DUNE - The big-screen event of the year
There's no question: this is an epic film. You rarely get to see movies that look and sound like this, only a handful of films archive the kind of technical superiority showcased in Villeneuve's latest. And yet, it saddens me to admit that though I was blown away by grandiose scale and vision in Dune, it lacked a core element that Villeneuve's other massive Blockbuster from four years ago had: Blade Runner 2049 had a thematic substance and clarity that was both gripping and emotionally complex simultaneously. Dune Part 1 on the other hand, does not. Plus, as impressive as the formalism in Dune is, 2049 also triumphed in that department.
With Dune I often felt zoned out from the feudalistic family affairs, the expository dialogue and namedropping of worlds, characters and substances that all sounded so interchangeable. I can't really hold this against the film since it comes with the constraints of an adaptation, but somehow I never had the problem with other epics such as Lord of the Rings. Now, that isn't to say that I wasn't immersed. I could best describe it as Game of Thrones in space- only that Game of Thrones certainly took inspirations from Dune, since it is after all the godfather of science-fiction-fantasy literature.
With all that being said, the basic story is pretty straightforward and enjoyable. This is due to Villeneuve's elegant pacing and Greig Frasers eye for scope. I never felt like the film dragged on for too long, because there is always something stunning going on in the frame and you get lost in the anachronistic-futurism misé-en-scene. There's images in this right out of dystopian-anxiety artworks. Villeneuve is a master of mood, and with Dune he is given tools to articulate himself audiovisually on a whole new level. Sometimes to a limiting degree, as the spectacle overshadows the emotional core.
All the performances are at least intriguing with standouts being Ferguson, Skarsgård and Bardem. I can't say that this is a film that you go and see for the acting, albeit everybody feels finely cast, this is a film you watch for the scope, the ambition and the atmosphere. By all means, this is a big-budget auteur film, a breed that in todays film-industry is sorely lacking. That being said, it's not a complete film (part 1 of 2) and therefore feels very heavy on exposition and explanation, with little room given to complex character work and emotion, which is why it still feels like an unfinished project. Let's hope Villeneuve gets to complete his vision.