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‘Dune’ is ‘both dazzling and frustrating,’ critics say

Timothee Chalamet stars in Warner Bros.’ “Dune.”

Warner Bros.

“Dune” has long been considered unfilmable, but director Denis Villeneuve seems to have cracked the code on how to bring this sweeping narrative to the big screen.

Previous versions of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science-fiction novel have struggled to capture the scope and nuance of the source material, which focuses less on the technology of the future and more on the politics of humanity.

“Dune” centers on the House of Atreides, a family that is assigned leadership over a planet named Arrakis by the sovereign ruler of the known universe, Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV. This planet is an inhospitable desert, but is the only source of a priceless and exclusive substance known as “spice.” This substance can extend human youth, vitality and lifespan.

Shaddam actually sees House Atreides as a potential rival and a threat and conspires with House Harkonnen, who had been in charge of harvesting spice on Arrakis, to destroy the family.

The novel and film center on Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet), the heir apparent of House Atreides, as he navigates his family’s relocation to Akkrais, the betrayal of the Padishah Emperor and his assimilation into the planet’s native population.

“It might help to think of the whole thing as a kind of Mafia turf war, set in space: Enemies and treachery are everywhere,” wrote Michael O’Sullivan in his review of the film for The Washington Post.

Many critics praised Villeneuve’s precise storytelling and sprawling scale of the film, while others faulted it for being long, slow and ending just as the story was getting interesting.

Audiences should be aware that “Dune, which has a two hour and 35 minute run time, only covers half of Herbert’s novel. Warner Bros. has not officially greenlit a sequel to handle the second half of the novel.

“Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ is both dazzling and frustrating, often spectacular and often slow. It’s huge and loud and impressive but it can also be humorless and bleak,” wrote Steve Pond in his review of the film for The Wrap. “Though on the whole, it tries valiantly to address the problems of taking on Herbert’s complex epic, which requires a director to spend lots of time setting things up and explaining the world before they can even get the damn thing off the ground.”

The film currently holds an 87% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 174 reviews.

Here’s what critics thought of “Dune” ahead of its debut in theaters and on HBO Max Friday:

Steve Pond, The Wrap

Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac and Stephen McKinley Henderson star in Warner Bros.’ “Dune.”

Warner Bros.

Soren Andersen, The Seattle Times

Michael O’Sullivan, The Washington Post

Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson star in Denis Villeneuve’s remake of “Dune.”

Warner Bros.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

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