As every science fiction aficionado knows, Denis Villeneuve’s film adaptation of Dune was originally due to be released in 2020. Cue a devastating pandemic. But this year what must be one of the decade’s most anticipated films has finally hit the cinemas.
I went to see it with my brother. This was a special experience in and of itself. Going to the cinema with my brother was my last social outing before the pandemic struck, seemingly overnight, and our return felt like a milestone. We’re not there yet but at least we’re well on our way towards some sort of normality.
Incidentally, the last film we watched together in a cinema was The Lighthouse. In hindsight, this seems rather appropriate. Go see that film too if you can. It’s grim, for sure, but it’s wonderful. Anyway, I digress.
I was worried that, having looked forward to Dune for so long, the film would turn out to be a disappointment. For me it wasn’t. But I’m sure this film won’t be for everyone.
I loved Villeneuve’s previous film, Blade Runner 2049. If you did too you’ll love Dune. Like Blade Runner 2049, Dune is a film made to be seen on a big screen. This is quite an achievement in the age of Netflix. Dune is visually stunning. Its level of detail, the set designs, the costumes, the music, the acting, it all deserves to be savoured and enjoyed like a work of art.
Be warned though: the film’s pace is rather slow. This is no Star Wars. Fine by me, but some will find the lack of action boring. Moreover, Dune is set in a complicated universe. You don’t need to have read the book(s) to be able to follow the story but you will miss a lot of detail if you decide not to bother. The Mentats, the Fremen, the Bene Gesserit: all these communities and how they interact with each other is what drives the plot in Frank Herbert’s books. If you’re completely unfamiliar with Dune‘s politics you may find the film a lot less interesting.
The film attempts to overcome this problem by including voice-overs. I don’t like this move because I don’t like to be told what I’m looking at when watching a film. That’s what books are for. But it will help viewers unfamiliar with Dune, although my argument stands: read at least the first book in the series. Yes, it’s a whopping 500 pages, but with the next film instalment not due until 2023 you’ll have plenty of time to get stuck in.
Dune is a great film. It is certainly the kind of film I missed most during the pandemic: a film to be absorbed by and escape from the drag of everyday life. I only ever read the first Dune book but I’m now inspired to return to it and try some of its sequels. Frank Herbert wrote enough material to make at least a dozen films. It will be interesting to see where Villeneuve and his crew will go next.