Dune (2021) Review

Lord Potato, Writer

At the heart of every great story are the characters. That is true in television, cinema, and novels. The 2021 adaptation of Dune, had good acting, an otherworldly soundtrack, but it failed in the writing of its characters.

The Dune novel is one of the greatest works of science-fiction, measuring up with the Lord of the Rings in its effect on its respective genre. The scale of the world-building and the unique prose make the work stand out. Star Wars wouldn’t exist without Frank Herbert, the author of Dune. However, the film fails to make Dune feel real. The characters don’t feel alive, and the subtle nuisances that ground the world of Arrakis are non-existent.

Denis Villeneuve, the director of Dune (2021), was not the first to attempt an adaptation of Frank’s work. Dune (1984) was almost universally disapproved of because of its ridiculous costumes and complete disrespect for the original themes of the series. While Dune (2021) does better at staying true to the messages of the novel, it fails at capturing the original magic.

It can’t be understated how beautiful Villeneuve’s vision for the world was. He had grown up as a huge fan of the book and always wanted to capture it in film. His collaboration with composer Hans Zimmer, another lifelong fan of Dune, who had dreamed of creating music for the franchise, seemed like a dream come true to fans. Villeneuve is an extraordinary artist and is highly respected for his earlier works such as Blade Runner 2049. But despite Dune (2021)’s gorgeous visuals and immaculate soundtrack, it fails at making Arrakis feel real.

One of the major scenes they didn’t adapt into the film was the infamous dinner scene. It is one of the most universally beloved scenes in all of science fiction for its masterful work at showing and not telling. Without going into detail, the characters show off their political flairs and maneuver an uncomfortable situation and turn it in their favor. But more importantly, the scene doesn’t necessarily move the main plot forward but allows the characters to exist in their own skin. That is the true test of making realistic characters.

The most remarkable thing about Dune (2021) was that it was somehow able to make the 2 hours and 35-minute film seem rushed despite very little story happening. Denis Villeneuve added several scenes to the film that felt unnecessary and awkward. Timothee Chalemet’s character Paul is in almost every scene, yet the audience feels no attachment to him.

The marketing for the movie was brilliant. Its trailer was impressive and action-packed, while the real thing was dull. The cast interviews made it seem like Zendaya’s character was in the film for a large portion of it, while in reality, she was in it for less than 15 minutes (her character plays a larger role in the second half of the novel, which is what the next Dune movie is going to cover.)

Overall, Dune (2021) has most of the same issues as most blockbuster movies coming out today. It has a star-studded cast, beautiful visuals, and a great soundtrack, but lacks in writing. Hollywood has been in a phase of adapting books that have an established fan base who would watch the film. But they end up mainstreaming the movie and getting rid of almost all the nuances that make the source material great. That cheapens the franchise and makes the original fans rightfully angry. Watch Dune (2021) if you just want to kill some time.

6/10