Dune Review

Great expectations are rarely a good thing.

Unless they’re written by Dickens.

The longer we wait for something, the greater expectations become for the object of our delayed gratification.

And I’ve waited such a very long time for Denis Villeneuve’s latest sci-fi epic, Dune.

The year is some time in the future, humans have decimated their own habitat and present, and the future has had to be reimagined by what remained of the past.

Just as will happen in real life, some noble families have miraculously survived the past to thrive in the future, and no house is greater than that of the Atreides bloodline.

You know what, if you haven’t read Frank Herbert’s cult novel – and I haven’t – there’s really not much point trying to explain the labyrinthine back story in too much detail here.

The film doesn’t really bother with this, so neither can I.

Here’s what I can tell you about Dune – there are good guys and bad guys, obviously, and a plot that relies far too heavily on tropes of the fantasy genre that you’ll be all too familiar with.

There’s the messianic boy who would be king – Paul Atreides – who may be the chosen one that can bring balance to the force.

Or is prophesied to destroy Voldemort.

Or maybe just toss that damned ring into Mount Doom.

Paul is being groomed by his dad and a few other father figures to one day lead house Atreides to a glorious future, but the boy’s not so sure that he wants such responsibility thrust upon him.

Our future king’s also been having recurring dreams of a future that may or may not come to pass.

There’s also something about a drug called spice that gives you powers, seems to make you eternal and allows you to travel through time and space.

Which is nice.

And of course we’ve got some one dimensional baddies for house Atreides to fight with over said spice production.

It’s pretty basic young adult fare, unfortunately – and even worse, Villeneuve doesn’t try to digress from Herbert’s boring source material.

Essentially, Dune is a film for fans of the novel and not much more.

Villeneuve assumes you already know a lot of the backstory here, so you’re probably not going to get everything that’s going on unless you’ve also read the book.

Only problem is the original source material has proven to be so influential that the themes of Dune feel dated and predictable. 

Herbert has clearly influenced such heavyweight cultural touchstones as Star Wars and Game of Thrones, and does Dune come off as a cross between the two – without ever touching the heights of either.

So if you’re a fan of either of these two behemoths, you won’t be surprised by anything you see here.

On the plus side, Dune does look and sound incredible, as you’d expect from the auteur behind recent sci-fi epics Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, and the cast is great – but despite this, Dune just didn’t really make me feel anything.

The slow parts move by far too slowly, while the action sequences fly by in a rush of special effects and cgi that’s hard to keep up with.

I think Dune would have made for a compelling tv series, so these characters and themes are given more time and space to breathe and we actually care about the things that they go through.

Like the first half of a certain George RR Martin fantasy epic. 

Instead, Dune is little more than some beautiful cinematic eye candy that’s very easy on the senses, but just as easily forgotten by the time you get home.

Such is the problem with great expectations.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

October 2021