Tiger at The Theater – Dune

BY RICARDO LUJAN JR

Dune (2021) is the latest Warner Brother film to hit theaters after being delayed from its initial release due to the COVID-19 pandemic. How well does the highly anticipated adaption of the book do? Time to find out.

Story

Dune is based on a book of the same title by Frank Herbert. The story follows the House Atreides as they accept control of a dangerous planet Arrakis which stores ‘ the spice ‘ – the most valuable substance of the universe – and now must deal with what to do with the planet.

The Arrakis situation is the main plotline of the movie while the story of the main protagonist Paul Atreides (played by Timothee Chalamet) is the B plotline. Both of the plotlines in the film hold the viewer’s interest greatly. The main plotline of Arrakis’s acquisition by the Atreides House is primarily a political tone as it deals with the spice supply and opposition to the acquisition.

Oscar Issac takes the role of the head of the Atreides House, Duke Leto Atreides, and he does a wonderful job with the role. Despite how well Oscar handled this role, he did not have the best performance in this movie – that is reserved for Chalamet’s portrayal of Paul.

Paul’s storyline in the film is mainly set up for a possible sequel that the movie is hoping for. Many of the best scenes in Dune come from the result of Chalamet’s acting prowess, which further stands out in a cast full of A-list stars.

The range of emotions Chalamet realistically exhibits in his plotline helps the viewer connect with the protagonist in the best way possible. The best part of Dune is the growth that Paul goes through and the difference in his character from the beginning to the end. It is almost as beautiful as the cinematography itself.

The story as a whole does come to a rather abrupt end. This is because this movie is an incomplete product. It is based on a book and it needs a sequel to pay off many things that were set up but did not have time to come to fruition.

Dune would need to be a four-to-five-hour-long movie to complete its story. The choice to cut the story into two movies is frustrating and hurts this film leaving an unsatisfactory feeling as a viewer. In the future, if the sequel does get greenlit and released, Dune (2021) is a perfect lead-up to the sequel.

 Design

Dune is a beautiful-looking movie and every single shot has a sense of spectacle within it. One of the most important aspects that help Dune look so good is the lighting. The lighting truly helps this movie pop which is necessary due to the dull color palette of browns and grays that are present in the setting. 

Despite the drab color pallet the movie presents, it does serve a nice function as each location have their signature color that takes up the entire scenery. This helps the viewer quickly recognize the location change to help avoid confusion.

In the house of Atreides, if it were not for the way scenes are lit in those portions, they would have looked ugly and unappealing which would drag down some of the most important scenes of the movie that happen in the House itself as the soundtrack did.

The soundtrack or score of this movie was for the most part fitting. It sets the atmosphere especially during the scene of Paul’s storyline as it has a mysterious tone which a lot of the credit can go toward the soundtrack for giving that feeling. The major flaw in the soundtrack is the random usage of lamentation music, which comes out of nowhere and derails the mood at times.

There is one scene in particular near the beginning of the film that the lamentation music derails the direction the scene was going in. The film would have been much better off not using the lamentation music or at the least, changing where it was played.

The outfits for all of the characters in the film are done very well. Both Houses Atreides and Harkonnen each have a distinct style to themselves. The House Atreides signature color of black and simplistic royal clothing help cement the feeling of royalty and power.

The battle garments of all the factions in the movie look great in their design and structure. The only issue with these outfits is the drab color pallet again. All of the battle/terrain suits are either gray, light gray, or dark gray. This can lead to some confusion during fights as to who is who. The fights in Dune are a weakness of the film itself.

Combat

Combat is a mixed bag of good and bad. The style of close combat that is used is unique and looks cool to see. The choreography is not the main issue with the combat. It’s the impact and sound design. In the film, there is a defensive piece of armor that is equipped by the characters that have a glowing blue glitch effect when protecting from attacks and a glowing red glitch effect when a fatal attack is landed or close to landing.

These color indicators end up becoming the primary tell as to what is happening in fights. The sounds of the weapons, fists or anything that is used to fight have no impact to hit. If it was not for the color indicators, the viewer would be lost in trying to figure out what is happening. With the loss of sound, the impact of hits is greatly lowered as well.

It does not look like the characters are getting hit. Without it, all the viewer sees is the stunt performers going through their routine and falling when needed. It truly is a shame to see this inventive choreography and combat style be ruined by an artistic choice with the defensive shields and lack of impactful sound design.

Conclusion

Despite a couple of shortcomings, Dune (2021) is a great film. The story is interesting and capable of keeping the audience enthralled. The design of the characters and the environment look beautiful with the added addition of almost perfect shot selection in the cinematography. At this point, Dune is still an incomplete project, but still worthy of a watch. The book is available to read to get the full story after watching the movie. Dune is currently playing at the Hays AMC Theater and streaming on HBO Max on the platform’s ad-free plan. 

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