With stars like Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac and Zendaya, the epic is top-class. The Germans Gerd Nefzer and Hans Zimmer are also involved. So far, however, many film adaptations of the material have failed.
[Berlin -] The film adaptation of “Dune” has not had a good star so far. Frank Herbert published his groundbreaking epic “The Desert Planet” in the 1960s, which sold over twelve million times worldwide. But since then several directors have tried to film the science fiction material – almost all of them failed.
A project by Ridley Scott, for example, never even came about, just like a film in the 70s in which Salvador Dalí, Mick Jagger, Pink Floyd and HR Giger were supposed to be involved. Director David Lynch created the first feature film in 1984 with “Der Wüstenplanet”, but it flopped spectacularly at the box office.
Now the Canadian Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049”) dares to use the template and presents a multi-million dollar blockbuster with an impressive star cast.
The focus here is the desert planet Arrakis, also known as the Dune. Only there is the valuable substance spice to be found in 10191. Because of this, the planet has been exploited by other forces in the galaxy for a long time and its inhabitants, the Fremen, have been suppressed. The story of “Dune” begins when Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) receives the order from the Emperor to take over the mining on Dune.
Together with his son Paul (Timothée Chalamet) and his mother (Rebecca Ferguson) he travels to the desert planet. He hopes for a peaceful cooperation with the Fremen, but soon realizes that he is the emperor’s plaything and has landed in the middle of a power struggle with other rulers like Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård). The Atreides family is attacked and the desert city is in ruins.
Strong pictures, big budget
There are imposing fight and action scenes staged by director Villeneuve. Together with the German special effects artist Gerd Nefzer, who has already won an Oscar for “Blade Runner 2049”, he is creating his own fascinating world. Every shot shows how big the budget was for this film: Airplanes that are reminiscent of metal hornets, fireballs that fall from the sky, gigantic sandworms that emerge from the desert, armies that compete in futuristic gear against each other – can be much more powerful you probably can’t bring something like that to the big screen. Everything is underlaid with threatening music by the German composer Hans Zimmer.
But “Dune” is not just action and spectacle cinema with the classic fight between good and evil. In around two and a half hours, Villeneuve repeatedly builds in subtext and space for interpretation. So it is certainly no coincidence that the Fremen wear clothes like people in the Arab world. It’s about greed and exploitation, imperialism, oppression and rebellion.
The young Paul has a special role: As heir to the throne, he has to find his own way, trust his talents and thus become a bearer of hope for a peaceful future. The 25-year-old Chalamet embodies this perfectly – as a slight and underrated son as well as an intrepid fighter.
Villeneuve makes the canvas tremble
Villeneuve has achieved a rare feat: his “Dune” is blockbuster cinema in the best sense of the word, it makes the screen shake and is worth every euro on the ticket. But fans of art house cinema will also get their money’s worth, “Dune” is cleverly told and can certainly make you think.
“This is just the beginning,” says the young Fremen fighter Chani (Zendaya) shortly before the end of the film. Because that is also clear: this work is designed as the prelude to a multi-part series like “Star Wars”. Villeneuve wants to tell at least one more film from this universe. But whether he succeeds and his “Dune” fails in the same way as its predecessor? That will probably be decided at the box office in the next few weeks.
Dune, USA 2021, 155 min., FSK oA, by Denis Villeneuve, with Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Zendaya, Javier Bardem, Charlotte Rampling [dpa]