‘Dune’ Movie Review: Denis Villeneuve’s Sci-Fi Epic Must Be Seen to Be Believed

Dune is a superb sci-fi epic that shocks the senses. This review explores the movie on its own without reflecting its ability to adapt Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel. Director and co-writer Denis Villeneuve crafts an experience that seeks to truly immerse the audience in its world, rather than just tell a story. It won’t be for everyone, but it’s quite hypnotizing if you give into it.

‘Dune’ adapts the sci-fi epic novel

'Dune' actors Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson looking out at the desert
L-R: Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson | Chiabella James/Warner Bros. Pictures

10191 is the year. Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) is the son of a noble family with high expectations for his future. His family is tasked with ruling and protecting a dangerous desert planet, Arrakis. This planet has the “spice melange,” which can extend human life and create superhuman abilities.

However, Arrakis has dangers that the noble family isn’t entirely prepared for. The native Fremen people and incoming invaders are just a couple of the dangers. The heat is inhospitable and massive sandworms travel underneath the desert sand’s surface. Nonetheless, the noble family plans to serve and protect.

‘Dune’ is very much only the beginning

'Dune' actor Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Liet Kynes standing on the sand dune in suit
Sharon Duncan Brewster | Chiabella James/Warner Bros. Pictures

Dune supposedly covers roughly the first half of the novel. The opening’s subtitle reads “part one,” which truly sets the tone that it isn’t going to deliver the whole story. It lays the groundwork for a universe that is so rich, it deserves more than one movie. Dune takes its time to get acclimated. It progressively introduces the characters and the stakes, but never gives too much away.

Dune is a sci-fi movie that places emphasis on family. Paul’s father Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) gives him insight into leadership. However, Paul’s relationship with his mother Lady Jessica Atreides (Rebecca Ferguson) is further emphasized. The mother-son relationship is truly tested as they’re forced into various dangerous situations. This dynamic is the story’s genuine driver to make viewers care about their journey.

See it in the biggest and loudest theater that you can

'Dune' actor Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica with symbols on her skin and wearing a hood
Rebecca Ferguson | Warner Bros. Pictures

‘Dune’ Director Denis Villeneuve Wanted to Make His ‘Best Pop Movie’

Dune is an intentionally slow-moving sci-fi epic. The movie seeks to absorb you into its universe before it advances. It does so with Villeneuve’s superb direction, Greig Fraser’s gorgeous cinematography, and Hans Zimmer’s otherworldly score. It’s otherworldly in both its nature and its quality. Every scene further hypnotizes deeper into its grasp, making the 155-minute runtime feel much shorter than it is.

The characters’ depth is a tad lacking, yet Dune still manages to make their story matter. By becoming invested in their world, it simultaneously invests its audience in its characters. Paul is the least captivating of the bunch, although Chalamet does what he can with the part. Ferguson’s Lady Jessica is the most impactful performance here, showcasing incredible depth and nuance.

Dune is not the action spectacle that some folks may be expecting. It’s a slow-moving, yet entirely immersive sci-fi epic. See it on the biggest screen with the loudest sound system available. The movie will also be debuting on the streaming service HBO Max, but this is a film that begs for your total attention in a dark theater. Dune is an experience. Let it wash over you.