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  Dune Life's A Beach
Year: 2021
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Stars: Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgård, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Chang Chen, Dave Bautista, David Dastmalchian, Charlotte Rampling
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: It is the far future, and the method of travelling through the cosmos is managed because of the mysterious substance known as spice, which can only be mined on one world, Arrakis. Since this is the most precious matter in the known universe, there has been some conflict over who gets to control it, with wars breaking out over the years, but the Harkonnens have given up their claim over spice - for now - and left it to the House of Atreides, who plan to sort out some kind of deal with the planet's inhabitants, the Fremen. But the son of the leader of Atreides, Paul (Timothee Chalamet) has been having strange visions...

Dune was one of those movies supposed to save cinema in 2021, after the effects of the pandemic had thrown the industry into doubt. Once it finally arrived, it, like others in its category like James Bond or Ghostbusters: Afterlife, certainly made its money back and a tidy profit for their studios, but everything after that was placed in the shadow of Spider-Man: Far from Home which knocked them all into the proverbial cocked hat. There was doubt whether the second half of Dune would get made, as it had been greenlit as a Part One, to see if there was enough interest in a Part Two; there was, and that went into production the week after this was released.

Yet there was a vocal contingent of movie fans who despaired at that news, because Dune, the Denis Villeneuve remake of the 1984 David Lynch megaflop, and in turn the adaptation of the Frank Herbert science fiction tome for those who had had enough of Tolkien, was as dry as the desert planet where most of the action took place. It was basically Beige: The Movie, with a tastefully dialled down colour palette and any hint of personality ironed out in the service of self-important scenes featuring deadening loads of exposition. For a film selling itself on spectacle, it utterly lacked the madness of the Lynch version which has made that a cult item ever since it appeared.

That was a big problem, particularly when following Chalamet around the galaxy was not as exciting as this appeared to believe. This was yet another messiah story, but you had a hard time being convinced he would be able to arrange a children's birthday party, never mind a planet full of outer space rebels, so wan was he, so lacking in charisma. Perhaps it was not his fault, likely it was the script not doing him any favours, but he was drowned out by the monolithic production design. Herbert's series of novels were, if nothing else, a triumph of what we now call world-building, a buzzword for the fantastical in motion pictures for some time before Dune 2021 was created, but on this evidence trying to wrestle some character out of the cast was a task even the page had not been able to match up to.

About the best of them was Jason Momoa, whose natural roguish charm added a little movie star sparkle to his role as the Atreides' can-do guy on the ground, so of course he was hardly in it and won't be in the sequel. Stellan Skarsgård tried to have some disgusting fun with Baron Harkonnen by playing him as Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, but it came across as a game of spot the reference rather than a fully realised villain. Mostly the characters stood about explaining the plot to each other until it was time to run away from something, and the much-vaunted sandworms (arguably the series' most famous element) were barely to be seen. Thanks to cutting the book (mostly) in half, there was no climax to build to, it simply ended as it seemed we should really have had more of an experience with all this expense than we did. No sense of humour, no sense of amusement, just two and a half hours of "I want you to take me very seriously" in a plot so wrapped up in itself that the non-fans need not apply. Pseudo-ethnic music by Hans Zimmer.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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