Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya’s ‘Dune’ Is Loud, Long, and Entertaining

  • “Dune” has an A-list cast, including Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, and Rebecca Ferguson.
  • Is “Dune” any good? The short answer to that question is yes.
  •  Jason Mamoa is the stand-out actor in the film. He’s commanding, charismatic, and irresistible.

Hours before Denis Villeneuve’s highly-anticipated remake of the sci-fi classic “Dune” screened for journalists at the Venice Film Festival last Thursday, festival organizers sent an email telling those attending to arrive “well in advance” due to new security measures.

These new measures didn’t have anything to do with COVID-19. Instead, attendees were asked to place their phones and all other recording devices into sealed bags as part of an “anti-piracy extraordinary measure” as requested by the film’s production, the email read in part.

(It’s important to emphasize that no other film that was presented to journalists and industry insiders at Venice — not the highly anticipated Princess Diana biopic “Spencer” nor the Benedict Cumberbatch-led “The Power of The Dog” — received this type of security.)

But what’s got the film’s distributor, Warner Bros., so paranoid — especially as they’re about to give the film a simultaneous release in theaters and on

HBO Max
. Surely, streaming will give all the illegal pirates the luxury to rewind, cut, and upload footage of the film as they please.

If anything, the extra precautions are a sign of the times. After almost two years of stunted profits due to the pandemic, Warners is betting big on “Dune” and its A-list cast: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, and Oscar Isaac.

But does the blockbuster live up to the hype?

‘Dune’ was the most hyped and sought-after film at Venice with teens trying desperately to get into the screening without tickets

A picture of Oscar Isaac and Josh Brolin in "Dune."

 

Oscar Isaac and Josh Brolin in “Dune.”

Warner Bros.

As instructed by the festival organizers, I arrived at the Friday morning screening of “Dune” earlier than usual. With the warning of extra lines due to the enhanced security precautions paired with the daily COVID-19 checks and security bag searches by armed Italian police, I wasn’t going to take any chances.

Upon arrival, I could already feel there was something a little different in the air. An odd feeling that one could only describe as collective anxiety. It seemed to originate from the hope that this big, A-list blockbuster would actually turn out to be good.

Even Italian Gen-Zers, hoping to sneak into the screening to catch Chalamet and Zendaya on the big screen, wanted to know. But because they didn’t have a ticket, they were turned away.

Is ‘Dune’ any good? Yes and Jason Mamoa is the stand-out.

Dune Warner Bros



Warner Bros.

The short answer to the question on everyone’s minds is: Yes, “Dune” is good.

The film is pretty much everything one would want in a high-concept, big-budget blockbuster. It’s loud, long, and entertaining.

“Dune” also boasts all the best aspects of Villeneuve’s previous work, which means it’s profound, beautifully photographed, and well-acted.

I won’t dig into plot details here because Insider’s Libby Torres will provide a more comprehensive review in the coming months, but I’ll note that I was surprised by the film’s breakout performance.

I didn’t leave the theater struck by the performance of Chalamet, who’s the film’s leading man, nor was I wowed by Zendaya (although it’s only because she has about 10 minutes of meaningful dialogue and is set to feature more prominently in “Dune: part 2,” which Villeneuve has already begun to tease.)

I was most moved by Jason Momoa.

Now, there was nobody more surprised at this than me. I am not a fan of the superhero films Momoa has made or the standard action fodder he frequently features. But here, in “Dune,” he’s commanding, charismatic, and irresistible in all the ways the film’s other leading men (Chalamet, Isaac, Brolin, and Bautista) are not.

Without revealing any spoilers, I can confirm that it’s unlikely Momoa will feature in “Dune: part 2.” So bring on “Aquaman 2,” I guess.

Will ‘Dune’ be a big awards season and box office hit? It’s hard to say.

A picture of Timothée Chalamet in "Dune."

 

Timothée Chalamet in “Dune.”

Warner Bros.

“Dune” isn’t your typical blockbuster. It’s more subtle and weirder than what audiences have become accustomed to with Marvel’s constant slate of cookie-cutter thrills.

And this isn’t a bad thing: It’s incredibly refreshing to see a film of this scale and grandeur (the film’s estimated budget is north of $165 million) take bold artistic swings. But I’m not sure what this means for the film’s chances during awards season or at the box office.

Let’s face it: Warner Bros.’ decision to release the film in theaters and on HBO Max on the same day is disastrous — and I’m not speaking from the position of  a movie theater purist. As the National Association of Theatre Owners chief John Fithian recently said at Cinemacon, the numbers show that simultaneous releases simply don’t work.

And because we also know that COVID-19 transmission rates in movie theaters — thanks to enhanced safety protocols — have been much lower than in, say, supermarkets, “Dune” should get an exclusive theatrical release.

Plus, audiences are going back. In fact, over the weekend, Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” took home $146 million worldwide — the strongest box office opening of the pandemic.

So what’s the hold up, WB? “Dune” demands to be seen on the big screen.

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