Paul… This is only the beginning.
Is Paul really the future of House Atreides? Is the crusade invadable or can it be stopped? Villeneuve’s Dune leaves the audience in shock, instantly wanting more. And even though most of us have the answers, because of the books… I still feel confused, blown away and amazed in a way… I haven’t felt for a long while. Not even with my beloved Nolan. And that should tell you a lot.
When is a gift not a gift?
I will never watch Dune again for the first time, and the pain is unbearable. I know how that sounds, but that is a fact. Story of Paul Atreides is one of the most extraordinary tales out there. It’s multidimensional and complex; there can be no shortcuts. And Villeneuve knew that. It was, still is, a project of his life. And a proof, for me, that if you are determined enough to make your dreams come true, you will make it happen.
Just think about it: what can happen, if two people with a common dream – Dennis and Hans Zimmer – get together to make that dream happen? There is no way things can go wrong. Yet with every day closer to October 22nd, I felt more and more anxious. This was supposed to be a cinema-changing experience. What if people don’t understand and won’t appreciate it?
I’ve said it a million times, Frank Herbert’s Dune is a deep sci-fi. Weird, misunderstood, complex and demanding. And these days, lots of people require simple entertainment. Brain-numbing. Films that force us to think, films that “haunt” us many days after – that is too much. And sure, there are films that exist for pure distraction from reality. 2021 Dune is far from that. There are layers within layers within layers. Plans within plans within plans. And that is the beauty of it! And a curse as well.
What’s to become of our world, Paul?
I was stressed, to say the least. Firstly, because my hype was very contagious and my friends who came to the premiere with me… Well, my love for that universe was one of the reasons they came. With spreading that kind of vibe, there is a great responsibility. Second thing, I already saw the first 10 minutes of that film and my judgement was based on that footage.
But there was also a big part of me that was calm. So calm, I was surprised – even the current storms in my heart let go for that evening. The moment has come, the wait is finally over! There was nothing that could mess up this for me (except my family, which… I should’ve seen coming). But there we were, in the fully-packed IMAX theater, with our 3D glasses (except I had to buy a new pair, even though I was the Hyper-aria Protectiva, the one person praising that technology every single day).
Funny thing, I think I’ve already mentioned – I have never seen Dune trailer while being at the movies, ever. So, I can finally stop saying that, haha. And I am kind of sad, again. I will never watch it again for the first time. Though I am sure, the emotions that overflooded me like a tsunami won’t go away with the next screening. If anything – the wave will only get stronger.
I’m not asking his mother; I’m asking the Bene Gesserit. Will you protect Paul?
Let’s start with the first thing that strikes the audience – the visual side. I know that not all of you have access to IMAX theaters, but Dune was shot with IMAX cameras, which basically means that if you decide to watch it in a regular cinema, you will lose roughly around 26% of the image. Which is not the end of the world – after all, you could’ve watched it on your TV or computer for the first time. And that would be a real tragedy.
But the visuals, the cinematography of Dune is out of this world – as it should be. It happens years into the future after the Butlerian Jihad. This film, the images – looked exactly if Villeneuve would take them out of my head. Maybe even better. You know, sometimes I like to imagine actors as book characters. So, when I heard that Timothée Chalamet was casted as Paul, I was over the moon.
But I will talk about the perfect casting in a moment. For now, let’s focus on the breathtaking visuals. The “water” planet, Caladan, struck me as a cold paradise. Plenty of water – and the Fremen worship of it must’ve come as a shock to young Paul and the House of Atreides. The cold, gloomy yet rich colors of Caladan were perfect counterparts for dry, nature-dying Arrakis. It was a literal shock to my eyes. And yet another proof, that Villeneuve is a man with very clear, beautiful vision.
Every bit of Dune was aesthetic pleasure, the one that you cannot easily describe with words. Jaw-dropping? Awe-making? Breath-taking? All of the above, and more. That is the beauty of a childhood dream coming true – this movie was a creative kid’s vision. Something we all dreamt of in 1984 (okay shut the heck up, I was born in the 90s, but you know what I mean).
I serve only one master. His name is Shai-Hulud.
But the vision only came true because of an amazing cinematographer – Greig Fraser (Rogue One, Vice). Great minds think alike, am I right? And the visuals were topped off with Earth-shattering soundtrack. I love Hans Zimmer, you know that. This could be his best soundtrack (Lion King is excluded from the competition, come on). I mean, he did invent a new instrument to match Villeneuve’s vision.
In one of the interviews, Zimmer said that he has been thinking of Dune for 50 years. And that is plenty of time to come up with something spectacular. He even avoided watching Lynch’s version – not because it was bad, but he wanted to keep his mind fresh, un-influenced. Zimmer spent a week in a desert in Utah to learn all the sounds. And that resulted in the music in Dune being a bit part of the narrative.
I mean, there were moments when the movie was absolutely quiet. No sound, not even a breath. And I caught myself holding my breath. There is no denying that in many movies, the score plays a vital role. But it is mostly in the background. In Dune it was absolutely integral.
And even though my heart aches that he won’t be involved with Nolan’s upcoming movie about Oppenheimer, I am excited to see what he will cook up for Dune: Part two. And I am more excited to hear this soundtrack live in February!
Mood? What’s mood to do with it? You fight when the necessity arises, no matter the mood. Now fight!
Before I watched this film, I heard that its slow pace is killing the mood, but I guess these people just didn’t understand. Frank Herbert wrote 600 pages worth of material. And that is just the first book, which Villeneuve split into two parts. Nearly 3 hours of raw, unfiltered book. Some parts got omitted, like the dinner/banquet. Perhaps that is in the director’s cut, for which I pledge to be the biggest fan! Sndyer who? Please, give me Villeneuve’s cut!!!!!
Dennis chose cutting in two instead of millions. Can you imagine? He made a bold choice; with no guarantees it will get a second part. But he’s done it as a fan. It was HIS DESERT, HIS ARRAKIS and HIS DUNE. Sometimes, there are risks worth taking – even with WB’s new policy of simultaneously premiers in cinemas and HBO MAX.
There is really just one thing I felt is missing from this version. I feel like the importance of water for Fremen wasn’t emphasized enough. The first scene, where we meet Stilgar? A lot of people chuckled during my screening, which was a valid thing. But for me – having read the book and understanding the issue – it wasn’t funny at all. Perhaps the extended cut explains that, because as of now – it is implied, not explained.
One of the last scenes – the duel between Paul and Jamis, results in Paul taking Jamis’ life. He became his “guide” later on, we’ve had a glimpse of that in the movie. I am not sure if the Fremen funeral rite will be shown in part two, but this was missing – Paul shedding a tear over him. Might not seem like much, but he was giving up his moisture, part of his body’s water to the dead. And for Fremen, who believed in Missionaria Protectiva… How many signs would they need, that Paul is the One?
My father came, not for spice, not for the riches, but for the strength of your people. My road leads into the desert. I can see it. If you’ll have us, we will come.
But with complete honesty, I cannot say anything bad about this movie. I just can’t, and it’s not Julia, the Dune fan talking. It’s Julia the movie-reviewer talking. I just can’t and don’t want to. This movie was a modern masterpiece, way ahead of its time. And yet, it is right on time. Because cinema just got another chance for the rebirth of sci-fi, of multidimensional deep stories. Villeneuve, with one movie, changed so many things: the industry, the genre and audiences all over the world. One movie – that’s all it takes to write a new, beautiful chapter in cinema history.
And the bar is now very high for every filmmaker out there. I am saying this as Nolan’s number one fan – I haven’t seen a film that fantastic in years. But that again is the beauty of cinema – even though there is a big competition, Dennis put his dream above anything else. And with that mindset, he will always be on top.
His vision wouldn’t be complete without a stellar cast. Show me a different film with every actor being so damn on point, I dare you! ? Even the skeptical fans, who were worried about Liet Kynes being a woman in this version… Like that even mattered. She was a great choice for the Imperial ecologist. Javier Bardem played Stilgar, Fremen leader of Sietch Tabr. HE WAS SO DAMN PERFECT. The quiet menace, perfectly still and balanced – he didn’t even have to do the “talking”. His eyes, his body carried the message.
And Zendaya as Chani, even though she was mostly a dream or vision, with little interaction… The eyes never lie, right? Even the blue within blue eyes. Eyes of Ibad! Her instant chemistry with Timmy is undeniable and oh my God, I am here for it. She is a wonderful choice for the concubine. She will play a bigger role in part two, but getting started with her as the narrator – what a choice. As a Fremen, Chani was born into that cruelty and oppression. The Harkonnen’s brutality was all she’s known. How do you show that rage, that heart-aching rage on screen, with simple glance?
Here I am, here I remain.
My biggest fear was casting Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica. The Bene Gesserit witch, the mother of Paul. I was afraid of the chemistry (or lack of it, actually) with Duke Leto, but I am glad to see that this film focused more on Jessica being… Mother first, Bene Gesserit later. Or was she? After all, she “betrayed” her sisterhood by having a son instead of a daughter, like it was agreed. But the little glances, the subtle touches – it played perfectly between Ferguson and Isaac. She delivered a fantastic performance of a mother, who had to put her only son to a deathly test.
That one scene, where she was waiting behind closed doors, shaking and reciting the Litany against fear… I was speechless. Hands down, one of the best scenes in the entire film. Instantly makes you think about your own mum and what she is willing to do for her children. And even though Paul blamed her for things that happened, she was still his mother – and he never backed out from her corner.
I am not sure why Villeneuve decided to skip the “spy” angle – where drunk Duncan Idaho accused Jessica of being Harkonnen’s spy, but I liked that the fingers were pointing at doctor Yueh from a certain moment. Ferguson absolutely “killed” it. Same goes to Oscar Isaac, who desperately wanted more time with his family. For everyone in the audience it was clear, when he said “So it is done” once he sealed the Imperial decree. 8 minutes? 9 minutes into the story and we knew it’s going to have a complicated outcome.
The graveyard scene between Chalamet and Isaac was beautiful. For once, Paul let his fears come out – even though his mother was training him in “The Way”. Standing there before his father, who thought the world of him – his world – was so mesmerizing. The fear and insecurities disappeared in one simple line: “But if your answer is no, you’d still be the only thing I ever needed you to be: my son”.
And even though I knew from the start he would die; his death was not as tragic as Duncan’s. Oh my God, my heart was broken once more.
Let’s fight like demons!
First of all – Jason Momoa is the biggest supporter of Villeneuve’s cut. But his interpretation of Duncan Idaho, my 2nd favorite character in this series, was spot on. He was funny and still serious, deadly and fluffy at the same time. Absolutely wonderful friend and loyal sword master to Paul and entire House Atreides. And Paul wanted to protect him, the way Duncan always had his back. Back then, Paul didn’t know that his visions are really the future – Idaho’s death, the crusade…
Duncan was a friend first, anything else later. He was sent to Arrakis before anyone else to make alliance with Fremen – for the sake of their Desert Power. Something that Leto needed to win over Harkonnens. And, as it turned out, over House Corrino and their damned Emperor. Anyway, I cried. That Atreides salute was a nail to my coffin.
But the Atreides line was stronger with the wisdom of a human-computer, the family mentat Thufir Hawat (Stephen McKinley Henderson), even though he failed to detect the threat. Nevertheless, what a great performance. But the one I like especially, was delivered by Josh Brolin. He played Gurney Halleck and WHERE THE HELL WAS HIS BALISET? But Brolin acted exactly like I imagined – grumpy, suspicious and lethal to his enemies.
Paul Atreides though… Timothée Chalamet was destined to play that role. I cannot imagine – hell,I don’t even want to – anyone else picking this role up. The transformation – from a boy to a leader of the Fremen (something we will witness in part two, but we got a glimpse)… It is difficult for me to phrase it. The conflict between going to war and doing everything to avoid it – I could feel the weight of that burden on my shoulders, pressing the air out of my lungs. Phenomenal performance, award-worthy for sure. But I think the biggest award is fans’ appreciation. And my heart is aching, in that good way, for Timmy! Perfect Paul Atreides. Perfection. The struggle was real, we all felt it.
This is MY dune. Kill them all.
Harkonnens were absolutely terrifying. To the bone – starting with Rabban (Dave Bautista). He scared the shit out of me, the entire vibe that House gave was beyond scary. That goes also for Piter, their mentat (played by David Dastmalchian). So damn chilling.
But the real MVP of House Harkonnen was Baron himself. Stellan Skarsgård delivered such a fantastic performance, horrifying but in a good way. He was disgusting and cruel, which obviously made him dangerous. But the danger I felt seemed hopeless. Like there is no hope for a rescue.
See, with all my reviews – none praise the cast like that. And that really speaks volume, because it’s not easy to find the right people. Villeneuve did it with one film. Is there a limit to what he can accomplish? Is it really because he had a dream of turning his favorite book into a big film? HIS Dune asks many questions, but leaves us without answers. Will the crusade happen? Will Paul become an Emperor? Is Halleck alive? How did it happen?
It will take some time for us to know the answers. And I am saying this as a devoted book reader. I don’t know what’s coming, but what I do know is that… This is only the beginning. The new era of sci-fi cinema is here, with Villeneuve leading the way. And I am here to say: Long live Dennis! Long live the dreamers! Long live the Spice!!!!