Denis Villeneuve's Dune early reactions are certainly not about to help anyone sitting on the fence over whether to go and see the sci-fi epic, as after a year delay the movie was finally shown to a small group at the Venice Film Festival to very split opinions. The remake of Dune boasts a huge cast including Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Jason Momoa and Javier Bardem, but even that hasn't been able to save it from reviewers who just expected a little more from the huge scale production.
The Frank Herbert adaptation has been anticipated for a long while, and it looks like in one way it has been worth it; the visuals and effects are seemingly just as awesome as the trailers suggested. When it comes to the telling of the story though, that is where things seem to get murky and reviews differ greatly.
Variety' s Owen Gleiberman reports: "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's David Ehrlich was even more brutal in his assassination of the movie, saying , "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."
Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair, acknowledged the movie as a chance to right the wrongs of the previous big screen adaptation of Herbert's novel, but for him it did not achieve that. He wrote, "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."
In stark contrast, Clarisse Loughrey from The Independent couldn't praise the movie enough, tweeting that it "absolutely f-ing slaps." She followed up with, "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."
In fact, many views on Twitter echoed this opinion with an overwhelming amount of positivity for the film not seen in many of the critics reviews. "Denis Villeneuve's #Dune is made for the fans, without feeling purely like fan-service. Go for the stunning visuals and the heartfelt performances by Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson & Oscar Isaac. And worth noting - Jason Momoa steals every scene as Duncan Idaho, what a star," said Angelique Jackson. Lindsey Bahr commented, "#Dune is fantastic. I went in knowing nothing and was completely hypnotized by the strange world. It's thrilling and emotionally authentic and, I don't know, it was 8:15AM in Italy and I was overtired and three espressos in, but I even cried?" Dune is currently slated to arrive in cinemas and on HBO Max on October 22.