Denis Villeneuve’s newest masterpiece perfectly retells a classic sci-fi story, but it likely will not be fully appreciated by the average movie-goer.
“Dune” is easily the greatest film to come out this year. Each shot is gorgeous and the world described in the ‘60s novel is fully realized with a modern flair. Watching “Dune” feels like watching “Star Wars” for the first time, as it introduces a universe with so many questions yet there is not a point where the viewer feels lost. The world of “Dune” feels like a place that could easily represent our future, yet it feels familiar due to the almost exclusive use of melee weapons and fascinating tribal practices that call back to a time before our current era. “Dune” elegantly sticks one foot in fantasy and the other in realism. Each performance shines, particularly Timothée Chalamet’s. His presence is understated at first, but he shows serious potential once he is allowed to develop. Despite its near-perfect execution, “Dune” suffers from an issue outside of its art that unfortunately has befallen a few of Villeneuve’s works.
“Dune” follows in the footsteps of 2017’s masterpiece “Bladerunner 2049” and will likely suffer the same fate as the film. “Bladerunner 2049” was a box-office flop, which not only reflects badly on those that worked diligently to create “Bladerunner 2049,” but also for other films that try to be ambitious whilst also carrying a high budget. “Bladerunner 2049” had all the signs of a box-office smash hit. It had a star-studded cast, incredibly favorable reviews from critics and interesting source material. However, it lost nearly 80 million dollars. “Dune” is seemingly in the same scenario as “Bladerunner 2049,” but only has the slight advantage of not being a sequel. The source material is still a hard-sell for general audiences, however. “Dune” is by no means a recent work and could lead audiences to lack a connection with the world “Dune” portrays.
“Dune” also continues Villeneuve’s style of shots that linger for longer than many other films would. It requires the viewer’s full attention. Casual viewing whilst doing something else will take away from the immersion of the film and will quickly spiral into boredom once the viewer is taken out of the experience. While this could be chalked up as a flaw with “Dune,” this notion would downplay what Villeneuve has achieved with the film. “Dune’s” simultaneous debut in theaters and on HBO Max is convenient, but it also further deepens this issue. In a theater, an audience member has little else to focus on but the film, but on HBO Max distractions are likely at the viewer’s fingertips.
“Dune” is a work of art and if it is a box office success, it could lead to the creation of one the greatest series in movie history. But, if “Dune” fails at the box office and is not able to get viewership on HBO Max, the future of the franchise is up in the air. The success of “Dune” will show Hollywood that audiences want high-budget films with bold filmmaking choices.