The Dune saga offers itself a new foray on the big screen. A major challenge for the maker of images Denis Villeneuve, who had already tackled another monument of science fiction with Blade Runner 2049. Did the artist conceive his most masterful work with Dune? Critical.
Denis Villeneuve was expected at the turn, and that’s an understatement. Since David Lynch’s film, which has become a nostalgic work for many, the Dune saga has been deemed unsuitable by film buffs and readers of the novelist. It is therefore with great courage, and undoubtedly as much madness, that the director of First contact decided to tackle this monument of science fiction. A sizeable challenge for the filmmaker who did not skimp on the financial and creative resources to give birth to his project. In fact, it is estimated that 165 million the budget of the movie. The story of Paul Atréides therefore aims to seduce a large audience and to establish itself as the juggernaut of this cinematographic re-entry. It is with a canvas far from being white that Denis Villeneuve must compose, between heritage and novelty.
The plot begins on the planet Caladan, with its marine and misty landscapes. Paul Atréides, a young man as gifted as he was brilliant, is doomed to experience an extraordinary destiny that is beyond him. He will have to travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe, the only one able to provide the most precious resource in the world: the spice. But as evil forces vie for control of the planet, Paul is going to have to embrace his destiny and change the world forever.
Between contemplation and political plots
The universe is rich and the first few minutes are used above all to paint a picture of futuristic society and its political issues. With ease, the intrigue written with six hands by Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth and John Spaihts explores the mazes of Space opera and lays the foundations of an epic that already promises to be epic and masterful. The story, much less didactic than one might imagine, pays homage to all the subtlety of the work from which it is adapted. Almost organic, the plot is as political as it is poetic and benefits from the subtle line of Denis Villeneuve for the characterization of the characters.
In some ways it’s a bit like Star wars met Game Of Thrones. The story takes on a new dimension under the writers’ pen, and is invested with an ecological, social and almost philosophical message. These messages serve as a varnish for the miraculous painting that is Dune. Well put together, the various acts of this first chapter adopt a sluggish narrative welcome and go against the grain of what the genre has been offering us for several years. Here, no fight to keep the attention of the public, it is the heroes who captivate us. This initiatory story is ambitious, visceral and will leave no one unmoved.
Beyond the strength of the story, it is above all the visual richness of Denis Villeneuve’s feature film that leaves us with lasting memories. Like a painter, the filmmaker paints a picture between realism and dreamlike nature of the planet Dune and its expanses of sand. Everything in Denis Villeneuve’s film is art and his innate sense of framing and staging are not foreign. Far from the steampunk inspirations of Blade runner, which were no less grandiose, Dune benefits from the inventiveness of the filmmaker who brilliantly immortalizes the internal conflicts of the protagonists and the breathtaking landscapes of the planet Arrakis. Under an almost divine light, the footage takes on its full extent and turns into a succession of portraits and inspired landscapes, far from being just the outline of a masterpiece.
This universe also sometimes leaves room for millimeter battles and sound and light shows. Denis Villeneuve offers his characters the space to move in front of his camera, even during clinch scenes. Rather than cutting out his work at random, the filmmaker prefers to give his actors freedom of movement to invest the frame and play with scale relationships. The editing is efficient and never frantic. A perfect tempo for a work to be savored.
Craftsmen of dreams
In front of the camera, Dune calls on monuments of the 7th art and emerging talents. Zendaya, the incredible Street in Euphoria for example gives the reply to Javier Barden, who is no longer presented. All these little people play a symphonic score of rare accuracy and much more taciturn than one might think. Each word is expertly thought out and the melody of the dialogues sounds sweet to our ears. No big monologues or explanatory speeches, Villeneuve does less to do better.
Finally, it should be noted that the performance of Timothée Chalamet is up to the challenge. After having largely conquered the public in Call me by your name, the young actor makes a new demonstration of his talent of incarnation, with a rich palette of emotions and a certain talent for the verb. He gives the answer to many other talented actors, like Josh Brolin, impeccable in the skin of the fencing master or Oscar Isaac, who gives up his role of joking pilot in Star wars vii to play as Duke Leto Astreides. Stellan Skarsgard also delivers a performance as chilling as it is majestic in the skin of Baron Harkonnen.
Hans Zimmer’s symphony
He is a composer that we no longer present. After having worked on the score ofInception or The Dark Kight, the musician undoubtedly signs his greatest creation here. The music, which accompanies the story with accuracy, mixes its inspirations and will draw as much from the side of tribal music as more electric compositions. Sometimes thunderous, sometimes dreamlike, the original music of Hans Zimmer participates in the waking dream that is this first opus of Dune. If he has not always paid tribute to the footage he was setting to music, the composer here demonstrates many dazzles that we will devour without displeasure when the original music is made available everywhere on streaming platforms.
Dune is ultimately a masterpiece for the artist Denis Villeneuve, who has managed to combine the sacred character of the work with his acute taste for staging. History, this adaptation of the novels of Frank Herbert is at the same time all that one could expect, and all that one did not expect, only for the best. It remains to be hoped that success will be at the rendezvous for Dune, of which the second opus is not yet assured. If the director is optimistic, the receipts will have to live up to Warner Bros’ expectations, otherwise this ambitious saga will remain unfinished.