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What the Critics Think of the Dune Adaptation

Denis Villeneuve gets high praise in adapting complex novel to screen
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 22, 2021 10:58 AM CDT

(Newser) – The first part of Denis Villeneuve's two-part film adaptation of Frank Herbert's complex 1965 sci-fi novel, Dune—featuring Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, and Jason Momoa—is here. Chalamet stars as Paul Atreides, heir to the oceanic planet Caladan, whose family is handed control of the desert planet Arrakis with the task of exploiting its precious resource "spice." But as it turns out, Arrakis is full of dangers, both hidden and obvious. It all adds up to an impressive feature, according to critics, who've given the film an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Here's what they're saying:

  • "The film leans into the story's clear blockbuster potential, trying where it can to be thoughtful about it," writes K. Austin Collins at Rolling Stone. And though "the actual drama isn't as satisfying as the physical world Villeneuve and his collaborators have dreamed up to surround it"—the visuals are "irresistible," he writes—it's "big and breathless and committed, so capably navigated in its finest moments that you can't help but give credit where it's due."

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  • Villeneuve has achieved the "near impossible" task of making "a movie epic that will knock your eyes out and still touch your heart," writes Peter Travers at ABC News. It's a "cornucopia of visual astonishments," he notes. "The staggering vistas and sweeping sands dwarf mere humans and are never out of sight and mind." As for Chalamet, he "carries the role on his slender shoulders, gradually achieving a sense of gravity that makes us eager to see how Paul will face his fate."

  • It's a "spectacle that leaves the viewer in awe," writes Dana Stevens at Slate. "The spice-guarding sandworms, as long as a city block and revealed to the viewer only after nearly an hour of suspenseful teasing, are marvels of monster design." But the plot is another matter. Indeed, Stevens writes that she had to research much of the storyline after sitting through the 155-minute film. Her conclusion: Dune is both "a visual and aural marvel" and "a crashing bore."

  • "If there can ever be a moment of triumph for a director … then Denis Villeneuve might have achieved it," writes Peter Bradshaw at the Guardian, who gives the film 5 stars. In giving the story room to breathe, the director provides viewers with "an unreality, a giant variant version of the universe, with its own culture, society, rituals, physics and chemistry. An experience is definitely what it is," he writes. And it's "awe-inspiring."
(Read more movie review stories.)

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