Ah, Dune. I remember the first time watching it in the cinema (yes, I watched it twice). It was literally a jaw-dropping experience, and I remember so many times during the movie where I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself and shake my head in disbelief and amazement. I absolutely loved it.
I guess this is a movie review, but don’t worry I’ll keep it spoiler-free.
Before I begin, I think it’s important to note that I did read the book many years back. Some of the details are a little fuzzy to me, but I remember enough about the story to understand the overarching politics of Dune. Furthermore, there is a ton of terminology within the Dune universe which would make no sense to new audiences, such as Lisan al Gaib, Gom jabbar or Bene Gesserit, just to name a few. I too struggled to get through the first half of the book due to the sheer number of new words I had to learn. Therefore, I want to preface that I came into this movie with much more context and understanding than the average movie-goer.
There’s definitely a bit of a steep learning curve at the beginning of the movie, but I think Denis Villeneuve and Hans Zimmer has done an amazing job of breaking it down as much as possible through the storytelling, cinematography and soundtrack.
Firstly, the cinematography in the movie is just beautiful. Nearly every scene is wallpaper material. Apart from the aesthetics, one of the things that struck me immediately during the movie was the scale of things. There were so many scenes that really emphasised the massiveness of the location and spacecraft. As a human, you just feel dwarfed by everything. Though it is a sci-fi movie, minimal attention was spent on what typical sci-fi movies liked to focus on, such as futuristic technology, spacecraft and what not. Instead, the casual nonchalance the movie has towards the insane looking spacecraft and mindboggling technology really makes you believe that you are in the far future. Set in year 10,191, such technology shouldn’t feel like such a big deal, after all, these should be just everyday things by then.
Next, the visual effects were really well done. They were often used to enhance the experience rather than create the experience. The lighting and camera work was believable and realistic. Apparently, they also opted to use “sand screens”, which were sand-coloured screens, instead of green screens. This way, the light reflected onto the characters and objects on the scene was brownish rather than green. They also used a ton, or rather many tons, of real sand in course of filming the movie.
Lastly, the score by Hans Zimmer was nothing short of phenomenal. This man is an actual genius. The score isn’t just immersive. It doesn’t just send chills down your spine. It was actually used as a storytelling tool. The score and sound design enhance the feeling of being in a distant, almost alien, future. Like many movies, each entity or character in the show had a theme. But for some entities, Zimmer opted for sounds without a melody. As without a melody, it became much easier for Zimmer to overlay themes of different entities within a certain scene. I say this is a storytelling tool, as the overlaying of themes in the background provides an unspoken way of conveying influences or deeper meanings behind a scene. This really helps, in a very subtle way, break down and hint at the complex politics of Dune.
To end off, Dune is a masterpiece. It’s a beautiful experience to watch, listen and immerse yourself into. This is sci-fi done right, and I sincerely hope that it becomes the Star Wars of my generation. My only regret? Not watching it in IMAX.
I’m no expert at visual effects or music and sound design, so a lot of the information from this post was from Thomas Flight’s videos on Dune. I highly recommend giving them a watch, after you’ve seen the movie of course.