Danny B’s review published on Letterboxd:
(Cinema) (BFI IMAX Southbank)
After the atrocity that was David Lynch's Dune that I've tried to watch twice and found it to be an incomprehensible bore both times, I wasn't too sure if Dune is something that could be adapted to film. If anyone could pull this off though, it was Denis Villeneuve, who gave us both Sicario and Blade Runner 2049. Two incredible pieces of cinema.
I knew I was in for a visual spectacle and on that front it certainly delivered and a hell of a lot more. Being my first ever IMAX trip, I wasn't sure what to expect, but this the best quality I have ever seen a film and I will definitely be trailing back to Southbank for maybe Matrix or Spider-Man, if not those, then 100% The Batman next year.
Villeneuve exceeds incredibly in building this visually stunning, weird and often challenging world. The cinematography is off the fucking chain, every moment is a stunning piece of art that turns this sci-fi epic into something special. He pulls an absurd amount of visual variety out of what mostly takes place on a sand heavy planet. There's even some stuff that feels ripped directly from 2049, which is not a bad thing. On top the visual awe, Hans Zimmer goes to town on this score, a bombastic and majestic symphony of greatness that was some of his best work in decades. With this and his solid No Time to Die score, he's having a hell of a year.
The stacked cast all make for memorable, interesting and unique characters, even if their silly names escaped me throughout (It was just easier to remember them by actor). The most bizarre thing is even though every character name is something silly and hard to remember you get Timothee Chalamet's lead who is "Paul".
Chalamet is an actor I really like in indie films and does great work, but I wasn't sure how he'd pull of a big budget epic that is hopefully going to build into a franchise. But he makes for a compelling lead, albeit with a familiar arc of "Chosen one" stuff that reminded me of Harry Potter. He's a character that grows with the film and by the end leaves you wanting to see where that character goes.
He is a bit outdone by some fantastic performances from the supporting cast that include Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgard (Who is grotesque here), Dave Bautista and even an extended cameo from Zendaya leading to the inevitable sequel. Which is where a mild problem comes in, it's well known this is only half a story. The opening titles are even "Dune: Part 1", so it ends a bit abruptly, although setting the stage for what is hopefully fantastic finale to this saga.
There is a lot of information to take in to understand, some of minor details of the world were lost on me, but the broad strokes are very easy to follow and billion times more coherent than Lynch's take. Thankfully that frequent spectacle picked up some of the slack as this slow burning epic does take time to explain things just enough to get a grasp and not feel lost in it all. It's one I certainly will be rewatching with subtitles to hopefully get more of the smaller details to make sense to me because there is a lot of sci-fi fantasy mumbo jumbo.
Dune is a triumph of visual storytelling as Villeneuve directs the hell out of this first half, a spectacular feast for the eyes and ears with an incredible cast and fascinating world I cannot wait to see more of. Hopefully we do get Part 2 and as a whole, my rating could go up based on how these two films function together.