Dune (2021)

A magnum opus of science-fiction & dystopian odyssey w. indescribable power of experience, DV mysticism, A-performances, 2001-evoke A/V, royalty, world culture, complex themes: heritage, religion, ecology, free will. A New Age LOTR/SW. 9.6/10.

Plot Synopsis: In the year 10191, a spice called melange is the most precious resource in existence – and its only source is the world of Arrakis. A royal decree awards the planet to Duke Leto Atreides and ousts his bitter feudal house enemies, the Harkonnens. Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, must conquer his own fear and work together with the native Fremen to save Arrakis as intergalactic war erupts by the clashing powers.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead; Will Be Marked If So*

Official CLC Review

The World’s Greatest Science-Fiction Novel

Cloud Atlas. Watchmen. Ulysses. Life Of Pi. Gravity’s Rainbow. Lolita. Catch-22. Dune. The Malign Debate Of Film’s Deficiency To Literature, Now Only In Rare ‘Unadaptable’ Novels: Killed By Modern Ciné & Technology

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures

Cloud Atlas. Watchmen. Ulysses. Life Of Pi. Gravity’s Rainbow. Lolita. Catch-22. The prestige of infamously-‘unadaptable’ novels too complex, long, ambitious, or expensive to properly articulate on the big-screen has been used by pundits and cognoscenti for literature over the ages: a [nevertheless-nonsensical] hypothesis on why the dying medium of print & publications remains the best artform. This is nothing new; it’s the same toxic belief mechanization that has stigmatized cinema since its very birth and origins – when Louis Le Prince & Eadweard J. Muybridge created the first motion picture using zoöpraxiscopes and glass discs to settle tavern wagers over the locomotion of animals back in the 1870’s. Opprobriums by maligners were silenced back when 1941’s Citizen Kane elucidated movies as the promised land of artforms: combining music [score], visual arts [cinematography], and literature [screenplay] into a single experience; the best of all worlds. Even 500,000+ movies later in the bloom-evolution Rosebud since catalyzed, bookworms still pugnaciously refuse to revoke the libel and award cinema its earned throne, desperately clutching to the former glory by a rare breed of ‘unadaptable’ translations: perhaps best-exemplified by Dune. Though its VFX were ambitious for the ’80’s and Lynchian iconography lingered on the palate after credits-roll, 1985’s original movie version of Frank Herbert’s 1960’s science-fiction masterpiece was disgraceful – weak performances, ugly aestheticization, lack-of-structure, chaos of screenplay incomprehensibility, and era-doomed technological aptitude. Over 40+ years of S.T.E.M. and cinematic advancements later, though, the world is a vastly-different landscape – one in which we can realize the wildest figments of imagination once never-thought-possible, brutalizing novel-junkies’ one claim-to-fame one-project-at-a-time: from HBO’s 26-Emmy nominated Watchmen to Hulu’s Golden Globe & CCA’d Catch-22 to Fox’s 4x Academy Awarded Life Of Pi… 2021’s Dune may be that final nail in the coffin, and it’s an absolutely glorious win for the movies. A magnum opus of science-fiction, royalty, chess-stratagems, & dystopian odyssey on the notoriously ‘unadaptable’ novel, Dune is one of purest genre pictures ever made and a glorious further-expansion of cinema’s kingdom over literature – indescribable power-of-experience, Villeneuvian mysticism, avant-garde cinematography masterstroke of technical and ocular VFX scale/world-building witchcraft, performances of starpower-catalyzed thespian pedigree led by a once-in-a-generation, new-yet-classic movie-star ascension in a young DiCaprio x McQueen x Eastwood: Timothée Chalamet, diversification of adventure/drama/sci/comedy/romance/fantasy genres & world cultures with spice-metaphorized immigrant exposition, haunting 2001-evocative zawaya Middle-Eastern score of phantasmagoria and pentatonic old-world aestheticization, dark-and-mature tone as the indie kryptonite of its blockbusters, nature panegyric through flipped-worms, beetles, desert, bulls, and dragonfly, & narrative of humanity weaved amongst the stars with themes of complexity/depth: heritage, religion, politics, ecology, greed, identity, colonialism, masculinity, and free-will. The magic of LOTR/SW for a new age by the world the far-away galaxy owes its creation to.

A Craftsman Of The Stars

No Stranger To The Genre Of Galaxies, Velleneuve Has Built A Filmography Of Classics Since 1999’s Un 32 Août Sur Terre – Now, Bringing Life & Signature Mysticism/Scale To Lost Twilight Zone W. 2016’s Arrival, Blade Runner 2049, Dune

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures

Denis Villeneuve is no stranger to the world of science-fiction; in fact, he may be its greatest [modern] patriarch. First catching the world of cinema’s eyes back at the turn-of-the-century when his feature-length directorial debut Un 32 Août Sur Terre won Prix Jutra at Cannes and Academy recognition, the Canadian made a name for himself over the next 20 years with psychological thrillers and dramas ranging Maelström to Polytechnique to Sicario to Prisoners. 2016 saw him first plunge into the stars and depth of galaxy exposition with Arrival, only for his career to be propelled into the stratosphere by 2017’s Blade Runner 2049. One of the most prophetic, complex, avant-garde, beloved science-fiction movies in cinematic history, a sniper rifle’s target was placed on his Velleneuve’s head by the press from the moment it was first announced – and his masterpiece sci-noir modernizing and aggrandizing Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner paid off in a jackpot of spades. Though it failed at the box-office by a public eye rather-watching bad-sequels of ersatz, charlatanic moviemaking like the MCU, real cinephiles took extreme notice – and the hype afforded Villeneuve his pick-of-the-pie and unlimited resources by a Warner Bros. in desperation for good P.R. after their disastrous handling of the DCEU. Before we get into the cinematic discourse, the origins of the film itself deserves exposition – Dune was a 1965 novel by U.S.A. penman Frank Herbert aiming to extrapolate the mystery/fantasy adventure of J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1930’s-50’s Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings books to worlds beyond the stars. The novel is – without question – the most groundbreaking, influential, and best-selling work of science-fiction literature ever-written: paving the way for the genre as we know it today, and even its biggest name of all-time. Star Wars has become a worldwide pop-culture phenomenon ever since the trumpeted fanfare against the receding credits-crawl first took us to a galaxy far, far away back in 1977. The average moviegoer and person doesn’t likely even know what Dune is, or that our population’s favorite epic space-opera would’ve never even been a Force to be reckoned with in the absence of Dune giving it ~all its major ideas. The influences are obvious: 1. Tatooine [the home of both SW’s protagonist, Luke Skywalker, and antagonist, Darth Vader] is physically and climatologically based on the arid, harsh desert landscape of Arrakis – down to even the double-celestial bodies of two suns and two moons, 2. The Sarlacc pit in Return Of The Jedi is unquestionably influenced by Dune’s Shai-Hulud [Sandworm] down to even being found in a place called The Dune Sea in Sarlacc canon, 3. The Imperium, though more ethically-ambiguous, shares blatant similarities with The Empire as centers of power and politics over the galaxy – while also orchestrating the danger for their protagonists, 4. Both feature guerrilla warbands fighting onto freedom from imperialist’s oppression, 5. The white-suited warrior legion of an elite fighting-force fear across the galaxy in the even-phonetically-analagous Stormtroopers & Sardaukars, 6. The Force bestows ability to practice Jedi Mind Tricks exactly like The Voice did originally in Dune, 7. Raspy-voiced and pale-skinned villainous presence pulling strings behind-the-scenes in Palpatine and Harkonnen’s leader, 8. Religion allegory of The Chosen Ones, etc.

The Magic Of Star Wars By Its Creator

1. Tatooine & Arrakis, 2. Sarlacc Pit Of Sandworms, 3. The Imperium Vs. Empire, 4. Guerilla Warbands To Freedom From Imperialist Oppression, 5. Jedi Mind Tricks, Etc.; 50+ Years Later, The Original Is Here

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures

Despite all these similarities in source-material, though, Villeneuve imbues Dune with a feel, identity, aesthetic, tonicism, and life all its own: the indie kryptonite to Disney blockbusters. The film manages to still capture that indescribable magic of cinematic experience watching Luke Skywalker on-screen opening night at TCL Chinese Theatre in 1970’s LA and knowing the next big franchise is here, world-build magnificently on its own terms with slow-burn storytelling like you’re watching an early-2010’s Netflix-drama or HBO MAX original, and not lose any of its genre-diversification mixing adventure, drama, (lite) comedy, romance, fantasy, and pure science-fiction into a cocktail-mixed skewed more for adults than kids. On the eve of the finale of cinema’s most stylistic, elegant, sophisticated, and chilled [shaken-not-stirred] franchise in a 25-project filmography mixing aciculate repartée, exotic locales, masculinity, tuxedos, night-soirees, Aston Martin DB9’s, girls, gadgets, and guns: 007 & James Bond in 2021’s No Time To Die, how perfect is it that we get a spiritual proxy/successor to fill its throne? Dune is far darker & more complex, mature, stylistic, and distingué than Star Wars – trading in the goofy light-saber VFX for IQ-heavy exposition on core mankind themes just as palpable and vital/critical to weigh in the year 10,191 as now in 2,021. Dune, as you might be confused/distracted by all the plush majesty in cinematography and score [we’ll definitely get to later], is foremost a tragic opera of humanity and conglomeration of mythology, civilization, religion, and ecology weaved amongst the stars. The narrative of the franchise is one of the most revolutionary and potential-rife in fiction; it’s a dystopian odyssey and game of thrones in a future galaxy – a royalty-drama and chess-match being played on 4+ boards by different houses at once by its feudal nobility controlling planetary fiefdom. Wherein David Lynch’s 1985 project failed on a narrative basis painting a nonsensical, bizarre, contradictory, incoherent mazelike plot-without-structure, Villeneuve unravels the complex lore with surgical proficiency, manifest destiny, and coherence: taking his time early-on to explain to by perspective-shift to the protagonist as we both learn through instructional docu-cassettes everything about this overworld. Clear is the crux of the story in the most precious resource in the galaxy and what, when, where, and why the spice is, the sandworms protecting this psychoactive treasure, and who each of the players in this game are: the dutiful and compassionate Atreides, maligned and vengeful Harkonnens, bloodthirsty savage warrior-legion Sardaukars, & mysterious outward emperorial presence of Corrino, indigenous Fremens watching their land get ravaged for profits by outworlders, and mystical sibyls operating from the shadows trying to cross bloodlines and bring forth the messiah in the Bene Gesserit – as well as every interaction, motivation, backstory, and history within this complex ecosystem. We love, love, LOVE how Villeneuve pugnaciously refuses to rush himself or try to overstuff the entire novel into one film; instead making this a part one to what’s progressing to be a duology with the legs to go 5-6 films if it wants to – one that perfectly hits every novel them, character, and storyline out of long lost respect for the source material, and one of the best adapted screenplays in blockbuster history.

Pure Science-Fiction & The Next Big I.P.

The Magic Of Watching LOTR/SW Back On Opening Premiere, The Birth Of A New Age; A Darker, Mature, Elegant, Avant-Garde, Understated Indie Kryptonite To Blockbuster Franchises: Still Balancing Adventure, Drama, Comedy, Romance, Fantasy Genres

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures

Greed, capitalism, sex, violence, power-abuses, war, betrayal, murder, ritualized sacrifice, subterfuge, chess-strategemes, & politics are laced within this galaxyopera – jarringly feeling very primitive in motivations in civilizations this advanced and far in the future. This is by design: purposeful regression to the dark ages to highlight our baser, primal instincts and brutal animalistic origins post-natural apocalypse [as we’ll explain more later]. The cast to bring the film to life is absolutely insane; it might just be the most star-powered cast in the history of science-fiction. Thespian pedigree is bountiful, with experienced actors/resses of seasoned filmographies delivering quality work on positively top-notch characterization. Oscar Isaac’s royalty of presence and fatherly/kingly masculine dynamism makes a perfect Duke Leto Atreides – one whose control, sovereignty, and hegemony radiate true monarchical power as he looks to expand the house’s kingdom from forest and seas to the desert, only to become ensnared in a cynade-laden perfidy forcing him to choose between life and family. Oh, and he’s the only actor to [God, what a lucky f***!] grace both of this genre’s biggest franchises of all-time: Dune & Star Wars. Zendaya brings her signature nihilistic sarcasm and je-ne-sais-quoi ambivalence as a chameleon-actress to the mysterious Fremen girl audiences will be purposely-unsure if friend-or-fore; lover-or-villain by her contradictory phantasmagoria appearances in Paul’s trip-like, hallucinogen-induced visions. Jason Momoa oozes classic, traditional alpha-masculinity as Duncan Idaho – a badass, cocky fighter-pilot mixing his Aquaman bros-and-beers authenticity with Top Gun action, comedy, bromance, and screen-presence that just lights up your face every time he comes onto screen and heavily invests you into his characters. Dave Bautista and Stellan Skarsgård are positively bone-chilling as the pale, slovenly, merciless, avaricious Harkonnens orchestrating the film’s villainy, Javier Bardem is – well – Javier Bardem [enough said] as the weary-to-outsiders Fremen pack-leader Stilgar, and Rebecca Ferguson makes motherhood look powerful as the Mary-synergized Lady Jessica on a developmental-arc torn between fulfilling her duty to as Queen & Bene Gesserit through her son’s destiny as quite possibly the messianic Kwasich Haderach they’ve waited on for thousands of years, and simply wanting to love/protect him from incomprehensible dangers she played a role in putting him in out of natural parental instincts diametrically-opposed [tragically] to her job.

A Tale Of Humanity Weaved Amongst Stars

Thriving Where Lynch’s 1985 Version Failed, 2021’s Paints The Ecosystem Of Feudal Nobility, Indigenous Tribes, Mystical Sibyls W. Craftsmanship, Manifest Destiny, Coherence: Greed, Violence, Sex, & Politics

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures

The biggest surprise performance – and one that steals the show in the supporting cast, even from this godly a resumé of A-listers – is Sharon Duncan Brewster’s Dr. Liet-Kynes. Not only does she provide vital, celebration-worthy representation as a black woman given this powerful, big, and stereotype-breaking of a role in a franchise of as behemoth potential as Dune, but she acts the hell out of that role – one of the strongest and most endearing archetypal exhibitions of the demographic I can remember in this big of a pop-culture project since the original Aunt Viv (Janice Hubert) in 1990’s Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. These all, however, pale in comparison to the man-of-the-hour, the crux/bedrock of the series, and the type of role/casting that makes-or-breaks franchises: Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides. Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird, The King, Little Women, & The French Dispatch italicizing his filmography, the G-Eazy clone quickly made a name for himself as a king of indies with scarcely one misfire or bad performance, alongside Robert Pattinson who shared the crown. As his character does from the skeletal, timid boy/prince haunted by weird dreams and conscience and unsure of himself as he grapples with the coming-of-age ramifications of becoming heir to a throne he may not be ready for to the imposing, powerful, kingly presence at the end as the leader of the Fremen and Kwisach Haderach, Timothée Chalamet ascends to full movie-star status [along with Pattinson also building hype as The Batman] with Dune – and he’s a once-in-a-generation find. A bizarre amalgamation of an eclectic group of styles/reminisces, he evokes the puppy-dog charm of a young Leonardo DiCaprio, purity/innocence and lead presence of a Gal Gadot, cool-factor and suave masculine charm of a Steve McQueen, and grit western-twang of a young Clint Eastwood or John Wayne: harkening back to the golden age of cinema with universal pop-appeal beyond the legions of girls who worship him as [self-titled] Charlametstans to all demographics. The only mixed-to-bad casting is Josh Brolin’s Gurney Halleck – we’ve always said [out of brave rebuke of popular-opinion we couldn’t care less about over what’s cinematically-true] that Brolin’s an ~overrated actor who wasn’t even that good as Thanos in Avengers: IW/Endgame: angry, purple grape/Shaq in a tank-top who brings the same yell-heavy fabrication of inexplicable rage and faux-intensity energy here; we get that it’s part of the character, but just feels extremely forced and is, by far, the weak link of an otherwise-A+ cast.

The Cast & Birth Of A New Movie-Star

Perhaps The Most Star-Powered Cast In The History Of Science-Fiction: Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Momoa, Bautista, Javier Bardem, Skarsgård, Ferguson, A Surprise By SDB’s Dr. Liet-Kynes, Miscast Brolin, & Once-In-A-Generation Find; A Young DiCaprio x McQueen x Eastwood: Timothée Chalamet

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures

CLC’s favorite part of Dune is how much it celebrates world cultures – including our own as brown people never seeing the light of cinematic representation. We can already hear the groans of cheeto-fingered Twitter SJW’s categorizing this as a (literal, though it was written that way and it’s the laziest form of faux-representation to race/gender-bend a white character instead of creating a new one) white-savior narrative out of cataclysmic reductionism of how beautifully the film serves as a panegyric to immigrants, history, and ethnology. The most precious resource in existence is a spice – alone evocative of the nations of ancestral bazaars and ancient traditions, wherein people dating back to 2000 BCE in Egyptian, Chinese, and Indian Cultures have been documented building entire civilizations and cultures on spices and their multi-dimensional usages: medicine, preservation, religion, drugs, magic, food, & more. Beyond historical implications, the spices can also be seen as a metaphor for immigrants and resources themselves – like spices, we are hugely-divergent in backgrounds, diverse in possible usages, & able to bring flavor to the melting-pot of life: whether in art, music, food, etc. Dune also uses spice as allegory for oil in the Middle-East and the resources lost in the nightmare of colonization. The film opens with a Fremenian epilogue detailing how beautiful Arrakis is when the sunsets over the precipice of the dunes, and how that peace and gorgeousness was pimped out by the invasion of the Harkonnens decimating the landscape for profit by harvesting and robbing the land of its treasure and innocence. This evokes iconography and history [furthered by dialogue like ‘the desert was ours long before you came’] of many cultures of indigenous people this has tragically befell, such as the Native Americans whose entire civilization was committed genocide against by white invasion: the kind whose descendants have the audacity to act like this is their home and POC are the outsiders, when everyone except the natives here technically is. Dune is also one of the most respectful films of indigenous tribes and peoples ever made – one of the biggest progressive leaps forward since Black Panther in how it breaks [yt-placed] stereotypes characterizing its natives as ‘unevolved’, ‘primitive’ or ‘lesser’ by showing they’re extremely advanced beyond superficial monetary surfaces/contexts. The Fremen, for example, are rich in knowledge on how to perfectly-survive the galaxy’s toughest landscape: building paracompasses subverting the duo-moons’ magnetic field disruption, stillsuits conserving and recycling lost sweat water as the most prized resource for survival, sand-compactors weaponizing the environment, and combinations with irregular walking patterns mimicking the desert’s topography to decoy or fool sandworms into not attacking them.

The Spice Metaphorization

Dune Celebrates World Cultures – Brazil, Mexico, China, Native America, Africa, & Foremost: The Middle-East; A Symbol For Immigrants & The Power/Diversity Of Nature; The Evils Of Colonialism Like The Harkonnens’ Pimping Of Arrakis For Profit

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures

Without these genius advancements outside any quantifiable lab, even the ‘smartest’ and ‘most evolved’ big-city magnate wouldn’t last five minutes in Arrakis. Who’s the evolved one now? The film even has a little bit of fun with the concept of cultures, delineations, and wrong translations – joking like how Stilgar spits near the king on introduction out of honor by the bestowance of body moisture in the desert, but it’s obviously perceived as a sign of disrespect/contempt by western-like traditions such as ours until it’s explained before a fight breaks out. There are references or A/V design touches in the aestheticization to the cultures of Native America, Brazil, Mexico, Africa, China, Egypt, and South Asia – but nothing is more prevalently-evoked than The Middle-East & Birthplace Of Islam. The visual cues are obvious: ornate, highly-decorative patterns in calligraphy-heavy architecture, cinematography synergistically hyper-geometric and symmetrical, white/gold metallicized elaborate chroma-schemes, royal palaces, and costumes of hijabs [veils], kurta/sari-like regalia, and maang tikka [facial jewelry]. Oscar Isaac even looks Punjabi [as I can attest as one myself] or Middle-Eastern, and Zendaya & Bardem could certainly pass as Arabic themselves – and that’s not even including the film’s entire background being the hydrocarbon desert biome that topographically and climatologically defines the region, as it has for centuries since the beginning of time. Narratively and creation-wise, Frank Herbert did extensive research and utilized actual, real Arabic etymology for the vast majority of Dune – everything from shai-hulud for sandworms being taken from shay’ khulūd for its immortality to the Atredeis’ Fremen housekeeper Shadout Mapes from shādoūf as a device that raises water similarly to words throughout the Bene Gesserit incantations like Muad’Dib, Usul, Shari-a, jinn, and Shaitan. Other influences the author of Dune himself noted were Hebrew, Navajo, Latin, Dutch, Chakobsa, Aztec, Greek, Persian, Russian, Turkish, Finnish, and Hindi – but all under the leimotif of The Middle-East. The score of Dune is a comprehensive masterwork of consanguine aesthetics by the greatest living composer in the world: Hans Zimmer. A filmography of 150+ films ranging many of the greatest and most iconic movies of all-time like The Dark Knight, Blade Runner 2049, Inception, The Lion King, Dunkirk, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Man Of Steel, Wonder Woman, Space Jam: ANL, Gladiator, The Da Vinci Code, Interstellar, Mission Impossible, and No Time To Die scarcely needs an introduction. The Academy-Awarded legend is such a prodigy soundsmith, he’s even headlined at Coachella, for pete’s sake: rock-star status beyond that which has ever been helmed by a cinematic orchestrator previously-underappreciated as a cinematic intangible. Bringing him back to his Oscars-Origins of The Lion King, Zimmer was again tasked with crafting a soundscape that eulogizes/celebrates the culture of the world its film is set in. That was, perhaps, the biggest challenge of his career: one of the world’s oldest and most history/culturally-rich regions on the planet, Arabic music isn’t something a quick YouTube video tutorial would elucidate.

The 2001: A Space Odyssey Evocation

The Score Of Dune Is A Comprehensive Masterwork By The Greatest Composer Alive: H. Zimmer, Taken Back To Academy Origins – A Kubrickian Oeuvre Of Middle-Eastern Zawaya, Pentatonic Scales, Minor Key Lamentation, Monolithian Mysticism

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures

No, Zimmer needed to go PhD-thesis depth in research to make Dune’s score work – hitting the books and listening to thousands of hours of Bedouin homophonicism to get a grasp on millennia of techniques, genres, instruments, and aesthetics it might take outsiders without the rhythm flowing through their DNA a lifetime to figure out. Impossibly, that he manages to do; Zimmer utilizes pentatonic minor-key locrian chord progressions, zawaya traditional ensembles of oud, nay, quanun, and violin, plucked sitar-strings, Kubrickian mystical sibyl atonal choral incantations that evoke the feeling 2001’s The Monolith [again, connected via the desert shared background], drum-fills of crescendoing hand-tapped tum-drums, heartbeat-syncopated 808-accelerandos, and powerful divination that makes you feel like you’ve been transported back to ancient Arabia or ascended to Jannah: the Qu’ran’s equivalent of Heaven. Add that to the fact Zimmer conducted a 32-piece orchestra for many of the scenes via FaceTime due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s quarantine protocols, and you have one of the most impressive achievement in soundtrack of the past few years. Maybe, ever. Of course, nothing in Dune compares to the visuals: the biggest takeaway that will leave your jaw firmly on the floor for hours afterwards. There have been multiple prodigy directors who could’ve likely made a film as good as 2021’s version narratively back in the ages of funk, disco, marijuana haze, peace-signs, etc., but all failed or never got off the ground by the limitations of their eras – a lack of the $250M+ budget minimum and resources to paint a world as hyper-ambitious and unprecedented in scale, fantasy, dangers, and technology as Arrakis. That day fans and filmmakers have waited generations for is finally here by the grace of 21st Century VFX/CGI, and it’s catalyzed one of the greatest visual experiences in the history of science-fiction and cinema. Forget millions, this film feels like it cost billions of $ to create – a movie so incomprehensibly staggering in ocular spectacle, it’s difficult to even describe it as a person who does so every day as a job on this site. The word ‘epic‘ gets thrown around a lot, and has been progressively watered-down from over/misuse to ~lose its meaning. Dune truly epitomizes the word – achieved, foremost, through scale and the proficiency of its cinematographer: Greg Fraser. We’ll admit: we at CLC weren’t entirely sold on the choice for a film bigger than arguably any other in existence and already subjugated by previous interpretations’ failures – proving it had to be unprecedented in scale to capture the grandeur of the novel’s world. Given that G.F.’s filmography lacks even one big name blockbuster feature.. besides a Rogue One that isn’t exactly memorable for its cinematography, we had justification for worry. However, we’re happy to be wrong; WB must’ve seen something in his curriculum vitae the rest of us were off-limits to, because he – against-all-odds – comes through like Rocky as an underdog to deliver a masterstroke of cinematography. The film was shot in IMAX with Arri Alexa LF cameras with Panavision lenses in a 1.90:1 aspect ratio, and principal photography chose exotic locales from Budapest, Hungary to Wadi Rum, Jordan to Norway to the Liwa Oasis in The United Arab Emirates.

A Magnum-Opus Visual Experience

Legions Of Prodigy Directors Could’ve Made A Film Like 2021 Dune Narratively In ’60’s, But An Ocular Impossibility Until The Grace Of 21st-Century Technology & $250M+ Budgets – A Redefinition Of The Word ‘Epic’ With IMAX Lenses, Technical Proficiency, M.E. Calligraphy/Architecture, & Godly VFX

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures

Techniques from jump-cuts to vanishing point perspective to superimposition to key/fill lighting to chiaroscuro to compositional geometry juxtaposing contrastive shapes are weaved with the precision of a neurosurgeon in an existential motif of extreme long-shots utilized to establish the scale necessary to make 400m-long [that’s almost a quarter of a mile] sandworm look realistic. Speaking of the shai-hulud, the scenes where one chases the Atreides and swallows a spice-mine whole feel like they could each have cost $100,000,000+ each – truly a stupefying, humbling, jaw-dropping experience like nothing we’ve ever seen before. The scale of the cinematography also manages to highlight the loneliness, desolation, volume, and magnitude of nature – laying the foundation for the film’s biggest theme. Dune is, existentially, a panegyric to nature and environmentalism; heck the eponymous title of the film & novel is that of its biosphere’s definitive landscape characteristic and phonetically evokes the warning-sound of ‘doom’. That is what we’re certainly heading towards in 2021 – few films, if any, are blessed with the perfection of timing upon release as Dune is within the context of our mass-extinctive, science-denying, rapacious climatological emergency brought on solely by mankind’s hand. Dune humbles us by taking us into the extreme future and flipping the script/dynamics on us – a dystopian future far from the flying cars and cuboidal skyscrapers we romanticize/imagine; one where mankind has regressed back to the dark ages and our survival-minded origins like we’re just another animal again; a world destitute of morality and decorum where packs kill stragglers for their flesh’s water and insurgences ravage capitals like we’re rival clans fighting over territory in prehistoric times or the veldt in 2001: ASO. In this world, the value of currency has ~crumbled and is not the most valuable resource – spice and the health/time it brings are: a metaphor for plants and natural elements with the powers/abilities to preserve & extend life, act as hallucinogens, and fuel in real-life. The desert background-choice evokes pure biological fascination and highlights nature’s power. As an Ivy League graduate with a B.Sc degree in Biology, I can assure you there is no harsher environment for survival than the desert; it’s the ecological equivalent of the Old-Testament God: fiery, wrathful, unforgiving, and megalomaniacal in how it sadistically drains/rots you from the inside by the lack of the elixir-of-life: water. That’s if you’re even able to survive its forced-evolution creatures and plants enduring 10x more intense natural selection pressures: ones that have given birth through millennia of gradations to weapons as comprehensively-perfect as the scorpion’s stinger, rattlesnake’s neurotoxin venom, cactus’ needle-clad visitor-eschewing thorns and stomata, and desert mouses’ porous skin recycling water naturally – as one does in the film’s events. No matter if you’re a poor man’s beggar or Fortune 500 CEO, the desert is the ultimate equalizer – reducing extrania to simple hydrocarbons and elements under the iron fist of its tyrannical, dictatorial rule.

A Parable Of Ecology By Desert Species

A Panegyric To Nature In 2021’s Climatological Emergency By Mankind’s Brazen Negligence; A Ego-Killing Dystopian Future Of Dark-Ages Regression Flexing Nature’s Dominance By Desert, Futility Of Currency, Flip-Dynamics Of Bugs To Kill Us

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures

The dramatic passage of time in juxtaposition to how little has changed serves as a hymn to the ever-lasting presence and sacredness of nature – how it’s here before-and-after us, how mysterious it is with events and knowledge we could scarcely ever dream of, and how, no matter how much we may like to delude ourselves in superiority/god-complexed futility to try to ruin it, reigns supreme over us. This is symbolized by the beetle seen throughout the film’s events – walking alongside dead corpses to metaphorize how we feed into the life-cycle of nature the same as any other hydrocarbon creature – being born from dust, living, dying, and returning to dust after being decomposed by insects such as these. Bugs are a huge source of allegorical depth/complexity in Dune; besides beetles, the omnithopters extensively-used throughout the film highlight the perfection of nature’s designs we ripoff (like many or most of our ‘creations’) for our inventions – even in the year 10,000+ copying what nature got right millennia-beforehand. Mosquitos are used as drones and weapons to socially-commentate on how nature can also be deadly – malaria having killed more people than all world wars combined, without need for nukes, flamethrowers, or machine-guns beyond a vector the size of a pencil. No entomological entity of its phylum class is given more exposition than the worm: flipped for maximum devastation and ego-death of humanity. Dune takes the most disrespected, smallest, stepped-on creature on Earth – one that we let children perform mad-science experiments on in rainy days – and flips the dynamic to make us see its perspective. On Arrakis, we’re the worms and get a taste of our own medicine: how it feels to no longer be the apex predator or in control, and it’s damn cathartic to see nature take revenge so mercilessly and powerfully. This draws parallels thematically between Dune and fellow-2021 masterpiece and the Film Of The Year: The Green Knight, also personifying nature as a vengeful force preying on man for just recompense for our centuries of broken promises and taking-without-giving – only in a Christmas-themed medieval aesthetic instead of a sci-fi dystopian world beyond the stars here. Finally, the matador and bull is a huge symbol recurring throughout the film; Paul has a statue of it in his bedroom, the elder Atreides have the severed head of a bull decoratation in their room, etc. Matadors can be seen to further symbolize mankind’s irreverence and contemptuous, pretentious derision/joke-making at nature’s expense – taking a creature as beautiful and powerful as the horned bull and turning it into nothing more than toy of red-cape/flag-twirling entertainment for our amusement, humiliating nature just because we have little else to do or think it’s some kind of toxic faux-masculine thrill to play with danger. Dune says: who’s laughing now? Capitalism in conjunction with naturalism is another big theme; it’s mentioned multiple times that Arrakis had ecological testing centers that showed promise in the plausibility of making the planet a tropical green paradise, but the powers-at-be and Harkonnens refused to let the desert go away once they discovered the spice-fueled fiscal potential of it. They put their own wallets above the natural good just as humanity does, deforesting and killing nature more-and-more every day in a perpetual cycle of destruction we can’t possibly replace or curtail before it’s too late unless we start making changes now – but won’t as lobbyists, DC politicians, and big corporations refuse to if it cuts even cents off their bottom-lines.

The Religion Allegory

On Paper, A Belief System Of Benevolence & Morality Bestowance, But In Practice A Twisted, Weaponizable Justification For Evil Perspectives & Acts Bringing Millions Of Deaths – The Origins Of Doctrine, Illusory Truth Effect In Misinformation Age, & Free-Will In Face Of Self-Destructive Masochism?

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures

Finally,: there’s exposition on how nature rewards those who go with its flow instead of swimming against the stream – in the coriolis storm, Paul and Lady Jessica are heading towards crash when he gets a vision instruction to not fight the tide: prompting him to turn off the copter’s navigation/wings and fly blind in the storm, carrying him with the iconography of seedling floating in the wind [again, evoking the perfect design & mystery of nature in seedlings able to travel distances of miles and perfectly reach their destination without fancy systems or engines – solely by the elements of wind and trust]. There is a religion allegory weaved throughout Dune that is refreshingly-grounded and realistic – journalistically-complex on perhaps mankind’s ultimate theme worthy of exposition. On paper, there is nothing wrong with religion; heck, it’s even a source of potential benevolence – bestowing morality and conscience in a population otherwise-deprived of the need for it by the overworld-creation of a heaven we crave acceptance to and hell we spend lives in avoidance of judgment-damnation onto. However, as with ~everything we do, mankind pimps a butterfly and twist it to fit our [goalpost-moving and progressively out-of-control] narratives. Evil men and women have justified some of the cruelest, most inhumane, sacrilegious acts in the history of the world through the lens of religion: slavery, the holocaust, sexism, homophobia, the inquisition, etc. – even naming them things like the ‘crusades’ and ‘holy’ wars as if God [whether or not you believe he exists] would ever actively-endorse such vehemently morality-destitute actions or hate-fueled perspectives. Religion can breathe war, and has claimed millions of lives by people with, otherwise, no reason to hate each other – a benign tumor turned malignant by a mankind of sadomasochism and the dangerous lingering impulse to extrapolate/interpret/project things that weren’t made to be. This evokes themes of free-will in conjunction; should we have it if humans are naturally prone to self-destructive behaviors? If it could save lives and make for a better planet representative of the Eden we were cast out of by consequences of our own actions, should we even have a choice? Is life even worth living without the element of freedom – the magic of it taken away by the pre-determination of everything? Dune weighs these complex existential questions beautifully – all while painting a captivating portraiture itself. The Kwisatz Haderach & Lisan Al-Gaib are clearly-referential of the messiah in traditionalized contexts: furthered by unmistakable Christian iconography of the mother and son in Mary and Jesus, theme of sacrifice like dying for our sins, prophecies like Dr. Liet-Kynes’ notice of Paul lacing bootstraps in Fremen ways without prior exposure saying ‘he shall know your ways as if born to them’, and divinations like Paul knowing Lady Jessica is pregnant before she does [hinted with a Fremen baby possibility, impossible except by divine conception furthering the trinity-parallels]. The Bene Gesserit seek out the savior figure powerful enough to bridge space and time and lead humanity into a better future, and the film masterfully plants seeds making us both believe-and-doubt that Paul is that figure as the mystery deepens into the second film. The film also – praiseworthily – expositions how religion can be falsified; stories, by virtue of being repeated over and over again across space and time regardless of their origin [whether it’s truly-divine or someone pretending to be like the Bene Gesserit whispering prophecies into the ears of people like the Fremen of a tentatively-sure messiah], can gain psychological acceptance by what’s known as The Illusory Truth Effect: even objectively-false information sounding true once repeated in exposure to the human brain. Again releasing at the perfect time, this is 1,000x more relevant in The Social Media Age: where disinformation like antivax and election fraud spreads like a wildfire or malignant tumor in need of excision.

Phantasmagoria, Gender Dynamics, Heritage, Identity, Tone, & Part Two

Where Do We Go When We Sleep? Do We Owe Family & Our Bloodline Anything? What Defines Who We Are? The Intersection Of Sexes & Masculine/Feminine, Zenith Part One, & A Lite Injection Of Mood-Lighteners

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures

Heritage is also a major theme of the film; Paul not only grapples with earthly coming-of-age pressures of living up to the throne of his father, but also weird visions only complicating the matter – being thrown into the possibility of being a messiah he may not want to be. Do we owe our family and bloodline anything? Don’t we have a life of individuality we’re entitled to explore? What makes us who we are and gives us identity like the kind Paul Atreides searches for throughout the film’s events? This further elaborates on the paradigm of free-will through the lens of our own family, and the entire messianic arc of the film is only made to feel 10x more authentic by the background harkening back to the real-world linguistic/religion origins of the biggest faiths in world-history: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all originating from desert-landscapes in The Middle-East. Finally, the film invokes the age-old mystification of dreams, connecting to its religion cogitation by frequently having Paul gain real-world insight by prophetic voices from within them: where do we go when we sleep?Aare dreams somehow divinely-related? There is also a theme of gender dynamics and celebration-worthy duality exposition especially important in these hyper-divided times. The matriarchal Bene Gesserit cross-bloodlines in hopes of finding the messiah and constantly allude to the connection of both male and female aspects for true power achieved in unision. This is a theme we can certainly learn from: the sexes [as well as the spectrum in-between for non-binary individuals] are inherently different from biological, evolutionarily, psychological, sociological, etc. perspectives – and more is to be learned and humanity progressed from learning and leaning on each other than by warring like politicians or children. There’s only one flaw in Dune [in correction of what many imbecilic critics are claiming, detracting points on the absence of a third act it clearly builds to.. forgetting that the film literally says it’s a Part One in the opening credits and that final act will come in Part Two], and it’s paltry and minuscule as we are to the shai-hulud: the tone is a little dour. There is some comedy like the spit-gag and Paul/Duncan bromance repartée, but it’s so few-and-far-between, the film feels a bit ~gloomy. Now, we at CLC are one of the few true cinephile outlets left: believing cinema shouldn’t be a panderative yukfest of cheesy, cringeworthy jokes tailor-made for target-demographics of five year-olds and the developmental/cognitive-like the MCU has [somehow] conditioned the public into believing is requisite. Dune is a dark, mature, dystopian, anti-religion, anti-colonialism film: one that should not be too funny and which we respect the decision to forgo talking/dumbing down for its audience. However, a few more tone-lighteners would’ve been welcome and only helped the enjoyment of a – regardlessly – brilliant film. A magnum opus of science-fiction, royalty, chess-stratagems, & dystopian odyssey on the notoriously ‘unadaptable’ novel, Dune is one of purest genre pictures ever made and a glorious further-expansion of cinema’s kingdom over literature – indescribable power-of-experience, Villeneuvian mysticism, avant-garde cinematography masterstroke of technical and ocular VFX scale/world-building witchcraft, performances of starpower-catalyzed thespian pedigree led by a once-in-a-generation, new-yet-classic movie-star ascension in Timothée Chalamet, diversification of both genres in adventure/drama/sci/comedy/romance/fantasy and cultures with spice-metaphorized immigrant exposition, haunting 2001-evocative zawaya Middle-Eastern score of phantasmagoria and pentatonic old-world aestheticization, dark-and-mature tone as the indie kryptonite of its blockbusters, nature panegyric through flipped-worms, beetles, desert, bulls, and dragonfly, & narrative of humanity weaved amongst the stars with themes of complexity/depth: heritage, religion, politics, ecology, greed, colonialism, masculinity, and free-will. The magic of LOTR/SW for a new age by the world the far-away galaxy owes its creation to.

Official CLC Score: 9.6/10