Monday, January 30, 2023

‘Dune’: Early Reviews Call Denis Villeneuve’s Film Both Brilliant and Disappointing

The first reviews for Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” are in, and the reactions are split. Ravenous sci-fi fanatics waited with bated breath as cast members Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson and Javier Bardem walked down the Venice Film Festival red carpet before the first-ever screening on Friday.

After being delayed for more than a year, the Frank Herbert adaptation was finally unleashed to a small crowd of festival-goers, journalists and critics. What did the first critics to lay eyes on the latest version of the sandworm have to say? Does the spice flow for “Dune”?

So far, critics are excited about the scope and scale of the feature, but don’t seem convinced that Villeneuve stuck the landing story-wise.

Here’s a roundup of reactions:

Variety: Owen Gleiberman

Glieberman wrote that “Dune” is “spectacular and engrossing … until it isn’t.”

“Here’s one useful definition of a great sci-fi fantasy film. It’s one in which the world-building is awesome but not more essential than the storytelling. In the first two ‘Star Wars’ films, those dynamics were in perfect sync; they were, as well, in ‘The Dark Knight’ and the ‘Mad Max’ films. ‘Blade Runner,’ in its way, is an amazing movie, but its world-building packs more punch than its transcendental neo-noir noodlings. Viewed in that light, ‘Dune’ is a movie that earns five stars for world-building and about two-and-a-half for storytelling.”

Indiewire: David Ehrlich

Ehrlich had a slightly colder take, calling hype “the mind-killer” and tweeting that the pic was a “massive disappointment.”

“For all of Villeneuve’s awe-inducing vision, he loses sight of why Frank Herbert’s foundational sci-fi opus is worthy of this epic spectacle in the first place. Such are the pitfalls of making a movie so large that not even its director can see around the sets.”

IGN: Scott Collura

Collura was also let down by the second act of “Dune.”

“This is a technically brilliant, visually amazing movie with a top-notch cast and deep sci-fi concepts. A shame, then, that it feels like a drag in its back half.”

Vanity Fair: Richard Lawson

Lawson hoped that the new movie would be a chance to re-set “Dune” from it’s much-maligned, former film adaptation. According to him, it was not.

“With ‘Dune,’ Villeneuve has the chance to right the wrongs of David Lynch’s 1984 misfire (a misfire according to some, anyway) and truly honor Herbert’s text. But Villenueve can’t help but lacquer it all up into something hyper polished and hard to the touch. Even ‘Arrival,’ his most successful big-budget film, groans under the tremendous onus of his construction. He’s an overloader, and only the keenest and most urgent of scripts can survive beneath that weight. ‘Dune,’ unfortunately, is not one of those. Maybe the source material, with its unending glossary of terms describing places, peoples, religious traditions, and political systems, is just too dense to hone into something cinematically agile. Villeneuve’s film is somehow plodding and hurried at once, flurries of exposition and table-setting ringing around set-piece monoliths.”

Empire: Ben Travis

That’s not to say the reviews were overwhelmingly negative; Travis seemed truly thrilled by the ride and is hoping for a sequel.

“An absorbing, awe-inspiringly huge adaptation of (half of) Frank Herbert’s novel that will wow existing acolytes, and get newcomers hooked on its Spice-fuelled visions. If Part Two never happens, it’ll be a travesty.”

The Independent: Clarisse Loughrey

Loughrey found lots to love in the new adaptation, tweeting that “‘Dune’ absolutely fucking slaps.”

“Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ is the sandworm exploding out from the darkness below. It is a film of such literal and emotional largeness that it overwhelms the senses. If all goes well, it should reinvigorate the book’s legacy in the same way Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy did for JRR Tolkien’s work.”

Meanwhile, the social media takes were overwhelmingly positive:


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