Dune: A Sci-Fi Masterpiece

Timothée Chalamet as Paul in Dune.

Timothée Chalamet as Paul in Dune.

Dina Shlufman and Gavin Clingham

Have you ever stepped out of a film and were simply in awe at what you’d just experienced? Well, watching Dune is no doubt a once-in-a-lifetime experience. With an adaptation of one of the most classic science fiction novels of all time, and creative work by a groundbreaking director (Denis Villenueve) and talented cinematographer (Greg Fraser), this film is absolutely groundbreaking in the science fiction genre, featuring inspiring and striking music by the legendary composer Hans Zimmer, and a famous and talented cast. There was just so much to ponder while staring at a massive screen that somehow didn’t feel big enough. To us, its lore and capacity are so grand that it feels nearly incomprehensible to unpack it all. Hopefully, we can try. 

Dune follows the young prosperity of the House of Atreides, Paul (Timotheé Chalamet). The film starts out as the emperor gives stewardship of a ruled planet, Arrakis, to the House of Atreides. Delighted by the offer, Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) accepts the call and moves his forces into Arrakis. As the House of Atreides prepares to move onto Arrakis, Paul starts seeing premonitions of events on the planet, possibly meaning a darker future instead of the supposed peaceful one that his father had envisioned. That is probably as much as we can explain without shoving in more than enough plot details because Dune has such a complex plot. It’s not confusing in the direction it goes in, but it’s hard to actually maintain your grip on the lore and to keep up with the complicated plot. Going in relatively blind will help your experience, but definitely prepare to try and monitor the plot as much as possible so you don’t get left behind.

Right off the bat, this film needs a sequel. It sounds like a cliché review, but it has never been more true for a film than this. I’m pretty sure the only negative about this film is that it needs a sequel. Although it is a nearly 3-hour-long movie, we need more. Even The New York Times called this movie “a starry, sumptuous take on the novel’s first half. Key phrase: first half. We need a part 2. To explain this commonly discussed topic of a sequel, this film felt like a jumping-off point. From the beginning, Denis Villenueve knew that the novel could not just be adapted into one single movie and needed at least two to tell the full story. Likewise, the film was made to be like that. It definitely cannot be a stand-alone movie because it is pretty much just getting started. Dune is either the placeholder for halfway into a 2-hour-long movie or just the first 30 minutes of it. In that way, it works to break down the immensely complicated lore that the book tells. It was troubling to keep up with the long, subtle exposition thrown in your face for just one movie. Just imagine if they tried cramming all of that into an hour. Luckily, Dune has been granted a sequel, due out in two years, so this story will get the continuation that it so desperately needs 

Dune owes a lot of its success to the visual aspect of the movie. It’s perfect in every way. Denis Villenueve has outdone himself in directing with this film. Every shot feels like some kind of painting, and he does an amazing job in bringing the massive world of Dune to life. The cinematography is perfect and feels so cinematic. And we have to bring up the man holding the camera, Greg Fraser, because he is already proving himself to be an amazing cinematographer so quickly. He and Villenueve are like a visual dream team, who crafted this film to have so many eye-catching and unique visuals. It’s pretty much a film that’s built for movie theaters. It is genuinely a rich cinematic visual experience that is definitely worth watching on the big screen. 

Now, Hans Zimmer’s music is what really gives this film character. While the music is incredibly experimental, it fits the movie’s tone perfectly. The first song of the soundtrack is “Dream of Arrakis” which instantly teleports you into this new world with the fast-paced drumming followed by almost utter silence. “Ripples in the Sand” leaves you on the edge of your seat as it gives you the feeling of being chased. The singing toward the middle of the song feels incredibly ominous and honestly quite spooky. “Armada” is reminiscent of the music of a Stars Wars light-saber battle and leaves you feeling as if evil is right behind you, so you better start running. And it’d be a near crime to not mention the chilling and cinematic feeling of “Paul’s Dream.” With an action-packed feeling that invests you in the movie, the emotional power it contains, and the goosebump-rising vocals of the vocalist in the climax of the song, Zimmer creates a song that makes you feel the emotional weight of each scene that it’s featured in.  This was Hans Zimmer’s passion project, and it shows itself in the runtime.

Timothée Chalamet

Lastly, it would be an absolute travesty to write a Dune review without discussing Timotheé Chalamet, who is brilliant in this movie. He honestly gives the film a more humanistic feel as he was the only relatable character in the whole movie. He was the underdog, the skinny struggling hero just wanted to do his parents proud. 

Dune is definitely a must-see film for any sci-fi lovers and/or Timotheé Chalamet stans.