Dune Part 1 review: Stunningly weird sci-fi epic cuts out early, even if the sequel's coming - CNET

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Timothée Chalamet brings his knife-sharp cheekbones to deed movie Dune: Part One.

Warner Bros.

The best-selling books successful the Dune bid are arsenic intriguing and ambiguous arsenic a desert's shifting sands. So it makes consciousness a star-studded caller movie adaptation from director Denis Villeneuve manages to beryllium some hugely satisfying and incredibly frustrating. The 2021 Dune film is simply a circuit de unit of cinematic sci-fi, a star-studded yet profoundly weird phantasy epic, and a thoughtful and thrilling movie experience.

Then it stops close successful the middle.

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Villeneuve's mentation of Frank Herbert's 1965 caller opens with a rubric speechmaking "Dune: Part One." That's your archetypal informing that the movie isn't going to springiness you a batch of closure. It's surely packed with ideas and stunning visuals and accusation by the spaceship-load, but it's besides the setup for a communicative that's conscionable getting going erstwhile retired of obscurity the credits roll.

Having premiered to (mostly) captious acclaim astatine the Venice and New York Film Festivals, Dune deed theaters Thursday, Oct. 21, and debuted the aforesaid time connected US streaming work HBO Max. It rapidly became the biggest deed for Warner Bros. successful the pandemic era, and Warner has present confirmed a sequel. Part Two volition unfastened successful 2023 -- which is good, due to the fact that Part One would've been an unsatisfying cinematic acquisition if the sequel ne'er came. 

Josh Brolin and Oscar Isaac oculus up a sequel arsenic the caller Dune movie arrives.

Warner Bros.

The almighty Atreides and Harkonnen families are abstraction aristos squabbling implicit the satellite Arrakis, a godforsaken satellite wherever the lone happening much treacherous than the shifting sands is the backstabbing politics. Arrakis is the lone root of spice, a substance that acts arsenic the substance for abstraction question successful the Dune universe. On Arrakis, spice glitters successful the precise air, riches truthful intoxicating you tin sensation them.

Spice has a mysterious allure for Timothée Chalamet's young princeling Paul Atreides. He's got a batch going on: His dada (Oscar Isaac) is an upright duke teaching him to play the crippled of cosmic realpolitik; his ma (Rebecca Ferguson) is simply a superpowered abstraction witch; he's plagued by horny teen dreams of a blue-eyed godforsaken warrior (Zendaya); and helium conscionable mightiness beryllium an intergalactic messiah.

Paul is astatine the bosom of this thumping abstraction epic, which combines Shakespearian castle intrigue with wide-screen godforsaken vistas, incendiary conflict scenes and a formed of billions. In Villeneuve's hands, this mentation of Dune is simply a richly elaborate and hugely evocative imagining filled with striking imagery. It's supremely and winningly odd. 

The movie juxtaposes fever-dream science-fantasy with medieval imagery: Sinister abstraction nuns successful billowing robes descend from looming spaceships; Interplanetary treaties are endorsed with wax seals beneath fluttering banners; Berserker armies marque humor sacrifices earlier donning soundless jetpacks. It's each faceless helmets and heavy shadows arsenic the enactment moves from rain-slicked granite to iridescent sand, acceptable to a hypnotic and throbbing Hans Zimmer people of wailing choirs, electrical drones, nerve-jangling percussion and large honking bwaarrrrps. And bagpipes. 

Rebecca Ferguson and Oscar Isaac are acrophobic parents successful Dune.

Warner Bros.

The rain-lashed location satellite of the upright House Atreides is cleanable for moody pacing connected wave-battered cliffs. The vaguely Catholic decor of that satellite includes a bullfighting motif, which suggests 2 abstracted but intertwined themes: a foolhardy combat against an unpredictable opponent, and a nexus to Spain that recalls Spanish conquistadors of old.

That nexus to past invaders highlights the timelessness of the impulse to conquer and enslave, drafting a enactment from the past to the present. Dune's taxable of ransacking godforsaken resources has ever resonated with occidental manipulation and exploitation of the remainder of the world, from bygone days of colonialism to the Gulf War and the War connected Terror. The struggle is explicitly grounded by Villeneuve and cinematographer Greig Fraser successful the ocular benignant of a modern warfare movie. Dragonfly-like craft thrum past the camera similar Vietnam-era chopper gunships arsenic the aerial fills with distinctly 20th period vigor chatter. All that's missing is Ride of the Valkyries connected the soundtrack arsenic Dune channels combat flicks from Apocalypse Now to Lawrence of Arabia to Black Hawk Down.

The movie opens with an service abruptly withdrawing from Arrakis, and it's a chilling representation successful airy of the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan successful caller weeks.

"Arrakis has seen men similar you travel and go," says 1 indigenous character. "Who volition our adjacent oppressor be?" asks the world-weary narrator.

The struggle is explicitly driven by wealth, and it's fascinating to spot a sci-fi movie grapple with the economical facet of authorities arsenic good arsenic the acquainted interplanetary powerfulness struggles of Star Wars and Star Trek. House Atreides whitethorn beryllium noble and the Harkonnens venal, but their quality is irrelevant successful this galactic economy: No substance however they consciousness astir it, they indispensable capable their quotas. Space capitalism!

It's hardly a polemic, however. There are truthful galore ideas flying astir successful this movie that galore are mentioned lone once, and you're invited to make your ain thoughts connected inequality, scarcity of resources, clime crisis, war, feudalism, abstraction travel, dreams, parenthood, oneness with nature, and truthful overmuch more. As if that wasn't capable to mull over, it's each wrapped up successful a dense lore of multiple languages and unusual terminology, which means aggregate voice-overs explaining it all.

The weirdness of the sci-fi is besides grounded by a constricted scope of colour connected screen. Beyond the blackness of space, the lone colors successful this beingness are grey and beige. Don't get maine wrong, Dune looks great, but extracurricular of the fantastical design, the muted palette borders connected drab.

Rebecca Ferguson gets weird successful Dune.

Warner Bros.

The acting is besides likewise muted: everybody is impassive and solemn and mutters the often incomprehensible dialog successful hushed tones. Like Villeneuve's erstwhile films, it's melodramatic and intense. But it's besides alternatively one-note, allowing Jason Momoa to basal out, for example, conscionable by showing that he's enjoying himself. The astir dynamic scope comes from Ferguson arsenic the conflicted Atreides matriarch, embodying the affectional turmoil of a quality who's some impassioned parent and scheming zealot.

As for the histrion successful the starring role, Chalamet's cheekbones and soulful eyes bash astir of the storytelling. Like Ryan Gosling successful Blade Runner 2049, helium doesn't person a large woody to say, which makes his quality either beguilingly ambiguous oregon vaguely defined. Is helium dutiful oregon distracted? Is helium a reluctant person oregon ambitious plotter?

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The young prince is troubled by visions of the future, and they're troubling for the spectator too. Some of those visions flash guardant to a sequel, and frankly look much breathtaking than immoderate of Part One's drawn-out sequences. With specified an abrupt ending begging for a sequel, you mightiness wonderment if they changeable the 2 films together. Nope: The sequel whitethorn spell into accumulation successful precocious 2022, which was acold from guaranteed successful the look of a pandemic and a streaming merchandise perchance cannibalizing container bureau takings.

If you loved Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, past Dune is possibly Denis Villeneuve astatine his Villeneuviest. If you emotion sweeping subject sci-fi with a dash of weirdness thrown in, Dune volition beryllium your jam. The muted palette and performances won't beryllium to everyone's taste, but I could walk a batch much clip successful this satellite -- erstwhile the sequel yet arrives successful 2023, anyway.

Even if it doesn't present overmuch of an ending, this caller Dune is simply a hellhole of a beginning. 

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