DUNE – Review by Susan Granger

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Since its publication in 1965, Frank Herbert’s epic tale has become one of the most popular sci-fi novels of all time. No wonder that filmmakers have grappled with interpreting its vast, complex story.

French Canadian writer/director Denis Villenueve begins his $165 million extravaganza with “Part I.”

In feudal 10191, the Emperor abruptly withdraws rapacious House Harkonnen from harvesting precious Spice on the desert planet of Arrakis – a.k.a. Dune – where they’ve cruelly oppressed the indigenous, Bedouin-like Fremen, led by Stilgar (Javier Bardem).

Arrakis’ shimmery, sparkling Spice, called Melange, is the most valuable element in the galaxy, essential to interstellar travel; a natural resource, it’s propelled by hot desert winds, leading to blistering sandstorms, and guarded by colossal, writhing sandworms, capable of sensing vibrations from far away.

The noble House Atreides has just been place in command under Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), who arrives on Arrakis from his oceanic home on Caladan with his clairvoyant concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and their teenage son Paul (Timothee Chalamet).

Priestess Jessica was taught by the matriarchal Bene Gesserit sisterhood, whose members have supernatural powers, yet she has defied the all-female tradition by indoctrinating vulnerable Paul with psychic mysticism, secretly training him in mind control by activating ‘the Voice,’ manipulating how words are spoken.

Meanwhile, Paul has been having prophetic visions of Chani (Zendaya), a Fremen warrior who – finally – near the film’s conclusion – proclaims: “This is only the beginning.”

Could Paul be the genetically superior ‘Kwisatz Haderach,’ fabled Fremen messiah? Is that his destiny?

Rudimentarily adapted by Jon Spaihts, Eric Roth and director Villenueve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049), it’s awe-inspiring/magnificent with an enormity of sounds and visual effects: dragonfly choppers, known as ornithopters, and tight stillsuits, turning sweat and tears into drinkable water.

Credit Greig Fraser’s cinematography, Patrice Vermette’s production design, Jacqueline West/Robert Morgan’s costumes and Hans Zimmer’s haunting score.

As of now, Warner Bros. has not announced a date for “Part 2,” which seems inevitable.

Running 2 hours, 35 minutes – on the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, Dune is a sumptuous, spectacular 7, available in theaters and streaming on HBO Max through Nov. 21.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.