX for once. Especially if the toad used to choke. Villeneuve is simply obsessed with this world and is trying to capture it in every detail, as if he himself teleported there with a camera at the ready. General plans of the gargantuan starships here side by side with macro photography of a desert mouse, which has a bead of sweat dripping down its ear. For all its fantasticness, even surrealism (you cannot easily get rid of the influence of Lynch), the world of Dune seems surprisingly believable. Perhaps this is the most “tactile” movie since Fury Road: sets, costumes and props are made and filmed in such a way that you can imagine how they feel. A rare film is able to immerse yourself in such a way.
The picture is complemented by the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, in which his beloved industrial drone is intertwined with shrill vocals. I don’t want to listen to it separately, but as another element of the illustration it fits perfectly. The same can be said for the actors. Dune has attracted attention since the early announcements with its impressive line-up: here and Jason Momoa, and Josh Brolin, and Oscar Isaac, and Javier Bardem. Oh, yes, also a fashionable youngster – a favorite of the festivals Timothy Chalamet and Spider-Man’s friend Zendaya. If you can bet on anything in a promotional company, it is on the stars. However, not the most pleasant surprises can await an unprepared viewer here, because in front of us is, in fact, the most expensive fan-cast in history. That is, for each character, regardless of its importance and degree of involvement in the plot, the most suitable actor was selected without taking into account the fact how popular it is. Josh Brolin runs in the background, the infernal and almost unrecognizable Stellan Skarsgard appears only for a couple of scenes, and Dave Batista and Zendaya have almost a cameo at all, simply because at the beginning of the story their heroes have nothing to do. The first acts, according to the canon, are almost entirely dedicated to Paul Atreides and his mother Jessica.
The fact that Chalamet is damn talented has long been no secret – how many at 22 could boast of an Oscar nomination? His Paul is a thoughtful, timid, doubting young man, in whom, however, one can feel kindness, and strength, and courage. Despite the apparent simplicity, the image is not at all easy to perform either from an actor’s point of view, or from a director’s point of view. In the same Lynch, Paul turned out to be a naive fool with burning eyes, despite the fact that he was played by the not talented Kyle McLoughlen. Here, the work is completely different in depth and subtlety.
Although the main decoration of “Dune” is definitely Rebecca Ferguson. You won’t need any further proof of this once you see the “pain box” scene lit up in the trailer. Lady Jessica is not just the “mother of the protagonist”, but a complex heroine who bears the stamp of her past, takes many of the blows of the present and builds the foundation for the future. It sounds pretentious, but this is the whole “Dune”.
This is a truly large, one might say majestic, visually flawless, brilliantly played canvas, the creators of which seriously count on the viewer’s attention and feedback. Villeneuve did his best to chew on mythology and, more importantly, Herbert’s ideas, without slipping into trivial exposition. And he succeeded, but you need to listen to every dialogue, see and understand everything that happens on the screen – as practice shows, this is a rather high qualification for visitors to multiplexes.
It’s hard to imagine an outcome in which Dune would suddenly become a mainstream blockbuster. Only if in a parallel universe where Blade Runner 2049 didn’t fucking fail. Too much “Dune” does not look like the hits of the box office, there are too many factors against it. But even if a miracle does not happen, and the studio does not agree to spend another $ 200 million on such an adventure, Denis Villeneuve’s film will remain in the memory of many as a sign that sometimes we can have a different movie.