‘Dune’: Early Reviews Call Denis Villeneuve’s Film Both Brilliant and Disappointing
Art and Experience:
The first reviews for Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” are in, and the reactions are split. Ravenous sci-fi fanatics waited with bated breath as cast members Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson and Javier Bardem walked down the Venice Film Festival red carpet before the first-ever screening on Friday.
After being delayed for more than a year, the Frank Herbert adaptation was finally unleashed to a small crowd of festival-goers, journalists and critics. What did the first critics to lay eyes on the latest version of the sandworm have to say? Does the spice flow for “Dune”?
So far, critics are excited about the scope and scale of the feature, but don’t seem convinced that Villeneuve stuck the landing story-wise.
Here’s a roundup of reactions:
Gleiberman wrote that “Dune” is “spectacular and engrossing … until it isn’t.”
“Here’s one useful definition of a great sci-fi fantasy film. It’s one in which the world-building is awesome but not more essential than the storytelling. In the first two ‘Star Wars’ films, those dynamics were in perfect sync; they were, as well, in ‘The Dark Knight’ and the ‘Mad Max’ films. ‘Blade Runner,’ in its way, is an amazing movie, but its world-building packs more punch than its transcendental neo-noir noodlings. Viewed in that light, ‘Dune’ is a movie that earns five stars for world-building and about two-and-a-half for storytelling.”
Ehrlich had a slightly colder take, calling hype “the mind-killer” and tweeting that the pic was a “massive disappointment.”
“For all of Villeneuve’s awe-inducing vision, he loses sight of why Frank Herbert’s foundational sci-fi opus is worthy of this epic spectacle in the first place. Such are the pitfalls of making a movie so large that not even its director can see around the sets.”
Collura was also let down by the second act of “Dune.”
“This is a technically brilliant, visually amazing movie with a top-notch cast and deep sci-fi concepts. A shame, then, that it feels like a drag in its back half.”
Lawson hoped that the new movie would be a chance to re-set “Dune” from it’s much-maligned, former film adaptation. According to him, it was not.
“With ‘Dune,’ Villeneuve has the chance to right the wrongs of David Lynch’s 1984 misfire (a misfire according to some, anyway) and truly honor Herbert’s text. But Villenueve can’t help but lacquer it all up into something hyper polished and hard to the touch. Even ‘Arrival,’ his most successful big-budget film, groans under the tremendous onus of his construction. He’s an overloader, and only the keenest and most urgent of scripts can survive beneath that weight. ‘Dune,’ unfortunately, is not one of those. Maybe the source material, with its unending glossary of terms describing places, peoples, religious traditions, and political systems, is just too dense to hone into something cinematically agile. Villeneuve’s film is somehow plodding and hurried at once, flurries of exposition and table-setting ringing around set-piece monoliths.”
That’s not to say the reviews were overwhelmingly negative. Empire’s Travis seemed truly thrilled by the ride and is hoping for a sequel.
“An absorbing, awe-inspiringly huge adaptation of (half of) Frank Herbert’s novel that will wow existing acolytes, and get newcomers hooked on its Spice-fuelled visions. If Part Two never happens, it’ll be a travesty.”
Loughrey found lots to love in the new adaptation, tweeting that “‘Dune’ absolutely fucking slaps.”
“Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ is the sandworm exploding out from the darkness below. It is a film of such literal and emotional largeness that it overwhelms the senses. If all goes well, it should reinvigorate the book’s legacy in the same way Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy did for JRR Tolkien’s work.”
Meanwhile, the social media takes were overwhelmingly positive:
Denis Villeneuve’s #Dune is made for the fans, without feeling purely like fan-service. Go for the stunning visuals and the heartfelt performances by Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson & Oscar Isaac. And worth noting — Jason Momoa steals every scene as Duncan Idaho, what a star.
— Angelique Jackson (@angelique814) September 3, 2021
.@dunemovie is spectacular. Denis Villeneuve has crafted a visual masterpiece. Greig Fraser’s cinematography is a sight to be seen,simply gorgeous. You can’t take your eyes off the screen. Timothée Chalamet is outstanding. Don’t be surprised by a crafts sweep pic.twitter.com/MDUAWDs3GF
— Jazz Tangcay (@jazzt) September 3, 2021
#Dune is fantastic. I went in knowing nothing and was completely hypnotized by the strange world. It’s thrilling and emotionally authentic and, I don’t know, it was 8:15AM in Italy and I was overtired and three espressos in, but I even cried?
— Lindsey Bahr (@ldbahr) September 3, 2021
#Dune is a visual spectacle. A new world is born for people like me, with no knowledge of the source material, and an achievement by Denis Villeneuve. Suspect Oscar noms in every tech category, director, picture. It opens with title card DUNE PART ONE. We better get PART TWO. pic.twitter.com/SkwjJCTlBo
— Clayton Davis (@ByClaytonDavis) September 3, 2021
I’ve watched #Dune & it’s among the most immersive moviegoing experiences I’ve ever had w/ a sci-fi film. There is masterful filmmaking on display here. When paired w/ its big, monstrous sound, the film wondrously transports you to a new, exciting, horrific yet beautiful world pic.twitter.com/Z0oNUJbiNE
— Erik Davis (@ErikDavis) September 3, 2021
#Dune is a cinematic thunderclap. Maybe my favorite film of the year.
Denis Villeneuve & co. created a phenomenal adaptation of Herbert’s work. It feels alien in the way the best sci-fi does and balances visceral violence and cruelty with resilience and hope. An absolute banger. pic.twitter.com/TIJ6qHaHWD
— Dan Casey (@DanCasey) September 3, 2021