The long-anticipated star-studded adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science-fiction novel finally saw the light of day at the 2021 Venice Film Festival this past week. Fans have been waiting for this version of Dune since the movie was first slated for release in 2020. With a film and a miniseries already in the books, expectations were high for this most recent adaptation. However, reviews for the film are split pretty fifty-fifty down the middle.
Xan Brooks from The Guardian states that “Denis Villeneuve’s fantasy epic tells us that big-budget spectaculars don’t have to be dumb or hyperactive…[this version] is dense, moody and quite often sublime.” This glowing review makes us excited for Villeneuve’s spin on this particular adaptation. With films like Arrival under his belt, we only expect the best for his version of Dune.
Similarly, Glenn Kenney of famed reviewer Roger Ebert admits that although Villeneuve’s past films are not his particular cups of tea, “he’s made a more-than-satisfactory movie of the book” in the case of Dune. To change the mind of a film reviewer is a massive feat, and Kenney continues to emphasize that “Villeneuve’s massive cast embodies Herbert’s characters…very well.” Many fans of Herbert’s novel were less than impressed with the 1984 film adaptation, so to hear positive remarks about not only the film’s director but also its actors should be enough to encourage movie-goers who are perhaps on the fence about seeing the movie.
However, many other critics were underwhelmed with this third adaptation, especially because it is a two-parter. Some film franchises in the past successfully split one book into two adaptations for the sake of capturing every detail to appease dedicated readers. Such films that come to mind are Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2 and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 and Part 2. Unfortunately, it seems that Villeneuve’s Dune may not have successfully done split the book in two.
Justin Chang of the LA Times notes that there is “perhaps more pleasure than depth or meaning” as “the movie slams to an abrupt, unsatisfying halt halfway through the events of Herbert’s novel.” This isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering many movie-goers are going to the theaters to do just that: enjoy a movie. However, Villeneuve’s adaptation has been hyped up for its commentary on the “white savior” and colonizers assuming that every society not westernized needs to be “saved” somehow. Some fans may be disappointed that this kind of depth may be lacking from Villeneuve’s interpretation.
And finally, Richard Lawson from Vanity Fair makes a fantastic point by saying, “In all its marvel, Dune forgets to do basic things like give us someone or something to root for, or feel for, or think about for longer than the stretch of the film.” This is concerning considering the film is meant to attract viewers to a second film later on. If the movie is only considered to be a “so-so” adaptation, is it enough to attract movie-goers a second time?
All this being said, it is up to you to decide how Villeneuve’s Dune holds up to its predecessors. Despite the commentators, we are excited to hit the movie theaters on October 22 and see the film that has been over a year in the making. Can’t wait until then? Read our latest article about the film’s crazy-long run-time that is comparable to the Marvel movies. You can also read up on the sequel’s possible change in the cast here.
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