Monday, October 25, 2021

Movie Review: Dune (2021)

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: It looks amazing
Cons: Direction makes the pace too slow and keeps us from connecting with the characters
The Bottom Line:
Scifi epic starts
The pacing is very slow
But visuals stun

Looks Amazing.  But the Rest?

I’ll admit, Dune wasn’t on my radar.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard of the books in the past, but I wasn’t that interested in watching the latest movie version.  However, a friend of mine wanted to go see it for his birthday, so I decided I’d go see it.  I wish I’d liked it better.

Before we go any further, the movie makes it very clear that this is only part of the story.  When Dune comes up on the screen at the beginning of the film, Part 1 also appears underneath it.  While there is obviously more to the story, I did feel this movie stopped at a good point that gave us some level of resolution.

The story revolves around Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet).  He is the last in the Arteides line, and will inherit his father’s (Oscar Isaac) title and responsibilities one day.  The emperor has just sent the Atreides to the planet of Dune, important for the spice that is harvested there and used for space travel.

Paul doesn’t know it yet, but he has another legacy, one coming from his mother, Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson).  And that legacy might come into play once they have landed on Dune and begin to face dangers.  But how are his visions connected to all of this?

Yes, I am being a little vague here.  It’s a hard story to tease without giving away too much.  This is especially true since I don’t feel like a lot happened in this movie.  I get it – in a science fiction movie, you have to spend time setting up the world where the story is taking place.  This went beyond that.  As someone who hadn’t read the books, I felt like I spent a lot of the film trying to figure out the world of the story while waiting for the story to get started.

And, I also get it, this is only half the story.  As I said at the beginning, I felt we got a decent stopping point here.  There’s no cliffhanger, which is good since the next part isn’t in production yet.  On the one hand, I also appreciate a movie that wasn’t all action, but a bit more action would have been appreciated.

My biggest issue was with the directing.  Good directing shouldn’t be obvious, but here it was very obvious.  We had multiple, multiple slow-motion shots of each character’s reactions to events.  I appreciate a little of that in a movie, but here it was so over the top that it really slowed down the pacing.

Additionally, the tone was overall somber.  I get it, this isn’t a comedy, but a little bit of cheer would help.  We came close a couple of times, but it was quickly shut down as we moved on to the next scene.  We need some lighter moments to connect to the characters and to fully appreciate the relationships between them.

I’m not blaming this on the actors, who did fine.  It was the direction that kept them from fully connecting to each other and to us.

We did see this on the IMAX screen.  Maybe it was our theater, but it was loud, and it was mixed so that the music and other sounds often drowned out the dialog.  I am sure I missed some stuff as time, especially when the actors were speaking softly.

The one place I will give the movie full points is the visuals.  It looks amazing!  The world the characters inhabit comes fully to life.  Any and all special effects work just as well.  I was able to get lost in the visual world of the film.

I saw it with three friends, and they were all commenting on the same things I was.  The friend who wanted to see it had read the book, and he helped fill in some of the gaps we didn’t pick up on from the movie.  I think they enjoyed it more than I did, but none of us were raving about it.

I’ve heard about Dune enough that I would be willing to watch the sequel whenever it might come out.  But I will definitely wait to watch it at home instead of going back to the theater.

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