Spoiler-Free Review: “Dune” (2021) starring Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Fergusen, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgard, & Josh Brolin

A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, “Dune” tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence- a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential- only those who can conquer their fear will survive. -Synopsis from Warner Bros.

Dune (directed by Denis Villeneuve- Canadian of French heritage) is a movie unlike any other I’ve seen in recent years; I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it! Its 2 hr. 35 min. run time seemed to pass by quickly, as the story (incl. stunning visuals) was V compelling. The music (composed by Hans Zimmer) adds much to the movie; new instruments and a language were invented for the score. The costumes range from practical and lightweight to intricate and decorative. This is part one of the story; it is based on the book by Frank Herbert, one of the iconic writers of sci-fi. Herbert’s work has been compared to Tolkein’s LOTR trilogy; it obviously influenced George Lucas as he created Star Wars. The planet Arakis (also called Dune) is the ONLY place where “spice” (perhaps akin to oil in our world) can be found; many factions want to control this world. The natives of Arakis are the Fremin, a tough/desert people who live in a harsh environment w/ dangerous giant worms (yikes)! The scenes on the ocean world of Caladan were shot in Norway. Much of the desert scenes of Arakis were shot in Jordan and Abu Dhabi.

Paul: [From trailer] Dad, what if I’m not the future of House Atreides?

Duke Leto: A great man doesn’t seek to lead; he is called to it. But if your answer is no, you’d still be the only thing I ever needed you to be: my son.

In a world unlike ours 8,000 yrs. in the future, we meet Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet- doing a fine job), a skinny/bright/teen. He spends his days studying and learning to fight from his older mentor/sword master- Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin). One of the early scenes where Paul and Gurney spar is V cool; the choreography (by Roger Yuan) included a type of Filipino martial arts. Another mentor of Paul’s is the warrior, Duncan Idaho (Jason Mamoa), who brings charm and humor to the story. Much is expected from Paul, as he’s the son/heir of Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac- looking fab w/ gray-streaked hair/full beard). I loved the easy/warm relationship between Chalamet and Isaac. I’m surprised that Chalamet is growing on me; his naturalistic acting style, incl. ability to portray vulnerability easily fit this role. (Though Christian Bale will always be Laurie to me!)

Duncan: Dreams make good stories, but everything important happens when we’re awake.

Paul has inherited strong powers from his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson- a standout). She is the concubine of Duke Leto and was raised by the Bene Gesserit (a secretive/powerful order made up of all women). Chalamet and Ferguson also have great chemistry. Paul has visions about Arakis w/ an unknown/young woman (Zendaya- who appears in the 3rd act of this story). The Rev. Mother Mohaim (Charlotte Rampling- a veteran British actress) comes to see (and test) Paul on his abilities. House Atreides is given control of the desert planet from the Emperor. A powerful opponent, Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard- menacing even inside prosthetics), wants to take control of Arakis. Check out this movie on HBOMax! I didn’t know much re: this story, aside from watching the miniseries (which co-starred a V young James McAvoy) about 20 yrs. ago.

3 thoughts on “Spoiler-Free Review: “Dune” (2021) starring Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Fergusen, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgard, & Josh Brolin

  1. I had not spared a thought for Frank Herbert or Dune since the disastrous film back in the 1980s. (I read the first book somewhat before that.) So I really didn’t have any commitments in that regard going into it.

    But I do not enjoy watching Timothee Chalamet, and he’s getting hard to avoid. He was okay in “Beautiful Boy,” below average in “Lady Bird,” and horrible in “Call Me By Your Name” and “Little Women.” When I saw “French Dispatch” I fell asleep in the middle of the film during his part. So I had initially planned not to see this film at all — I only went to it out of Ukraine-war-news-escapism (if I do leisure at home at the moment I end up mainlining hours and hours of war news). I did not like him in the film although I would put the performance at the level of “Lady Bird,” i.e., it’s not the worst job he’s ever done. To me, his naturalism always seems to involve a sort of aloofness or hauteur that doesn’t work well in a lot of roles (esp Laurie — all wrong for that role!).

    Apart from that, I was also surprised how much I did like the film. Great performances all around (esp Bardem, Momoa, and Isaac). Great cinematography, editing, FX and especially score. I didn’t feel like it dragged. I would definitely watch part 2. I found the visualization of the desert planet particularly interesting.

    After i saw the film I read this (had bookmarked it earlier for some reason) and I found it really interesting, although tbh the only thing that I noticed while watching, which made me curious, was that they kept talking about the Mahdi. I was unaware reading it at as a tween that Herbert had made that level of engagement with Islam / MENA.

    https://www.vulture.com/2021/10/dune-has-a-desert-problem.html (open in private window if you run up against a paywall)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yeah, my friends IRL & online had earlier also mentioned the Islamic influences/Mahdi points! I will def look more into that soon… My lil bro was reading the book last holiday season; guess will have to ask him about it. Haven’t seen the ‘80s movie, BUT some critics enjoyed parts of it…

      Liked by 1 person

      • For me, it’s a piece of culture I consumed in childhood that didn’t make the jump to adulthood with me (as opposed to Little Women and Star Trek). I can’t remember if I tried to read further books (I might do that now; it turns out there were originally five). The only thing I really remember about the film now is that Kyle McLaughlin was in it and he was very good-looking back then, and that I was bored / confused at the theatre. I would have been fifteen (pre-driver’s license), and would have had to cajole a parent to go with me for that kind of film as none of my friends liked sci-fi that much. That may have contributed to my sort of blank / negative memory of the film, as if my mom took me she probably resented it. She hated that kind of film. But I honestly don’t remember much about it — as opposed to things that made a big impression on me where I can remember where I saw it, who with, etc., etc.


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