Denis Villeneuve's sci-fi epic Dune Part One 'a bountiful feast for the senses'
DUNE (12A, 156 mins) Sci-Fi/Action/Thriller/Romance. Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Stellan Skarsgard, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Zendaya, Dave Bautista, Charlotte Rampling. Director: Denis Villeneuve.
Released: October 21
THINK big. French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve certainly does with his visually breath-taking adaptation of Frank Herbert's supposedly 'unfilmable' tome documenting the fall and rise of House Atreides in the year 10191.
Dune – or more accurately Dune Part One – is a bountiful feast for the senses, combining live action and impeccable digital effects to realise vast new worlds where dragonfly-like aircraft with fluttering wings swoop over undulating sandscapes to monitor the golden bow waves created by the approach of a giant worm.
A night-time battle sequence in the air and on the ground is orchestrated with brio, delivering a true spectacle that demands the biggest screen and an immersive sound system cranked up to full volume to capture every thunderous chord and clatter of composer Hans Zimmer's orchestral score.
Unlike David Lynch's ill-fated 1984 film version, which attempted to distil Herbert's entire novel, Villeneuve's script co-written by Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth retains narrative clarity by only addressing the first half of the book.
"This is only the beginning…" coos Zendaya's desert warrior to co-star Timothee Chalamet after two-and-a-half bombastic hours of warmongering, intrigue and betrayal.
Let us pray Dune mines sufficient takings at the box office to turn her promise into reality.
Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) receives a proclamation from the Emperor to assume control of harvesting Spice on the desert planet Arrakis from sworn rivals House Harkonnen led by corpulent Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard).
"The most valuable mineral in the universe" is integral to interstellar travel but mining the precious orange dust in sufficient quantities to appease the Emperor is fraught with peril.
Duke Leto, his concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and son Paul (Chalamet) relocate to Arrakis, home to superstitious desert-dwelling people called The Fremen, whose eyes glow blue from prolonged exposure to highly addictive Spice.
The young Atreides experiences disorienting visions of a young Fremen woman, Chani (Zendaya), as he undergoes rigorous training with weapons master Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) and sword master Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa).
Alas, these great warriors are powerless to prevent Baron Harkonnen and his nephew Glossu Rabban (Dave Bautista) from staging a deadly assault on Arrakis, designed to exterminate everyone loyal to Duke Leto.
Dune invests significant time in fleshing out morally flawed characters and their tangled relationships before the blood-letting begins.
By design, the picture lacks a dramatic resolution but this opening chapter is well constructed and anchored by the fiery mother-son dynamic of Ferguson and Chalamet.
The running time does feel excessive. Villeneuve and his team are determined to showcase every penny of a reported £120 million budget with lavish production design, ceremonial costumes and futuristic military attire, and at least one nail-biting set-piece devoted to the film's biggest stars: the hulking sandworms.
In their case, big is beautiful.