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Dune: Part 1

7/10

Stars: Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Stellan Skarsgard, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, Charlotte Rampling

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away (and in the far, far future)...there was a plot that I had considerable problems working out, until I just decided to settle on who were the good guys and who the bad guys, and who were the enigmatic in-betweeners - and then found it a largely enjoyable and often truly inventive piece of science-fiction.

A colony of 'tradees' is sent by the local emperor to the planet Arrakis, there to harvest from the desert the 'spice' (presumably crude oil) which fuels the interstellar empire.

But the treacherous emperor (Skarsgard, no fun) intends them all to die (not quite sure why, but no matter), including the leader (Isaac) and his son Paul (Chalamet), who may be 'the one' (shades of The Matrix) 'powerful enough to break space and time'.

At present, though, Paul is having these weird dreams that seem to involve a girl (Zendaya) from the indigenous desert people, led by Stilgar (Bardem), whom he has never met.

Some may find this longer and heavier than its infamous sandworms, but there are lots of good bits, with some banging action, pitched battles and impressive CGI special effects. And I loved the dragonfly planes, a truly original touch. The thundering score does drown out some of the dialogue, which is in any case the film's weakest link: 'I was sent here to check your vitals', for example, runs like a Carry On cast-off.

But Chalamet is a dashing hero, Ferguson staunch as his mother, and the sandworms, familiar from the disappointing 1984 version, finally show a hairy face towards the end - by which time we have become all too conscious of the film's great length.

'This is only the beginning,' proclaims Zendaya in the final scene, just in case any of us missed the tiny 'Part 1' under the opening title.

David Quinlan

USA 2021. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour by FotoKem.
155 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 17 Oct 2021