REVIEW: DUNE (2021) – ManlyMovie


What To Expect: Good visuals, poor storytelling
Rated: PG-13
Run Time: 155 minutes

I have not watched the original Dune, nor have I read the novel.  A fan of Denis Villeneuve’s work and something big that doesn’t feature capes and cowls, I liked the look of the trailer of this film and decided to check it out.  I found the film somewhat engaging, with its grandiose visual richness, but ultimately frustrating due to its narrative mishandling and taking for granted of the uninitiated.

The film is largely set on a desert planet (Arrakis), inhospitable with hardy and resentful indigenous tribes, it is home to the resource Spice.  Spice, the wonder potion, allows for extended life and interstellar travel.  The planet, under imperial rule, will come under the new management of the rulers of House Atreides, Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and their teenage son Paul (Timothee Chalamet), to replace the abrasive House of Harkonnen.  Heavies and henchmen such as Dave Bautista and Jason Momoa feature on both sides, as intrigue, coups and war develops.

Villeneuve brings visual wonder and often engrossing escapism in this expensive sci-fi, which will probably be a treat for many burned out by Hollywood’s blockbuster monotony over the past 20 years.  It has potential to become a franchise for the ’20s, perhaps not quite Gen Z’s own Star Wars, but an impressive ‘off world’ trip… only if it can iron out its narrative problems.

You see, this movie expects the viewer to start looking at it as an already qualified fan of Frank Herbert’s novel and/or its previous movie incarnation.  Next to nothing is said about the empire or the major characters within it, deciphering the goings on and intrigue is frustrating.  The newcomer must piece it together using small tracts of crucial dialogue which appear irregularly among long, substance-free planes of visual doping.  Miss those pieces of dialogue… well.  Nothing much happens anyway, since they’re evidently trying to stretch this into a franchise.  This is a move I always resent – padding your launch vehicle with a view to getting more in later.

Not quite ‘Star Wars for grown ups’. I mean, Star Wars clearly laid a table of characters, motivations, conflicts and resolutions, in a shorter run time. And it managed to expand on it with sequels, despite containing the original movie.  Bet this one looks great in 3D though.