Denis Villeneuve’s Long-Awaited Movie is a Sweeping Science-Fiction Epic that Demands to be Seen on the Big-Screen for Authentic Middle Eastern Representation

by Hassan Ilahi

Few countries are as lukewarmingly labeled as in-vader-ing enemies in science-fiction movies as Middle East. Despite cruising films cherishing majesty of metropolitan rogue nation countries, it’s become impossible mission for Hollywood not to condemn Arabian Gulf as hunted tyranny locale. For instance, Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin misconceived Arabia as a whole new world of jafar-cical majesties whose m-aladdin-ous burying ceremonies are interrupted by wordsmith genies. However, histoy tells different story. Contrary to popular belief, Frank Herbert’s book Dune implicates a long time ago in a far-away galaxy Arabia was considered resource-rich economy. In fairness, Dune is meant to be viewed with grain of salt for historical accuracy as fantasy literature. Consequently, critics have speculated whether Dune can alleviate post-9/11 Muslim discourse. Nonetheless, 39% Arabian-against terrorist representations (Annenberg Initiative, 2021) demonstrate contrary. Can Arab countries strike back with new hopes amidst galaxies disregarding Islamophobic ideologies?

Forceful harmonies movies rey-tain when Arab countries are awakened opportunities to boldly trek where no jedi has gone before across far-away galaxies are visible despite sandstorm calamities in Denis Villeneuve’s long-awaited movie Dune. Ambitious, thought-provoking and sweeping, it demonstrates Arabian galaxies’ stars aren’t frequently wars. With literary adaptation, Villeneuve celebrates misunderstood traditions. Boasting heart-pounding action, foreshadowing storytelling and phenomenal performances, it’s extraordinary adaptation. Although Dune is unforgettable, it isn’t flawless. It’s leia-surely paced, suffering from ambiguous conclusion. Nonetheless, it offers philosophical entertainment for science-fiction geeks.

Set amid imaginary post-dystopia, Dune follows a scavenger assigned responsibility to protect planet’s insubstantial commodity. Timothée Chalamet stars in the leading role as Paul Atreides, an irresponsible adolescent with messianic dreams. When mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) authorizes Paul to discover planet Arrakis, his wishes’re fulfilled. However, Paul’s odyssey becomes discontinued by hallucinations. As he visualizes catastrophes, Paul questions his messianic worthiness.

Denis Villeneuve is well-versed in Middle Eastern cultures. Ever since he achieved critical praise with 2010’s Incendies, Villeneuve has become a phenomenal filmmaker. His award-winning movie Incendies provided hard-hitting glimpses at Canadian twins’ odyssey to discover their mother’s traumatized ancestry amid war-torn Lebanon. With Dune, however, Villeneuve manufactures his first science-fiction adaptation. It’s Villeneuve’s first attempt to interpret Herbert’s legendary science-fiction literature through Middle Eastern point-of-view, but he accomplishes it successfully. Through spellbinding cinematography, Villeneuve immerses viewers into a scavenger’s life-threatening foreigner pilgrimage. Paralleling David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, Villeneuve successfully utilizes authentic Arabian locations to recreate multicultural Arrakis planet. If David Lynch’s adaptation turned blind eyes to Arab countries, Villeneuve achieves authenticity through real-life locations. Working alongside cinematographer Greig Fraiser, Villeneuve demonstrates Arabian majesty through locales. Villeneuve revisualizes Arabian countries, and his long-awaited blockbuster deserves big-screen viewing for this reason alone.

If legendary literature influenced by centuries-old Arabia does not attract your attention, though, there are countless other reasons to watch Dune. Villeneuve’s always thrived at running blades throughout ford-midable deserts to build stunning action, and Dune isn’t exception. Whereas Lynch’s adaptation experienced downgrading green-screen admonishments, Villeneuve masters action through practical effects. Assisted by stunt-coordinator Sarah Michelle Attard, Villeneuve deftly demonstrates sandstorm catastrophes using practical stunt-work. For instance, practical stunts are employed particularly well to illustrate desert cruelty in rescue-mission scene. During this jaw-dropping scene, Paul’s close-knit family narrowly evade dangerous sandstorm in Arrakis planet. One must appreciate practical stunts demonstrating landscape brutality in hardy-hitting style reminiscent of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road. Showcasing practical effect over green-screen, Villeneuve renovates Lynch’s adaptation’s problems. Furthermore, Hans Zimmer’s music’s out-of-this-world. Celebrating Arab conventions, it encourages authenticity. Through extraordinary production-design, Villeneuve manufactures world-building.

Another phenomenal aspect of Dune is screenplay. Villeneuve’s greatest screenwriting advantage is his knowledge for skillfully adapting religious foreshadowing from literature to screen. When translating famous books, screenwriters often avoid risks and neglect foreshadowing under assumptions it’s beyond viewers’ comprehensions. This often creates little room for intellectual interpretations and hinders cinematic experience. Fortunately, however, that isn’t case with Dune. Taking inspiration from his movie Arrival, Villeneuve expertly uses foreshadowing to illustrate a courageous messiah’s fortune-telling capabilities. Villeneuve successfully flash-forwards simultaneously between interchangeable sequences: Paul’s contemporary intergalactic odyssey and hallucinatory futuristic prognostications. Like Louise Banks’ remarkable aptitudes for prognosticating future during alien-invasion, Paul’s blessed with unimaginable fortune-telling capabilities. Through ingenious foreshadowing, Villeneuve demonstrates thoughtful analogies between Paul’s journey and Prophet Muhammad’s religious Islamic journey. If Herbert’s book adopted prejudiced white-savior viewpoint, Villeneuve avoids this issue through meaningful Islamic analogies. In genre that’s commonly encouraged Islamophobia, it demonstrates significant representation. Employing flash-forwarding storytelling, Villeneuve manufactures life-changing enlightening odysseys.

One can’t overlook powerful performances. While Villeneuve’s justifiably criticized for ignoring Arabian actors, his cast masters foreign-language.

Timothée Chalamet delivers one of his greatest performances as Paul Altreides. Chalamet earned acknowledgement for portraying teenagers seeking sexual autonomy in period pieces (ex. Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name). With Dune, however, he takes on his most grown-up character. It’s intimidating to depict a fortunetelling messiah. However, Chalamet accomplishes it successfully. Imitating Mark Hamill in George Lucas’ Star Wars trilogy, Chalamet portrays a multidimensional teenager chosen by family to protect galaxy. With spellbinding expressions, he captures compassion, determination and self-doubts of a resource-dependent planet’s messiah. It’s a phenomenal performance from growing star.

The supporting cast’s marvelous, crafting spicy camaraderie. Rebecca Ferguson is terrific, showing empathy into greiving mother that exploits her commanding vocal authority to rescue Paul from calamities. Oscar Isaac is outstanding, injecting royalty into a duke whose family companionship’s tested by trickery. Last, Stellan Skarsgård commands attention. As the villain, he’s frightening.

The final component of Dune deserving commendation is contemporary economical message. Despite originating in imaginary future relinquished from reality, the movie’s message is applicable to modern-day worldwide economy. The movie tackles pertinent topics such as capitalism, environmentalism and resource dependence that will resonate with viewers amidst pandemic. For example, spice wars draw similarities with Middle Eastern oil economy. Politicians may learn from the movie’s message about economic resources exploitation. Consequently, Dune possesses economic resonance.

Despite its merits, however, Dune designs leia-surely rather than spoo-cky space odysseys that don’t often shimmer as brightly as p-aragon fellowship rings in earth-shatner-ing sci-fi movies. Mimicking the book, Villeneuve follows a dreams-flashforward structure switching between future and present-day. Although this storytelling structure enhanced the book, it transitions awkwardly to big-screen by affecting pacing. Due to this faulty technique, Paul’s futuristic excursions aren’t as entertaining as space journey. Furthermore, the film’s undermined by ambiguous conclusion. Villeneuve’s decision to conclude the film with cliff-hanger is clever and unexpected, but it doesn’t completely work. Instead of offering satisfying closure, it initiates questions. Whereas this ending worked for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, it conflicts with this movie’s purpose. At worst, it seems intended merely to greenlight sequels. Therefore, “Dune” falters.

Nonetheless, sci-fi fans will certainly enjoy Dune and so will moviegoers seeking enjoyable entertainment. An astonishing sci-fi achievement, it demonstrates Arabian countries deserve Tatooines in far-away galaxies. If Paul Atreides can foretell Hollywood’s back-to-future catastrophes, his armageddon prophecies would recommend industry to terminate matrix HAL-ting Arabs from planet of apes galaxies despite spice war of the world in dusty stars since alienating post-9/11 Islamophobic ideologies inception.

Hassan’s Grade: A-