Among the many polystyrene certainties that have held sway in Hollywood for fifty years, there was one that was particularly curious: trying to adapt Dune, the monumental novel by Frank Herbert, for the big screen would have led anyone who tried to either give up or fail in the attempt, falling victim to a curse that has haunted the brave people who have invested in us also for the years to come. The first close to the venture was David Lean, the director of Lawrence d’Arabia who, however, decided to desert not feeling up to the task.
Ridley Scott followed, and so did Alejandro Jodorowsky, which, if they had let him do it, would have given life to a film that would certainly have made history if only for the productive and financial effort required even before the first take, starting with the stellar cachet requested by Salvador Dalì, who he was supposed to play the emperor, and by hiring Pink Floyd for the score. If you have never heard of this film it is because it has never been made, even if there is a documentary, Jodorowsky’s Dune, unavailable even on the most radical chic platforms such as Mubi, which tells in detail the whims and whims behind that production which, in Jodorowsky’s intentions, should have lasted 10 hours and with a cast that would have seen Orson Welles in the role of the Duke by Atreides, but also Gloria Swanson and Mick Jagger.
Embarking on this adventure (and cursing himself over the next thirty-seven years for trying) was David Lynch, who in 1984 made a version of Dunand that, thanks to the final editing denied him by De Laurentis and the reduction of the duration of at least two hours compared to what he had thought, the director still remembers it as “the worst film he ever made” (it must be said, however , that that Dunewhile counting on his future fetish actor, Kyle MacLachlan, Lynch shot him loveless. A little ‘for the differences with the producer and a little’ because Lynch was not a lover of science fiction nor of Herbert’s work). In light of all this, it is commendable that Dennis Villeneuve, director of very elegant films like Arrival ed Enemy, has decided to accept this challenge, and also to win it, breaking once and for all the curse that hovered around this title. The Dune Villeneuve, presented, with all due respect to Cannes and all the exaltation of Alberto Barbera, at the last Venice Film Festival, succeeded where others had failed: telling a story starting from the ground up and taking the right time to develop it and make it grow like a soufflé in the oven. The affair, which was plundered profusely by James Cameron for Avatar and, even more, by George Lucas for Star Wars, starts from a very distant universe in which the planets can be reached with space ships: the place of action is Arrakis, also known as Dune. A distant and desert planet that holds the most precious source of the universe: “the spice”. A substance that extends life but, above all, makes space travel possible. When the Galactic Emperor decides to send away the Harkonnen, the house that until then had managed the extraction and trafficking of the spice on Arrakis, to entrust the task to the Atreides, trouble begins.
Paul, the son of the Duke of Atreides played by Timothée Chalamet, feels that something is not right, and that the skills he has been able to develop thanks to the silent training of his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), could be the key to restoring peace to a planet where the Fremen, the natives who they inhabit it in the depths of the desert, they are waiting for a “messiah” to restore order. We do not tell you the rest of the plot for fear of spoilers: just know that the story will move a little on the intrigues and political betrayals of Game of Thrones and a little about the epic nature of certain galactic battles that immediately bring to mind Star Wars. Mind you, though: Dune it is a complex work that is certainly a blockbuster, but not a blockbuster. We are talking about a refined film, full of breaks, studied in detail – from the costumes of Bob Morgan and Jacqueline West to the very dark photography of Greig Weiser – and very slow in the plot. Villeneuve tells us not to be in a hurry: he shows us the world of Dune asking us to focus on the details and letting us know that if we paid the ticket to see a spin-off of GStar Wars we might as well get up from the chair immediately and fold up Space Jam 2.
Dune is not a simple science fiction film, but the story of a world that, beyond the special effects, seeks to delve deeply into concepts such as fear control, autogenic training, and the fate of predestination. It is clear that Paul Atreides is a little bit of Jesus and a little bit of Luke Skywalker, and it is clear that the phenomenon that will lead him to become aware of himself will be long and complex (in 155 minutes, little spoiler, we don’t get to the bottom of it anyway. ). The meat on the fire that he puts Dune in this first chapter – Villeneuve, in a somewhat paracula move, has revealed his intention to continue with the saga right from the opening credits – it is a lot, but the viewer almost never has the idea that it is too much, because everything we see is functional to what will develop. I know Dune has a problem, perhaps, it is precisely that of stopping at the best as if someone had just swung a hatchet in the air: zendaya, here in the role of a mysterious native of Arrakis, we see her, as well as in Paul’s dreams, perfectly set to music, almost surgical by the Oscar winner Hans Zimmer, in just 10 minutes, right at the end. Meanwhile we meet Oscar Isaac, the idol of the crowds Jason Momoa, an unrecognizable Stellan Skarsgård who looks a lot like Palpatine from Star Wars, but also the clinical genius of Villeneuve, who between the attack of gigantic worms moving between the sands and deflector shields (where did we see them?) puts together a spectacular film that could mark the return of the spectators to the cinema, but that the director needs to continue not to bow to commercial logic in order not to end up like Lynch after the release of his Dune.