By SCOTT PETERSON
Ever since author Frank Herbert’s Dune hit bookstores in 1965, fans have been waiting for the perfect page to film translation. The problem with Herbert’s 412-page science fiction space opera was that it was always too dense and arduous to ever really get a proper rendition. Famed Twin Peaks auteur David Lynch took a stab at the mammoth novel with his 1984 version of Dune, but the film turned out to be a critical misfire. Nearly 60 years have passed and while Herbert’s Dune has amassed a huge cult fan following, his novel was widely regarded as unfilmable. One director who wasn’t afraid to tackle the many layers of Dune was Denis Villenueve. After making such visceral hits like Prisoners, Sicario, and Arrival, he went ahead and made Blade Runner 2049, the masterful sequel to 1982’s Blade Runner. If there was anyone who could aptly resuscitate a complicated film franchise, it’s Villenueve.
Taking place 20,000 years in the future, Dune tells the story of Paul Atriedes (Timothee Chalamet), whose family is sent to the deserted planet Arrakis to mine spice. Spice is an extremely valuable mineral that enhances human vitality and is the singular reason for interstellar space travel. Unbeknownst to House Atriedes, House Harkonnen led by the evil Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skårsgard) also covet the spice. War ensues and nothing is what it seems.
Rather than cram and condense the intricate subject material in one feature length film, Villenueve only filmed the first one third of Herbert’s novel and the end result is absolutely stunning. The film isn’t just a visual marvel, Dune takes its time with character development and world building and immediately has the viewer fully invested in the story’s outcome. At a runtime of 2 hours and 35 minutes, Dune accomplished the almost impossible feat of being that rare big spectacle event film that will please loyal fans of the book, all while reaching out and grasping the attention of the uninitiated.
Dune has now set the table for a new generation of greatness. With Legendary Pictures recently giving the green light for parts two and three, Villenueve has a chance for his version of galactic Game of Thrones to reach the iconic cinematic heights of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. All he has to do is stick the landing.