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Hollywood's latest blockbuster 'Dune' is definitely worth watching

Generation Z's cultural icon Timothée Chalamet brings a unique edge to protagonist Paul Atreides in the sci-fi film "Dune."  – Photo by Dune Movie / Instagram

There’s a sense of immensity that permeates each frame and piece of dialogue of Denis Villeneuve’s "Dune." A film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 epic science fiction novel, "Dune” is anticipated to be the film that rectifies the turbulent relationship between Herbert’s novel and failed silver screen adaptations after more than three decades.

An intergalactic take on the hero’s journey, "Dune" is set in the year 10191 and tells the story of a gifted young man named Paul Atreides (played by Timothée Chalamet) whose family inherits the responsibility of a dangerous planet that houses a mysterious drug and natural resource called "spice."

For a novel that's universally heralded as the holy grail of science fiction novels and has inspired the conception of the “Star Wars” saga, bringing the herculean nature of Herbert’s story on film seemed like an impossible task for even the best filmmakers.

A litmus test for both legendary director Denis Villeneuve and the film’s leading man, Chalamet, "Dune" marks a creative partnership between the two artists that gives us a once-in-a-generation film that theaters were made for.

For an adapted screenplay that's supposed to condense a storyline of five books that boldly tackle themes of religion, messiah figures, environmentalism, power and violence, "Dune" is an operatic space tale that excels at immersing viewers in a mostly comprehensible world while retaining the essence of Herbert’s vision.

Rather than take the impractical approach of telling the entirety of the series in a single film, “Dune” is marketed as “Dune: Part One,” with Villeneuve dedicating this film to the first half of the first novel.

Weaving the fabric between the endless societies and factions that inhabit the film’s vast universe is a tightly knit narrative centering around House Atreides, led by patriarch Duke Leto (the supremely talented Oscar Isaac) and his concubine, Lady Jessica (played by “Mission: Impossible” star Rebecca Ferguson).

Their son, Paul, is an empathetic and pensive prince, anxious about the responsibility that comes with navigating the political arena as an Atreides heir and absorbing the teachings of his mother.

While Leto runs their home planet of Caladan and is the head of one of the few wealthy families that control countless worlds and their people, Jessica guides Paul in the way of the Bene Gesserit — a secret organization dedicated to preserving humanity.

When Leto knowingly accepts an ominous proposal to control the unforgiving and inhospitable desert of Arrakis, Paul must come to terms with puzzling visions of his destiny as the Kwisatz Haderach (or Lisan al Gaib), a chosen one that will guide the world into a new era.

While the screenplay by Villeneuve, Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts doesn’t present the exposition of the film in the most digestible way (I’d read this guide before viewing) and knowing that this film is a setup for a sequel that may or may not materialize (making it feel incomplete), “Dune” is a magnificent achievement in storytelling.

And who better to helm this project than a man whose craft has cemented him as one of the greatest filmmakers of our time? Villeneuve began storyboarding “Dune" as a teenager, dreaming of making this film his whole life, and his infectious passion is palpable. 

Cinematographer Greig Fraiser and Villeneuve jointly paint a visual of an epic scale that rivals and parallels films like “The Lord of the Rings,” lending “Dune” a technical brilliance that’s rare in cinema today.

Every single shot is more visually engrossing and jaw-dropping than the last, and you’ll struggle to comprehend the enormity of it all. I was lucky enough to witness this on the biggest IMAX screen in the country (six stories high), and each scene of the film felt like a trance that physically shrinks your existence.

The many sequences of Paul’s visions of the future and of Chani (played by Zendaya) give the film its greatest moments, and even the smallest things feel larger than life — the grassy plains and spaceships of Caladan to the deadly skyscraper-sized sandworms, which hide in the sand dunes of Arrakis — it’s breathtaking to experience.

Combine the ethereal cinematography with one of Hans Zimmer’s greatest soundtracks and the immersive sound design that vibrates your entire being and “Dune” serves as an otherworldly feeling rather than a casual movie experience. Regardless of the format you see it in, I’d caution against seeing this on HBO Max because “Dune” is too big to be contained by our TV screens.

The performances, additionally, are simply outstanding. While Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista, Zendaya and Stellan Skarsgård are perfectly magnetic and commanding in their roles, the cohort of talented actors is only on screen for a short period of time (with Zendaya to be a lead in the sequel).

“Dune” primarily stands on the shoulders of heartthrob Chalamet (leading his first major studio film) and Ferguson. While I’m not the biggest admirer of Chalamet and found him to be emotionless in the trailers, he effectively proves why he’s considered a potential major movie star and one of the best actors of his generation.

He imbues Paul with the deep intelligence of someone wise beyond his years but who can’t wrap his head around the magnitude of his destiny.

While he’s slightly inconsistent in his performance, there are many sequences where his tremendous emotional range is on full display, and it’s a definitive superstar-making vehicle for him. Alongside the masterful Ferguson, both actors are the heart and soul of “Dune”.

As a standalone film, “Dune” is a cinematic odyssey that will be remembered for decades. For the Avengers-level euphoria surrounding the film, its extraordinary cinematography, hauntingly beautiful score and outstanding performances, it deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Don’t miss it!

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