Denis Villeneuve’s doom-laden, dynamite ‘Dune’

Cool wind blows through the sands "Dune", Denis Villeneuve’s majestic, chilly adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science-fiction novel.

Denis Villeneuve’s doom-laden, dynamite ‘Dune’

Cool wind blows through the sands "Dune", Denis Villeneuve’s majestic, chilly adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science-fiction novel.

Villeneuve's film, hot as it is on Arrakis (the desert planet that attracts the most powerful interests in the universe to its mineral-rich, but inhospitable, sands), is a slow burn. The "Dune", a cool-headed colossus, builds a huge, brutalist architecture of otherworldly sci-fiction to create a large-screen spectacle of thundering splendor.

It's cool to the touch. Villeneuve is more skilled at creating atmospheric exteriors than interiors. His specialty is in muted monochrome colors, rich textures, and deep sonic soundscapes. This is a familiar trait in the deep shadows in "Sicario", "Arrival", and "Blade Runner 2049". It invokes a serious ominousness.

"Dune" is therefore a darker trip into the desert than "Mad Max Fury Road." But instead of Peter O'Toole with his fiery blue eyes taking control of Aqaba, Timothee Chalamet could seize power on Arrakis. It is. It is. Another.

Herbert's opus was born out of the Cold War, dawning environmental dread and a cottage industry. However, it has made little progress into mainstream culture. David Lynch's 1984 film, which he himself disowned, was not a success. This second attempt to make "Dune" a big-screen success is the version that debuts in theaters on Thursday night and on HBO Max. Given the number of entries in the book series "Dune" could just about as easily be made into a wide-screen event as the Arrakis spice sands. "Dune," optimistically called "Part One", adapts only the first half the 1965 book.

The film's most obvious fault is its inability to reach a climax. Instead, it fades into the dunes. This didn't bother me as much. I was moved enough to hope that "Dune", which is well worth seeing in theaters over at home, does well enough for a second part.

Villeneuve has simplified the book using a script written by Jon Spaihts, Eric Roth and Villeneuve. Although it has reduced some of the novel's eccentricities and made the book more coherent, it also makes for an ambitious epic. Here, "Dune", an operatic parable about power and exploitation has an ecological resonance that is only growing more relevant.

Chalamet portrays Paul with a princely feeling of destiny. His father, Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), is the head of House Atreides. This is one of many governing fiefdoms. The fascist House Harkonnen has been harvesting Arrakis' spice, which allows interstellar travel and other mind-expanding abilities, for a long time. Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is the overseer. Stellan Skarsgard plays him, with nods to Marlon brando in "Apocalypse Now". Unknown reasons led to a switcheroo.

However, harvesting spice can be difficult. It can be oppressively hot. There are mammoth Sandworms. The local Fremen, including Zendaya's Chani, resent their "outsider" masters. Leto wants to start a friendship with the Freman, but soon finds that their operation is sabotaged at each step. When things get violent, the attention turns to Paul who was trained in swordplay (Josh Brolin), and mentored in "the Way" by Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson). This mysterious mind-controlling power is what keeps Leto from falling apart. He could be a prophetic savior, according to the Freman. However, it is not clear if "Dune" will alter the white savior setup. We will have to wait for a sequel.

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