We can consume films in a million different ways in 2021, from a drive-in theater to the phone in your pocket. But some movies lean into the traditional cinematic experience.
A dark auditorium with a massive screen and a wall of speakers that can rattle your bones can make a good movie feel truly epic.
Such is the case with “Dune.” Director Dennis Villeneuve has proven himself more than capable of handling sweeping sci-fi with “Blade Runner 2049” and “Arrival,” but he was just getting warmed up.
Here he takes on Frank Herbert’s seminal novel that its generations of fans have considered largely unfilmable. (A shout out to David Lynch who gave it the ol’ college try in 1984, but whose “Dune” was a weird mess, and not in the delightful ways Lynch’s movies are usually a weird mess.)
The juicier parts of the novel wrestle in the abstract with themes of religion, politics and free will. It’s a lot to try to digest in one sitting.
Villeneuve has smartly split the book in half and focuses on the beginning which is pure space opera and palace intrigue as in the distant future, the family of young nobleman Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) is given control of the planet Arrakis which is the home of the most valuable natural resource in the galaxy, known as “Spice.”
Against the backdrop of warring noble houses, young Paul begins to realize he’s destined for greater things as he discovers abilities within himself that make him a force to be reckoned with.
Villeneuve has packed this thing to the gills with star power as nearly every role is occupied with a familiar face with formidable talent. In addition to Chalamet, the list includes: Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgard, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista and Zendaya.
All of the performances are top-shelf and give “Dune” its much-needed humanity amidst all of the visual spectacle. And what a spectacle it is. The endless deserts of Arrakis fill the screen as do the occasional multiple-football-fields-long sandworms that pop up as one of the planet’s most dangerous hazards.
When you combine this feast for the eyes with Hans Zimmer’s otherworldly score, “Dune” becomes a full-sensory experience.
“Dune” is streaming simultaneously on HBO Max, but it’s a disservice to this movie to take it in at home. If you haven’t been back to the theater, this is the perfect opportunity to remind yourself of what you’ve been missing. So mask up and hit your local cine-plex. You’ll be glad you did.
“Dune” is rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, some disturbing images and suggestive material.