I must qualify that Frank Herbert’s feudal sci-fi story had a huge influence on my life, including an upcoming project I am developing. I have read no book more frequently than I have read Dune.
Thus, I had great anxiety about Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation as I entered the theatre. Within the first two minutes, that anxiety was replaced with exhilaration as this 57-year-old man once again felt the upwelling of emotions that he experienced as a 13-year-old boy seeing Star Wars for the first time.
Villeneuve has done an amazing job staying faithful to the novel, including scenes that I had almost forgotten were in the book. But that also means that the movie is long and will require several installments to complete the saga.
At moments, some of the performances felt a little over-wrought, but as the movie progressed, the performances became more nuanced and subtle, as though the actors finally got into their roles & began to understand the characters more clearly. By the end, Timothee Chalamet was Paul Atreides. (I reserve any comments on Zendaya as Chani, as her role is still quite limited.)
But more than the performances, this is a movie of scale & spectacle. I nearly wept at the first worm sign, & I am confident my chin was on my chest when the first worm appeared. These worlds are real. Villeneuve & his team have done an amazing job bringing these planets & their inhabitants to life. And those alien places & family conflicts are given greater life with the soul-resonant score by Hans Zimmer.
For those who haven’t devoted their hearts to Frank Herbert’s ecological fever dream, Dune may not be all that. They may see it as slow & ponderous. They may consider the characters melodramatic & hyperbolic. They may consider tedious the need for multiple installments.
You do not need to know the novel to enjoy this film. The story plays out coherently without inside jokes or Easter eggs to the informed.
For people like me, however, people whose pulse matches the throbbing Zimmer score, whose lungs breathe the Spice melange, whose DNA is infused with Bene Gesserit mythos, Dune is our homecoming. We are the Fremen.