Long before “Star Wars” and the journey of Luke Skywalker, there was “Dune,” the sci-fi coming-of-age story of Paul Atreides. Adapted from the wildly popular book written by Frank Herbert in 1965, this new film version brilliantly directed by Denis Villeneuve, follows Paul Atreides, earnestly played by Timothée Chalamet, the son of a noble family who must travel to one of the most dangerous planets in the universe in order to maintain the position of his family, as well as to come to terms with his looming destiny. Like Skywalker, Paul strives to make his own mark on the universe, but there are even more complex challenges for Paul who must also face the seemingly impossible challenge of living up to his parents’ differing expectations.
Timothée Chalamet delivers a deeply emotional performance while simultaneously holding back emotion, something only an actor of his caliber is capable of doing. He brings Paul Atreides alive in a way that our generation can completely relate to, given the conflicts and complexities of our own time.
For most people from younger generations, the story of “Dune” may not be as well-known as some of its sci-fi counterparts that it paved the way for, such as “Star Wars,” or “Star Trek,” or even the Marvel movies, despite having already been previously adapted from the book to a film directed by David Lynch back in 1984. Villeneuve’s film is ambitious and ahead of its time, taking on the major responsibility of illustrating our complex universe. Audiences will not only sympathize with Paul and the struggles he faces, but they will see themselves in him as well.
Other members of this crème de la crème cast include: Zendaya as Chani, Oscar Issac as Duke Leto Atreides, Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck and Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.
VALLEY was able to attend a college journalist round table with Warner Bros. and talk with Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya about their experiences working on the movie and their hopes for what audiences will take with them after they see the film.
“I think the character we meet at the beginning of the movie — a young man who’s struggling with his identity, struggling with the way he is, how he is in the world. Who he is not only to himself but to his loved ones, to the people of planet Caladan and after that planet Arrakis. I think those are things that all of us struggle with when we’re at that age and we don’t know who we are and we’re trying to find ourselves, trying to find our voice, trying to find our identity,” Chalamet says.
Not only does the movie encapsulate the grandeur of “Dune” and the universe it lives in, but it’s also able to convey intimate small moments within such a large spectacle that are hard to find in many other movies this big. Relationships are at the core of this film more so than anything else. The relationship Paul has with those around him is not one we often see in films with young heroes. Oftentimes, these heroes are devoid of a life with trusting relationships and instead must build them as they come to terms with who they are, but instead Paul has very close, strong relationships with both of his parents and those who work for him. As the movie progresses, we see the dismantling of those relationships and how Paul copes with that. Amidst all of the action and thrills, there is intense underlying emotion that the audience feels and that is what makes this film so powerful.
“What he’s [Villeneuve] great at doing is never losing the human part, and that’s what I love about this film. There’s so much going on, so many things to talk about — just to look at, to hear,” Zendaya says. “Never losing sight of that human element is one of Denis’ specialties. It’s all about the human emotion and those experiences and he’s been able to do that in another world and galaxy.”
Despite the book and the original film not coming out when our generation was growing up, the central story still remains relevant and most young people are facing a similar crossroad that Paul himself faces in the movie: Who am I and what path should I be taking in life?
“It would mean sort of transposing a story from the 60s by way of Denis’ vision by way of Denis’ masterplan and have it be accessible to a generation that relates in many ways to the qualities of the story,” Chalamet says.
“There’s so many things you can take from it … that idea of fitting into shoes you’re not ready to yet and grow up a little quicker,” says Zendaya. “That sense of responsibility — I think we all face it — like what is the right thing to do?”
While there is a whole universe to be explored, the movie also touches on other aspects of the genre that most sci-fi films don’t attempt to cover, such as aesthetics and humor and adolescence wrapped in responsibility. There is something in this film for every audience member, which might be what makes it so enjoyable to watch. For those who aren’t well versed in sci-fi movies, but want to start, this movie is the perfect jumping off point.
Even though there is a lot to take in and understand as the movie unfolds, it’s a visually captivating experience that will have you on the edge of your seat. This pretty close to perfect sci-fi adventure goes even further than most and touches on socially relevant topics like the environment, social and political injustice and what people will and won’t do for just a little bit of power.
And who knows, this might be just the beginning.
“Dune” will be released in theaters on October 22 and will be streaming exclusively on HBO Max for 31 days.