This Sci-Fi epic story gets the cinematic experience the 1984 version didn’t.
I viewed David Lynch’s 1984 take on Frank Herbert’s book “Dune,” which had Kyle MacLachlan, Virginia Madsen, and Patrick Stewart, among others, and I must say as much as it gained some cult followings, it bored me to death. It had no vivid performances, no visual styles at the level of “Star Wars” or “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and no life whatsoever.
For years now, despite a made-for-TV film with William Hurt, there hasn’t been anyone who can give it another theatrical chance, which is why there was the documentary “Jordorwsky’s Dune.” But, rising on the success of “Arrival” and “Blade Runner: 2049,” Denis Villeneuve takes on this Sci-Fi epic, and he does it just right. He assembles a bold team of professionals to make sure the world “Dune” takes place on looks dazzling, he has the correct writers to give the film pacing (as this movie presented as the first half of the book), and he gets an ensemble cast, who seem to know what they’re getting themselves into.
The story takes place on the planet known as Dune, which holds the most valuable substance in the universe: the drug Melange A.K.A. Spice. So let’s say “spice” for the rest of the show. The world we see features giant desert worms, space ships with dragonfly wings, and suits that not only keep your body cool in the hot sun, but also recycle water from your sweat. Straw tubes are provided.
Timothee Chalamet stars as Paul Atreides, the young heir to House Atreides, ruled by Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) and Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson). He has been having dreams about a girl from another planet known as Caladan, in which its inhabitants are sand people known as the Fremen. Her name is Chani (Zendaya), and she is the daughter of the wise peacekeeper Dr. Liet-Kynes (Sharon Duncan-Brewster). And to survive on this planet, she and the other inhabitants wear nose tubes. Don’t worry. It’s nothing like John Travolta in “Battlefield Earth.” Nothing like that at all.
Will they romantically get involved if Paul and Chani finally meet? Or will it give the boy a dark date? Either way, you hope it’s better than how Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley misfired in “Chaos Walking.” Thank God, we don’t have to read everyone’s thoughts.
The villain who plans to attack Atreides is the evil Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard), the Baron of House Harkonnen. And just as things look bad, Paul and Lady Jessica both manage to escape from his clutches.
Why is Villeneueve’s take better than Lynch’s? Because this “Dune” is presented as Part 1, and hopefully, if this becomes a success, there can be a Part 2. Because the characters are so complex and well-performed, that they’re easy to understand, unlike the original wasted talents, who have done better than that. And because the visual world is taken in a time when Warner Bros. sequels like “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Blade Runner: 2049” are able to reach new heights and spare no expenses (“Dune” cost $165 million to make).
Chalamet portrays the young man with a sense of youth-the kind I’ve seen done so stylishly in “Call Me By Your Name” and “Little Women.” Ferguson and Isaac both have their tones as his parents. Jason Momoa has the kind of charm and attitude as the wise swordmaster Duncan Idaho, proving he doesn’t need DC-payments to be cool (if only “Sweet Girl” got the memo). Josh Brolin has the nerves of steel as the Atreides’ weapons master with his gritty tone. And Zendaya has her moments of radiancy and moods as the girl Paul may be in love with. The supporting actors also include Charlotte Rampling as a Reverend Mother, Dave Bautista as the Baron’s violent nephew, and Javier Bardem as the leader of a Freeman tribe.
It’s usually not ideal for a person to say a new version is better than the old version. But because of how bad Lynch presented “Dune,” and how Villeneuve presented this one, out with the old and in with the new.
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