Sand in the Gears: A Gorgeous but Slow Trip to Dune

Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson in Dune. (Chiabella James/Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures) Virtually all of Dune is scene-setting, world-building, setup. It may be the longest prologue ever made.

Watching Denis Villeneuve’s film of Frank Herbert’s Dune filled me with admiration — not for Villeneuve or Herbert, but for George Lucas. Of the three big-name directors who immersed themselves in Herbert’s sci-fi tale, Lucas was the one who understood exactly what to do with it: strip it for parts, combine those parts with some other burgled bits (from Flash Gordon), and add plenty of whimsy and lightheartedness. Villeneuve’s Dune is light as lead.

It’s well worth seeing (in a theater, as I’ll explain) and I certainly hope the second half gets made. But it’s a slog. Gorgeous and eerie, it drifts along when it should be charging ahead. It’s a film of painterly vistas, haunting music, and woozy reveries, defined by stiff dialogue.

I love beautiful reveries and I kind of like stiff dialogue, especially if it sounds like it came from a 1950s Bible epic or Lawrence of Arabia: “Here I stand,” that sort of thing. Always slays me. However, the guy who delivers a

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