This visually sumptuous space opera is sure to please new audiences and Dune fans alike. Director Denis Villeneuve gifts us with unusually patient storytelling; a refreshing change in the sci-fi genre, and an opportunity to relish in setting up the magnitude of a new, grand universe. The SFX team serves up haunting, slow-gliding high-tech obelisks and highly impractical dragonfly crafts, contrasted with vast misty desolate desert vistas. The sound design is the requisite BWAAA and generic tribal vocalizations. The costuming is an exquisite pastiche of vaguely ethnic global appropriation, window dressing to the story’s main thrust which could be summed up as “What happens when imperialism goes wrong.” 

The film opens on a hazy Zendaya commenting on colonialism (perhaps signaling an intention to unpack white-savior themes in the sequel), then cuts away to a satisfyingly wan and angsty Timothée Chalamet, a physical manifestation of the powerlessness of youth. Villeneuve has stated that Zendaya’s character will have a greater role in the sequel. Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista, and Josh Brolin are completely in their element, serving righteous space-bro energy. Charlotte Rampling is deliciously haughty and scheming as the Reverend Mother, matched against matrilineal renegade Lady Jessica, quietly played by Rebecca Ferguson.

At a tight 2 hours and 35 minutes running time, purists may grumble that countless details were inevitably left out. However, as Watchmen fans know, a too-faithful adaptation is a surefire way to end up with yet another pile of garbage in the gullet of a giant space-worm. After all, Dune the novel still exists and will always remain a compelling read. PG-13, 155 min.

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