Paulie’s Perspective: Dune (2021) Review

Dir: Denis Villeneuve

Screenplay: Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth, Jon Spaihts

Novels by: Frank Herbert

Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista.

Hey kids – so this week I am giving my two cents on the film Dune. Christopher Nolan just gave his two cents saying it is a great gift to film, and Director Denis Villeneuve did a fantastic job and we should all be proud of him and blah blah blah. Well I’m sure the pompous Mr. Nolan thinks his opinion makes or breaks Hollywood – mine certainly does not, so here we go. 

First off – wow, so what a cast, right? All those big names and everything. You know the last thought most people have of this story and this project was back in 1984, when the first version was made, and it kind of bombed and put a stigma on this whole thing, which is why there is so much debate and concern about it now.

It was directed by David Lynch, maybe he wasn’t the best choice, and of course, Sting was thrown in for good measure, and maybe he wasn’t the best choice either. The 1984 version of this thing looked more like a bad version of Flash Gordon than anything else, and that scarred a generation. 

The film had laughable special effects, I mean, what did David Lynch know of special effects in those days anyway. The guy is Twin Peaks for God’s sakes, he deals in the weird and strange – not the big budget space movies, right? He tried to make it like Tron and came out like Flash Gordon Hits The Beach. 

Then you throw in Sting – who wanted to be an actor at that time. Synchronicity, released in 1983, was number one all over the world, and Sting could do anything he wanted and he apparently wanted to go play in a giant sand box. 

So the 1984 version really had nothing going for it at all except some really bad decisions. This time, however, things are different. Director Denis Villeneuve actually loves the books, and has read them all. Denis is responsible for Blade Runner 2049, which is highly praised and a great sequel to the legendary film. He has also done Arrival, a sci-fi film about learning the language of an alien species that landed here on Earth. So the guy is visual, he loves this genre and he knows more about how to use CGI then David Lynch ever did, which are all pluses. 

This cast here is an all-star cast, all are amazing, no gimmicks, no singers that want to try out the movies – this material is taken seriously this time around, finally, 37 years later.  Much like Apple TV is doing with Isaac Asimov’s Foundation – Warner Bros are taking this big, and taking it slow. There is a ton of material to cover, and this film only snips the beginning, which is a great idea because there is a lot to cover. 

Director Denis takes things slow, so we can kind of digest and understand things. He gives a lot of attention to ships landing on planets, something I wish JJ Abrams did with Star Wars, and Denis also gives time to showing a planet, and it’s environment, something I also wish JJ did with Star Wars. 

Denis seems to just love living in these worlds and he gives them all a life of their own. The pacing is slow and the visuals are on a grand scale. There are many things to cover, so slow is good. Many hierarchies, many governments, many pieces in an alien chess board that we have to learn about. Also ever planet has its own needs and its own way of doing things, something else the audience has to understand and recognize in a short amount of time. Everything is wonderous and Denis does a great job unfolding all of this to us in a simple graceful way. 

The film is 2 hours and 30 minutes, but it doesn’t seem like it. I was able to get through it without squirming in my seat once, which is a good sign. I would suggest seeing this on the big screen though, as the visuals are certainly worth it. I actually might do that after seeing it on HBO MAX. I think the feel and the ambiance would certainly engulf a viewer and the surround sound would make the barren desert even deadlier and the ships more impressive.

With Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and Herbert’s Dune both getting big budget treatments, this certainly seems the time for science fiction. Let’s hope they handle the timeless material with the honor integrity and grace, as it deserves.

Dune has finally found a director who cares for it, this material is now in an age where CGI can do it justice and make it flourish and the actors here are all top notch. I hate to say it but Javier Bardem steals the show on this big stage of great talent. Javier has always had the talent to take over a movie, and here he does it beautifully. Zendaya is still young but she does a great job and is surrounded with magnificent support. The star Timothy Chalamet is good here as well, though his name may sound like a fine wine, his performance is captivating. 

This film is not fun, nor is it funny. In fact some people sight that as a handicap for the film, saying for two and half hours, you don’t laugh once. I say, if you want to laugh, go watch a comedy, or of course a re-watching of Flash Gordon never hurts either.