Review: “Dune” gives sci-fi a hot new look

“Dune” is currently out in theaters and HBO Max. (Dune Promotional Material)

Alvar Negrete-Baños

The new telling of the science-fiction masterpiece “Dune” is a beautifully bizarre blend of rich storytelling, Hollywood action and otherworldly scene-setting.

This most recent film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s critically acclaimed novel rips viewers out of their seats into the fictional universe, without dragging them through a desert-dry exposition. 

Unfortunately, lack of exposition and important scenes from the book make relationships between characters and their actions difficult to understand from the short glimpses shown on screen. 

However, this also gives everything a feeling of obscurity, like discovering lost or forbidden knowledge. It achieves an atmosphere of mystery while maintaining a solid pace at the expense of some important moments from the book. 

Powerful visuals, believable characters, immersive sounds and emotive music works together to take the audience traveling across the stars. Director Denis Villeneuve uses every element to paint striking pictures of distant planets, from lush worlds of life and water to terrifying worlds of death and blood. 

Innovative sound design adds a new level of impact using silence. During these moments air is sucked out of the room, and perception is narrowed to a needlepoint. After little more than a single breath, the silence shatters with ancient, unknowable sounds threatening unstoppable ruin. 

Hanz Zimmer created a soundtrack with unique choices in vocals and instrumentation. Bagpipes and chanting have never sounded so cool. 

Every faction in “Dune” has distinct clothing, mannerisms, languages and practices which are reflected in this film. 

Harkonnen slavers are monstrous tyrants and schemers. They pale flesh and animalistic depravity wrapped in black leather whenever they are on screen. Stellan Skarsgård as Vladimir Harkonnen is sadistic.

(Dune Promotional Material)

Timothée Chalamet and Jason Momoa brought genuine life to a lifeless setting. As Paul Atreides, Chalamet achieves a strong balance of insecurity and competence that gives Paul more humanity.

As Duncan Idaho, swordmaster of house Atreides and Paul’s best friend, Jason Momoa is a treat every second that he is on screen. He brings comfort and fun to the lighthearted scenes, and terrifying carnage during the action sequences through lovingly choreographed combat. 

(Dune Promotional Material)

Although the movie doesn’t cover every scene from the book, it successfully paints the alien expanses to convey a staggeringly accurate sense of scale. 

Difficult to comprehend vistas of twisted sands, colossal dreadnaughts of otherworldly design and massive sandworms combine Star Wars with a Roger Dean album cover. Pure eye candy for a sci-fi fanatic. 

There are morsels of beautifully disgusting creatures and practices. Multi-armed monstrosities and spit-drinking desert dwellers are shown front and center in all their vile splendor. 

Book-to-movie adaptations can be major successes or staggering failures. “Dune” had a lot to accomplish to be considered a success, especially considering it was already attempted by David Lynch 37 years ago. 

If what you’re looking for is an accurate rendition of the book, then you’re going to walk away disappointed. If you are looking for a thrilling, uncanny and heart-pounding sci-fi experience then this movie is worth the watch. 

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