Dune: Part 1 (2021)

dune part 1 poster 2021 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Good cast, good looking, strong adaptation

Just a really difficult movie to adapt, abrupt ending

Movie Info

Movie Name: Dune:  Part 1

Studio:  Warner Bros./Legendary Entertainment/Villeneuve Films

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  September 3, 2021 (Venice Film Festival)/October 21, 2021 (UK)/October 22, 2021 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG-13

dune part 1 sandworms

Bring on the Sandworms!

On the planet of Arrakis, the spice is king.  Used in worship by the inhabitants known as the Fremen, the spice was discovered to make interstellar travel possible…making Arrakis the most important planet to the Empire.  While the cruel Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) has controlled Arrakis, the control is being handed off to Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) of House Atreides.  Leto’s arrival on Arrakis is met with both speculation and fear because the Duke’s son Paul (Timothée Chalamet) is rumored to potentially be the Kwisatz Haderach that could change the galaxy due to his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and her ties to the Bene Gesserit.  The Fremen see Paul as the potential Mahdi, and Paul has been having visions of Arrakis and a mysterious Fremen woman (Zendaya).  Arrakis is a harsh planet and survival there takes skill…and with the power and wealth that comes from the spice, the Harkonnens are going to give it up without a fight.

dune part 1 fremen zendaya still suit

I look forward to doing more than staring with anger!

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Dune:  Part 1 (or simply called Dune) is a science-fiction action-adventure epic.  The film is an adaptation of the 1965 by Frank Herbert and was previously adapted in 1984 by David Lynch and 2000 by John Harrison for SyFy.  COVID-19 pushed back release of the film, and Villeneuve clashed with the studios decision to have a same-day release on HBO Max when it finally was released in 2021.  It received positive reviews and a strong box office return.  The film received Academy Awards for Best Sound, Best Production Design, Best Original Score, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, and Best Cinematography with nominations for Best Picture, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Costume Design, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Dune is a favorite book.  I got the book when I was young soon after the release of the 1984 movie because it looked like a cool Star Wars type movie and it was marketed that way.  The first time I read Dune, I had no idea what was happening through most of the novel, though I did know it was interesting.  I next read it on a vacation and have since read it one or two time again.  Dune is inherently tricky with all the nuances and complex plotlines that hinder making an “easy” movie that is accessible to a wide audience…something key for big, expensive sci-fi.

dune part 1 baron harkonnen stellan skarsgard healing bath oil

You’re gross, but you aren’t Lynch gross

Despite the challenges, Dune seemed to do a good job.  I went in with knowledge and understanding and Villeneuve’s adaptation smoothed out some of the political stuff I didn’t entirely follow.  Others I spoke with who had no background in the book or movies seemed to be able to follow it.  The sequel to Dune wasn’t pre-approved when Dune was released and the film ends part of the way through the novel.  It was quickly approved for the sequel, but the film ends rather abruptly with little resolution as a result.

The cast is good.  Timothée Chalamet is a perfect fit for Paul in that he’s not a big guy but is surprisingly skilled in fighting for his size.  Oscar Isaac’s role isn’t very meaty, but he too is a fitting father for Chalamet.  The other main roles in this outing would be Rebecca Ferguson and Jason Momoa who eat up their scenes as well.  Many of the other actors in the film like the Harkonnens played by Stellan Skarsgård and Dave Bautista don’t have very big roles here.  Likewise, Zendaya shows up late to the game and Javier Bardem’s Stilgar is a smaller role.  Chang Chen is good as the traitorous Yueh, and Charlotte Rampling is strong as the intimidating Reverend Mother of the Bene Gesserit.  Josh Brolin’s Gurney Halleck is important but he is largely set-up for the next movie.

dune part 1 timothee chalamet paul atreides fight mauddib

Maud’dib? Maybe next time, Paul

Dune is big and epic, and Dune:  Part 1 doesn’t fail here.  Villeneuve’s films are always low and explosive both visually and in their audio.  While a lot of the aspects are described in the book, all three versions have put a little spin on the appearance of the story on the big screen.  Villeneuve maybe has captured it best by creating a strong balance of action and visuals to move the story along.  The Sandworms are always a highlight of Dune, and I look forward to seeing more of them in the next film.

Dune is always a debated piece of work.  Despite its flaws, there are fans of the other versions (and I particularly don’t mind them either).  This Dune does feel closest to the source material and it has me giddy that by the completion of the films, that we will have a solid adaptation of Dune with no detractors or flaws…I believe in Villeneuve.  Dune:  Part 1 is followed by Dune:  Part 2 in October 2023.

Related Links:

Dune (1984)

Dune (2000)

Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013)

The 94th Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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