Dune: Film Review

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

I’m a huge fan of Denis Villeneuve, Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya and Jason Momoa (and basically everyone else in this cast) so naturally, I was keen to see Dune, even if the trailers never got me hyped.

This sci-fi epic, part one of a planned two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel of the same name, follows the noble House Atreides – Duke Leto (Isaac), his concubine Lady Jessica (Ferguson) and their son Paul (Chalamet) – as they are awarded the stewardship of the dangerous desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the valuable drug spice, which can give people powers and extend human life. House Harkonnen, led by Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard), the former steward of Arrakis, is outraged with this decision and mounts an attack against House Atreides.

First things first – make sure you watch Dune on the big screen. It is a stunning visual spectacle and a jaw-dropping cinematic experience that has gorgeous cinematography and feels so epic in terms of scope and scale. It’s also a filmmaking feat, given that the majority of it was shot in the harsh desert conditions of Jordan and the UAE. Hats off to Villeneuve for taking on the ambitious and almost impossible task of bringing Herbert’s complex novel to life and making it into an accessible film that is easy enough for newcomers like me, who haven’t read the book, to understand.

The film is super overwhelming at the start as the world-building is complicated and there are so many new characters, words, places and concepts to wrap your head around. It took a while for me to get into it as I was thrown in the deep end and I found myself actively trying to remember everything, thinking it might be important going forward. People who have read the book or seen the previous film adaptation probably won’t have this issue, but to my fellow newcomers, don’t worry – I think it’s presented in quite a digestible way that won’t spoil your enjoyment of the film.

While I could appreciate that this is an amazing piece of cinema, I was never truly invested in the story. I never got swept up in it, felt like I had a character to truly root for, or had any emotional or visceral response when bad things happened. I don’t want to spoil anything but there’s a point in Dune where it becomes a different kind of film and it starts to drag. The movie is also epic in terms of length – 2 hours and 35 minutes – but there’s a lot to pack in so it only starts to feel that long after this point. However, I know that this was done so the film could get to a logical halfway point to conclude part one and tease part two.

It’s an embarrassment of riches in terms of the calibre of actors Villeneuve has assembled for Dune. Chalamet does well as a young boy who is conflicted, vulnerable and with a tremendous responsibility on his shoulders – not only is he expected to succeed his father as ruler but he is learning his mother’s mind powers. Momoa has a warm and friendly personality as Duncan Idaho (who also gets some cool fights) and Skarsgard was suitably vile and disgusting as the Baron. Zendaya and Javier Bardem were fine as Chani and Stilgar, the Fremen, the people native to Arrakis. They don’t have much screen time but this looks set to change in part two.

My favourite was Ferguson, she brought a really interesting dimension to the story as a member of the Bene Gisseret, a sisterhood of women with mind powers. I loved that she had so much hidden power and was more dangerous than her husband and all his physically strong men. She is also deeply worried about the visions she’s seen and how Paul is coping with his training so she’s really in touch with her emotions, much more so than any other character.

Dune is an impressive piece of filmmaking and one that needs to be witnessed at the cinema. I never really warmed to the story but I loved the cast, the cinematography and Hans Zimmer‘s score.

In cinemas from Thursday 21st October

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Addams Family 2: Film Review

Courtesy of Universal

As the spooky season is now upon us, it’s time for the influx of Halloween-themed movies to begin! First up, it’s The Addams Family sequel.

As Wednesday (voiced by Chloe Grace Moretz) is seeming more down and despondent than usual, Gomez (Oscar Isaac) proposes that they go on on a three-week family holiday across America, beginning in Salem and ending in Death Valley. Naturally, the trip doesn’t go smoothly as they are being followed by a man who claims Wednesday was switched at birth and isn’t an Addams, while Uncle Fester (voiced by Nick Kroll) is slowly morphing into an octopus following a botched science experiment.

Although this sequel feels as unnecessary as it is, it was nice to revisit these characters once again – especially Lurch (voiced by co-director Conrad Vernon) and Cousin Itt (Snoop Dogg) – and it was still plenty of fun. The comedy isn’t quite on par with the first one – I certainly laughed less – but there is still a lot of silly hijinks to keep kids entertained and jokes for the adults too. I felt the attention in the cinema screening starting to dip as the film approached the final act but it brings it back with a wild monster battle. I certainly preferred the story in the first one and the fact that it was largely set in their wickedly weird house.

Much like the first film, this sequel has a stellar soundtrack filled with contemporary bops, rap and the surprising use of Motorhead’s Ace of Spades. We also get a random but delightful musical number courtesy of Lurch, who takes on Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive to hilarious effect.

I’m not particularly taken with the animation style either, I think the characters look ugly – especially Pugsley, Gomez and Fester – and it’s not all that pleasing to the eye. I know their proportions have been exaggerated for comedy value but Pugsley (voiced by Javon Walton, who replaces Finn Wolfhard) just looks so unwell!

The majority of the voice cast from the 2019 film return and they do a solid job bringing the characters to life. Just like before, you might be unable to pinpoint who voices the characters as hardly any of them speak like themselves. Isaac gives his voice a Hispanic flair for Gomez, Moretz drags her sentences out and speaks slowly and quietly, like it’s an effort, as Wednesday and Charlize Theron goes for something quite different as Morticia.

The Addams Family 2 is unnecessary and nowhere near as entertaining as the previous film but children should still find it an enjoyable watch.

In cinemas from Friday 8th October

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

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