At Last!

Stars: Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zandaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa and Javier Barden
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Scriptwriters: Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve and Eric Roth from Frank Herbert’s novel, “Dune”
Composer: Hans ZimmeCinematography: Greig Fraser
Legendary Pictures/ Warner Brothers Pictures
Rating: PG 13 for violence and themed material
Running Length: 156 Minutes 

During summer months, twenty years ago, a friend bought a paperback book and thought the title was interesting.  Soon, she was phoning me telling me I had to read this book and she would loan it. The intriguing title was “Dune,” and I, too, could not put it down, plus the succeeding books Frank Herbert created from his active imagination. 

The story of a planet that is the center of this galaxy because it contains something called “spice,” which controls aging and can fuel space liners. What a prize. The basic story of the control of this planet, called Arrakis (“Dune”) could be the center of any plot about control. Herbert chose to use a young man named Paul, as the main character and I see a similarity between Paul’s life and that of Jesus. The universe has been created and gone back and forth between emperors. This is a time of discontent and a time for definite leadership. Paul’s mother violated her sacred oaths as a member of a distinctive female society.  She married Paul’s father, Leto and was supposed to have a daughter by him, thus continuing female rule. However, she made the decision to have a son, and a carefully wrought plan of centuries went out the window. Paul inherited her innate traits of mind control. Mary, the mother of Christ, was also unwed when she conceived a child, and she knew she would have a son. During a time of civil unrest, she and her husband, Joseph, and new son, Jesus, fled to Egypt for safety. In “Dune,” Paul and his parents go to Arrakis by order of the Emperor to organize, but in reality, they are the target of assassination by the Harkonnen family (in Jesus’ time, the royal family of the Herod’s) and from here on in, it is warfare to destroy Leto’s family before Paul can rise to power.  It had been rumored throughout the galaxy that a “Messiah” would deliver them from the Emperor’s, just as in the time of Jesus, rumors abounded about the rise of a “Messiah” to deliver them from Roman rule.  We don’t know if Jesus family suffered consequences because of his teachings, but we know the immediate followers of Jesus, and himself, were targets of anger.

In this “Dune” film, the year is 10191, and Leto (Oscar Isaac) and family, wife Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and son Paul (Timothee Chalamet), rule the water planet Caladan. An order comes from the Emperor to relocate to Dune and take over spice production there.  The family promised this lush job first, are the Harkonnen’s (Stellan Skarsgard) and they are out for revenge. While on Dune, the Leto family learns a new life style. An arid, desert planet, there are Fremen (free men) as workers and they aren’t happy with present arrangements, plus when going outside, you wear a stilsuit that clings to you like spray paint and recycles body fluids. Not only that, but there are giant and I mean giant, sandworms under the surface and if you walk on the sand, you are liable to bring one to the surface.  Good luck in outrunning one of them as they look like crawling office buildings. Along the way, Paul makes the friendship of a young Freman woman, Chani (Zandaya).  Learning of the Harkonnen’s plots, Leto and his family begin the battle for their survival with Fremen help and Paul’s growing mental powers. There are plenty of escapes, chases and wonderful special effects.  Even if you haven’t read the Frank Herbert novels, you can follow the story line. 

*As a reminder, this film is Part 1 of a two-part film, due out in about a year and a half. So, if you are somewhat confused at the end,  remember, there is always the book to read. 

Now, as far as acting, many Hollywood actors are in the movie. All have good performances, and the stand-out is the choice of Timothee Chalamet as Paul. Here is a young man who doesn’t show the physical strength that one would expect, compared to other actors in the film, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, Josh Brolin as Gurney Hallack, and Dave Bautista as the evil Rabban, nephew of the Harkonnen Baron. But muscles aren’t what counts here, it is mind control and in that Paul is the weapon. 

Rebecca Ferguson is a stately “Jessica,” who protects her son under trying circumstances. Oscar Isaac as Leto, protects, too, and is thoughtfully done by the actor. Zendaya plays a larger role in Part 2 of “Dune,” so what you see of her here, is just a glimpse of what is to come. Charlotte Rampling’s Gaius Helen Mohiam would frighten everyone with her steel resolve, and Stellan Skarsgard’s Baron Harkonnen, well, he is evil through and through.

Yes, Dune is an exotic thriller taking new and older fans into a world of imagination. I have been waiting for this film a long time. Author Frank Herbert was a genius in creating in books,  a new universe and individual personalities.  Composer Hans Zimmer gives “Dune” a powerful score that should continue well into Part 2, while Greig Fraser’s cinematography is stunning and takes the audience into quite a world of imagination. Enjoy. 

Copyright 2021 Marie Asner