“Dune,” directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya, includes many plot points that would traditionally be classified as cliche.
The plot of the film is firmly based on the 1965 book of the same title written by Frank Herbert, and revolves around the Atreides family’s quest to win a war on the fictional planet Arrakis, the only source of life-extending material known as “spice.” The director and screenwriters deserve praise for maintaining such commitment to the original inspiration of the film, and because of this literary tie, any critique made of the movie must be based on this new film rendition.
It would be easy to mistake the opening scenes of “Dune” for something out of the “Star Wars” franchise. The resemblance of the film’s powerful family line, House Atreides, to Darth Vader’s Empire, including the clan’s clothing, family dynamics and home environment, is uncanny. Additionally, the planet Arrakis parallels Tatooine from the Star Wars franchise in its desert-like climate.
These similarities are easily explained, as George Lucas was greatly influenced by Herbert’s “Dune” when creating his famous saga. However, to avoid such obvious comparisons, Villenueve should have devoted more time to creating his own trademark set design and imagery, especially considering this is only the first installment in what will become a franchise.
In spite of these resemblances to “Star Wars,” “Dune” does an amazing job at introducing the religious piety of the fictional and constantly persecuted human Fremen dwellers on Arrakis, which greatly mimics that of major modern organized religions. The parallels drawn between the film’s Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and the Virgin Mary, and between Paul (Chalamet) and Jesus provide the viewer with an opportunity to experience the movie from a religious and symbolic perspective that seeks to convey deeper meanings through the fantasy world of “Dune.”
One of the highly anticipated aspects of “Dune” has been its stellar cast, including stars such as Chalamet, Ferguson and Stellan Skarsgård. While the trailer promotes Zendaya as a central character in the film, the well-known actress has very little screen time.
Despite strong performances from Chalamet and Zendaya, a few actors fail to meet the high expectations of audiences. Oscar Isaac, who plays Duke Leto Atreides, fails to demonstrate to the viewer the deep relationship between his character and his son, Paul. For example, when the Duke tells his son he did not want to inherit the throne and instead wished to be a pilot, the scene, which is supposed to exhibit paternal love, is instead filled with indifference as a result of Isaac’s dry acting.
One of the most successful aspects of “Dune” is the use of dreams as a plot device, like when Paul has a vision of Chani (Zendaya) in the deserts of Arrakis. Through Paul’s dreams, a sense of urgency is achieved in the film, as the dreams provide him with a glance into the future and create foreshadowing for the viewer.
Along with the use of dreams to further the plot, music by Hans Zimmer and occasional silence are cleverly utilized to set the scene for the viewers, allowing them to feel pressure, suspense and excitement along with the characters.
In spite of these strengths, the screenplay of “Dune” ultimately fails to portray the emotions mentioned above. The dialogue feels harsh at times, lacking any connection to the plot as a whole. Because of this, the storytelling can be construed as weak, and the narratives as confusing. If viewers have not read the book, they will struggle to find the connections between scenes.Due to the unimaginative storytelling and the long runtime at 155 minutes, “Dune” feels quite dense and repetitive, especially past its halfway point. What was supposed to be a critically acclaimed science fiction film ultimately flew too close to the sun.