TYLER, Texas (KLTV) – Dune is undoubtedly half of a movie (the actual title appears as Dune: part one), but what a compelling and gripping half.

For a while, and not without reason, Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel was considered “infilmable.” David Lynch’s 1984 film adaptation was interesting but definitely a dud at best. The adaptation of the 2000 Sci-Fi Channel miniseries was, well … an adaptation of the 2000 Sci-Fi Channel miniseries. Even under the most optimal conditions, adapting such a dense, unique novel and narratively internalized that Dune was always going to be a Herculean task. And yet, co-writer and director Denis Villaneuve ignored the caution and went head-first into an adaptation of Dune which functions as an adaptation, a work of cinema, and the first half of a story that somehow still feels satisfying with its inevitable cliffhanger.

I say all of this as surprised as anyone at the results. Yes, the novel is incredibly odd and is told largely through internal monologues and contains a lot of heady concepts that in no way translate into Exciting Cinema, not to mention the fact that countless storytellers and filmmakers over the decades cannibalized the most interesting parts. of Dune for their own use. On the contrary, I was skeptical of this adaptation because I found the novel as dry and unwelcoming as the desert planet on which it takes place. I finished the novel, but only with a badly engendered feeling of obligation. Sure, there are heroic deeds and weird psychic powers and huge beasts excreting space cocaine that fuels intergalactic travel (no, I’m not kidding), but basically Dune is a story about intergalactic politics, imperialism, and the various ways in which greed only encourages the destruction of people and natural resources.

So when I say that the first half of this two and a half hour Denis Villaneuve story is engaging, intriguing and captivating from start to finish, I want you to know the weight with which such a statement is given.

Part of the reason the movie works is that the technology now exists to render the scope and scale of Herbert’s intergalactic vision with little to no notable compromises (visually speaking, at least). Equally impressive and terrifying are the mammoth sand worms in their achievement here. Dragonfly-type ornithopters, a design I found too silly to seriously render in a movie, is now one of my favorite sci-fi ship designs. The look and tone of this world’s aesthetic is crafted in such a way that it both draws on the now-familiar elements while presenting them in a way that communicates the immense scale at play. Epic is a word. which is often used, but there is an undeniable grandeur here that makes this world alive and overwhelming in its size. There is a heated debate to be had about the ritual of going to the movies and whether or not this is the “purest” way to see a movie. I won’t stray from my feelings on this (somewhat) complicated question, but suffice it to say that Villaneuve’s film amply makes the point that some films just need to be seen on as large a screen as possible.

More miraculously, however, is how Villaneuve and co-writers Joe Roth and Jon Spaights managed to condense an overwhelming amount of lore, world-building, character development, religion, and history into one. movie whose running time is shorter than the most recent. James Bond film. Granted, as I said earlier, this is clearly only the first half of the story. And much of that tradition, of world-building, of character development and of religion, has either been cut off, put aside, or otherwise glossed over. And even Dune: part one never feels incomplete or that essential hardware is downright missing. It never feels like a stunted or restricted movie. For example, there is a wealth of information left out about the Bene Gesserit, an intergalactic coven of all-female theologian spy nuns who use political and cultural manipulation to pursue their goal of paving the way for a so-called elected official. . Villaneuve gives us a taste of who the Bene Gesserit are, but leaves much of their existence and purpose in the shadows, both metaphorically and literally. And yet, that only adds to the intrigue. It’s a choice that adds an unexpected layer of texture to the film instead of hampering the building of the world. Choices like this are found everywhere and while it will take some more ground in Part 2 with the more streamlined nature of Part 1, Villaneuve’s choices so far have proven to be so correct that I have a complete confidence that he will manage to hold the landing.

However, it’s the casting that in some ways seems to be the most miraculous achievement. Special effects can create literally anything now, but a big part of what makes Dune so unique is the internalized nature of his narrative. The story is often told through a character’s internal monologue. There are long sequences without dialogue. For Dune to work on screen without feeling long or awkward, it requires a cast that not only believes and believes in the material, but it requires many of them to emotionally project themselves in ways few movies seem to demand of our. days. Fortunately, they can.

Oscar Isaac’s Duke Leto Atreides strikes the perfect balance as a loyal leader with vision and purpose, while still having a compassionate side that he is more than able to reveal to his son when he has it most. need. Lady Jessica is a woman caught between her religious devotion and the desire to protect her son, and Rebecca Ferguson’s performance skillfully finds equal moments of almost crippling fear and unwavering strength. However, it is Timothée Chalamet in their son, Paul, who anchors the whole affair and around whom the whole story revolves. Chalamet gave strong performances, and I had doubts as to how strong this young man who seems so vaporous and elvish in appearance would (or even could) actually be. But Chalamet accomplishes what is most needed here by relying heavily on the uncertainty that plagues Paul’s journey and delivers a character who is naturally in conflict over his place in the universe (literally and metaphorically) but who is everything. likewise constrained by circumstances to grow beyond himself into something more. This conflict and this growth are in his stature, his position, his eyes. It’s the internalized character of Herbert’s pages made flesh in a way that I didn’t think was entirely possible.

With that said, my favorite performance by far was Jason Momoa as Paul’s friend, trainer and big brother Duncan Idaho (Herbert had a way with names, for better or for worse, that haven’t yet been released. matched). All I’m asking is Momoa be allowed to play all the roles of “super manly big brother who probably does extreme sports and is incredibly more handsome than you but still loves you and just wants you to make it happen. your full potential “in every movie out here.

And while the film inevitably lands on a cliffhanger, it still manages to feel like a natural stopping point. We have reached an important turning point in Paul’s life and where things will literally change the entire known galaxy. Fortunately, the second part has already been given the green light, so now begins the excruciating wait for Villaneuve and company to conclude this spectacular vision. I have full confidence in them in the best possible way.

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