Dune preview: Part One of Denis Villeneuve’s saga is surprisingly accessible

This preliminary spoiler-free sneak peek of Dune originates from the movie’s opening night at the 2021 Venice International Movie Celebration. Dune will open in American theaters on Oct. 22. Stay tuned for a complete evaluation more detailed to the movie’s release.

Dune, Denis Villeneuve’s adjustment of the critical 1965 Frank Herbert book that was as soon as thought about unfilmable, has actually lastly reached the screen after a long and tough journey. With anticipations sky-high, stress over the movie just adjusting half a story (the onscreen title is Dune: Part One), and a thick and intricate folklore to measure up to the greatest pop-culture franchises, Dune has the possible to be either a gigantic catastrophe, or simply the important things to fill deep space left by The Mandalorian and Video Game of Thrones. We’ve seen the movie, and ahead of our main evaluation, here’s a spoiler-free sneak peek of what to get out of Villeneuve’s Dune, whether you’re familiar with Herbert’s mythos, or simply trying to find the next huge science fiction.

Dune occurs in the far, far future, at a time when the recognized galaxy is ruled by a feudal system of fantastic homes, all of which react to an emperor. The movie follows young nobleman Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) as his household end up being the brand-new stewards of the world Arrakis, source of the most essential compound in deep space — the spice assortment, which extends human life, grants boosted capabilities, and fuels faster-than-light travel. However when Home Atreides comes under attack, Paul needs to roam the unforgiving, hazardous deserts of Arrakis and look for the assistance of the world’s native population, the nomadic Fremen.

With 14 books telling an epic story spanning hundreds of characters across millennia, the Dune novel series is a daunting property to engage with. But the initial movie is surprisingly accessible, even to viewers who haven’t read any of Herbert’s work, especially compared to David Lynch’s 1984 movie adapting the same material. Sure, it helps to be familiar with some of the setting details and terminology going in, or to know about the houses and characters ahead of time, so you can remember who is who.

Oscar Isaac in 2021’s Dune

Photo: Warner Bros.

But the script (by Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts, and Eric Roth) does an impressive job of explaining how the world works. There’s one exception: Because the story borrows heavily from Arabic history, culture, and imagery, there are a lot of terms that can be a bit hard to understand without subtitles, especially when pronounced by different non-MENA actors with wildly varying accents.

The first act of the film feels more like the premiere of Game of Thrones than the opening act of Star Wars. Dune doesn’t follow the traditional call for adventure we’ve seen in many heroes’ journeys — instead, it focuses on building its ensemble and establishing the political state of the known universe first. There is a sense that what we’re seeing is just the latest page in a chapter that started centuries ago, in a story that has been going on for millennia. That may sound daunting, but the film is admirably selective about details, filling in just enough to let audiences follow the story, but not so much that they can give a lecture about the inner workings of the Atreides’ ancestral home, Caladan.

With this much lore and history to present, it’s almost a miracle that Dune doesn’t resort to much exposition. It even avoids the “as you know” trope, where characters discuss things they’re already all aware of. Much of the information dumps come in the form of short documentaries Paul Atreides watches to learn about Arrakis before he travels there, as a sort of Wikipedia entry about the world. When Paul’s mother, Lady Jessica (Reminiscence’s Rebecca Ferguson) tells Paul about the key societal role of her organization, the Bene Gesserit, it’s genuinely new information to him, because of how secretive the Bene Gesserit are. Similarly, much of the information the film explains to the audience is hidden lore the characters are learning alongside the audience, which helps make Dune feel like a lived-in universe, much in the same way the original Star Wars let viewers discover the story alongside Luke Skywalker.

However Villeneuve’s take on Herbert’s material spends just as much time catering to longtime fans wanting to see their favorite scenes or characters brought to life. The French-Canadian director takes the exact same eye for unique sci-fi visuals that he brought to Blade Runner 2049 and Arrival, and applies it to the sand dunes of Arrakis. He spends a significant amount of time on establishing shots of grand alien vistas and intricate palaces, working to make each new world in Dune look and feel like nothing we’ve seen on screen before.

Timothée Chalamet wanders the dunes in Dune

Photo: Warner Bros.

Just like Hans Zimmer said he was committed to making the film sound alien, Villeneuve makes sure Dune looks the part, too. Spaceships are huge and round in ways that go beyond conventional physics. (A few of the spaceships look more like Apple Store designs than any airplane that could fly in real-world space.) The geometric designs of the cities and costumes make each planet look distinct and recognizable, beyond just being “the ice planet” or “the desert planet.”

Those familiar with the books or Lynch’s adaptation may be intrigued to see that Villeneuve’s Dune places a bigger importance on the people of Arrakis, making them more than just tools and cannon fodder. Lynch’s 1980s version of the film opens with narration by the Bene Gesserit historian Princess Irulan, explaining how important the spice is, and why it’s so coveted. But Villeneuve instead has Fremen warrior Chani (Zendaya) talking about Arrakis’ people, and how they are being subjugated.

Likewise, the film spends a significant amount of time interrogating the idea of a Messiah, not as a title, but in the way the very idea of a chosen one can influence changes in a society. For better or worse, the story’s Arabic influences hint at a very different kind of hero’s journey than Westerners are used to seeing, even if the casting of the film indicates a half-hearted understanding and appreciation of those cultural influences.

The last line of the film is “This is the beginning,” and watching Dune: Part One, with its grandiose visuals and its focus on larger societies and nations rather than on an individual hero, it’s easy to hope that this is one prophecy that comes true. Against all odds, Villeneuve’s film not only lives up to its source product’s reputation, however to the credibility he’s developed as one of our finest directors within the category. At last, the spice will stream.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.