Dune Is Tailor-Made For An Imax Experience, But Is That Enough?

Dennis Villenueve's latest sci-fi feature is the kind of film that makes you feel thankful that this medium exists
Dune Is Tailor-Made For An Imax Experience, But Is That Enough?

Dune, the latest adaption of the groundbreaking sci-fi novel, dips into Frank Herbert's world and feels epic in both scope and scale. It tells the coming-of-age story of a young man on the brink of vast exposure and influence amidst a changing world of colliding cultures. He has prophetic visions, most of which carry an underlying layer of esoteric themes. Stellan Skarsgard is the Baron of Harkonnens; floating around with a bald head, there's notable influence from the iconic character of Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now here. There's also Oscar Isaac, playing Leto Atreides I, father of Paul. The rest of the ensemble cast has plenty of charismatic faces as well, but Rebecca Ferguson and Timothée Chalamet by far form the beating emotional heart of the film.

Duke Leto, the head of the powerful House Atreides, has been ordered by the Emperor to take control of the planet Arrakis. House Harkonnen, their wealthy and powerful rival, has been ordered to leave and return to their home planet of Giedi Prime. Arrakis is the only planet in the known universe where the magical spice can be found. Spice, the most valuable substance in the known universe, clearly acting as a metaphor for fuel in the Middle East, grants not only an elongated life-span but also some special abilities.
The enormous transcending scope of the film is captured through frames from the character's perspective; this isn't a movie solely focused on being a visual tone poem. Dennis Villeneuve wants us to realise that even in this futuristic world, the sole purpose of it all can only hit home if he makes us root for these characters first. Greig Frasier's stunning wide-scape cinematography captures some of the most jaw dropping and awe-inspiring shots I've ever seen on IMAX. Hans Zimmer's score is everything he does best, and more. He goes all the way to Arrakis, rendering almost every scene into a symphony, creating a profound sensory experience without ever compromising the overall vision.
Villeneuve takes the surrounding environment and moving human condition and imposes it on the protagonist, much like the way T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) was treated in the iconic 1962 film, Lawrence Of Arabia. He has become the master at portraying complex dense worlds with a miniaturist's attention, as his previous work (especially in the magnificent Blade Runner 2049) would attest. It's safe to say now, that he's become the new master of cinema.
The biggest drawback of the film, is that it's literally half a movie. I keep going back and forth between convincing myself that these saga and franchise films can't fully be judged before seeing the entire story play out. But then again, the point at the other side of the argument is, that even the acclaimed films that build into something massive, at least narratively, do seem to have a proper three-act structure and feel standalone alone enough. Even though lately it's become normal for us to leave theaters wanting more, while being in the constant hunger for these spectacular decade worth of storytelling to unfold, for quite some time I couldn't figure if that was what I was feeling after finishing Dune or if I were just frustrated. There's a thin line between those two, which became increasingly evident the longer I kept thinking about the film. So on the first viewing, one may think that some of the thematic goals in Dune come at a narrative expense. I couldn't help but somehow feel that the film elucidated itself in the form of visual innuendo, until it finally seemed running out of breath with only some ambitions realised. The issue isn't with the filmmaking, and the technical brilliance definitely makes it difficult to notice those structural flaws. Dune: Part One as it reads at the beginning, feels like a pure world-building movie. Imagine watching Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone for the first time; you're excited to step into this larger than life wizardly world. But then the credits start to roll right before Harry ventures into Hogwarts. But that's the thing, Dune works for the most part, because Villeneuve genuinely seems to understand this world and he wants us to be engrossed in it as well. So, it doesn't merely feel like a set-up movie because of the sheer talent and dedication, both on and off screen.
Denis Villeneuve is probably the only currently working director I put my full faith in. The man's made some of the best films I've seen, ever. So naturally, the more I listened to him talk about this film in interviews, I understood how close the source material has actually always been to him (he read the first book when he was 13). Along with the filmmaker, even for us cinephiles it's like a constant tussle that we have to go through with these studios and the way they do business in these changing times. We probably won't get to see his version of the rest of the book realized on screen for the next 4-5 years, at least. That is if Warner Bros. green lights the sequel in the first place (which I'm guessing is quite possible now looking at the recent reports and box office numbers). But this got me thinking about how it says so much about the way in which we've started perceiving and consuming media in this day and age, where we can't ever be certain about something unless we're being assured that there would be rest to follow up. It's cinematic experiences like this one, that make me feel glad of having the comfort of going to a cinema watching something unfold in its authentic version, amidst our reduced attention spams and our expectations from cinema in general. The only hope going ahead is for filmmakers like Villeneuve to have the chance of exploring more while not really worrying about budgetary constraints, in order to fulfil their truest vision. Looking at the sheer scope and world Villeneuve has managed at setting up and providing us with an insight into, Dune quite possibly has the chance of becoming one of the best sci-fi adaptations of all time. Go watch the film on the biggest screen you can, support this film as much as you can. It is the kind of film that makes you feel thankful that this medium exists.

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