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Hall reviews "Dune"

This week on "Justin Hall At The Movies," I'll be reviewing Frank Herbert's sci-fi epic getting a 21st century makeover in "Dune."

Denis Villeneuve's treatment of Frank Herbert's Dune marks the second time his magnum opus has hit the big screen and this version is an epic in every sense:
It's a spectacular-looking movie filled with breathtaking practical sets, remarkable direction from Villeneuve, stellar, compelling work from its ensemble cast and exhilarating special effects. It also suffers occasionally from pacing issues and narrative stumbles, but those faults are easy enough to forgive.

Timothee Chalamet leads the all-star cast as Paul Atreides who must lead his family into a war on a desert planet called Arrakis. The two main races fighting for the planet are the native Fremen and the invading army known as the House Harkonnen.

Rebecca Ferguson costars as Paul's mother, Lady Jessica; Oscar Isaac is his father, Duke Leto; Josh Brolin is his mentor, Gurney; Jason Momoa is his friend Duncan Idaho; Javier Bardem is Stilgar, the leader of the Fremen, and Zendaya is his love interest, Chani.

Leading House Harkonnen is Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard) who refuses to leave Arrakis and has assembled an army to lay waste to any threat in his way. Dave Bautista is his nephew, Glossu.

With all of these characters and their interweaving plot threads, I expected this adaptation to be a big mess in its execution, but I give Villeneuve and his screenwriters Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts for keeping a sense of consistency with only a modicum of confusion.

Herbert's Dune books have fascinated millions of readers, no doubt. Villeneuve's treatment may be about as much as the fan base could hope for in said execution.

It indicates somewhat of a return to massive filmmaking that gave us the original Star Wars trilogy as well as the Lord of the Rings. It's an ambitious undertaking that some audiences will find too sprawling to keep up with and others will be engrossed. For the most part, I was in the latter.

It's an impressive achievement, but I do hope audiences aren't turned off by A) its runtime of two and half hours in which a lot of it does contain hypnotic imagery that does keep us unexpectedly glued and B) the aforementioned plot threads are not enough to warrant frustration.

For the uninitiated, its execution is in the classical style of taking risks, but they do lead to some thorough rewards.

Note: The opening credits say this is Dune: Part One which means Part Two is currently in the works. I know some people will think differently despite my praise, but I believe Part Two is pregnant with possibilities.

Grade: A-(Rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, some disturbing images and suggestive material.)

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