By Lynn Venhaus
As far as big-budget cosmic spectacles go, “Dune” is impressive at filling the screen with wonder.

Directed by visionary Denis Villeneuve, who frames everything with meticulous care, as he did with “Arrival,” his only Oscar nomination, and “Blade Runner 2049” – the film is a technical marvel, with visually stunning panoramas and innovative flying machines.

A mythic hero’s journey, “Dune” is the big-screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal 1965 bestseller about a feudal interstellar society in a galaxy far, far away, which is set in a distant future.

It’s the story of Paul Atreides, a gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding. As part of the noble house of Atreides, he must travel to Arrakis, the most dangerous planet in the universe for the future of his family and people.

The desert wasteland planet has an exclusive supply of “mélange,” aka “the spice,” a drug that extends life and enhances mental abilities. As it is the most precious resource in existence, malevolent forces are at work to prevent this, and only those who can conquer their fear will survive.

Yet are these characters engaging enough? How much do we care about what happens to these political dynasties? They prefer to whisper in cavernous spaces, and while mesmerizing Zendaya’s narration helps, the project’s mythology on such an epic scale tends to weigh it down with “importance.”

Our hero’s journey is a very long one and we spend 2 hours and 35 minutes leading up to a next chapter. This is only Part One. We are warned at the end, when one character says to Paul: “You’re just getting started.” The payoff isn’t quite there – so when is Part Two?

We have just invested time on an extended prologue. Oh dear. Will only fans of the book be able to appreciate this saga? And isn’t that the true test? As is always the case, those not familiar with the source material will be at a disadvantage trying to keep up with the warring factions.

Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac and Stephen McKinley Henderson

Considered the best-selling science fiction novel of all-time, “Dune” is gigantic in scope, and the 1965 cult classic touches on themes involving politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, threading them all together in space.

The empire’s other planets want control of Arrakis for its spice, which is also necessary for space navigation because of its multidimensional awareness and foresight.

“Dune” is only the first in a series, followed by Herbert’s five sequels: Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune. After his death, others have kept the franchise going.

Its devoted fan base inspired filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky to attempt a film adaptation in the 1970s but it was cancelled after three years in development. Along came David Lynch’s complex adaptation in 1984, which was a harshly received misguided mess, and there was a Sci-Fi Channel miniseries in 2000.

While light years ahead of the 37-year-old film, “Dune” does seem to have the same problem about adapting something so unwieldy – that the character development suffers.

It’s difficult to figure out the planetary relationships and who’s who among the different groups, even with a strong cast that attempts to make everything as lucid as possible.

This one does attempt to over-correct in a tedious way, with a screenplay by director Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts (“Doctor Strange,” “Prometheus”) and Eric Roth, Oscar winner for “Forrest Gump,” that still is lacking in explanations.

Paul is played with youthful elan by Timothee Chalamet, who seems to be working non-stop. His character, burdened by birthright, is actually the least interesting of the massive ensemble – but the camera loves him, and he looks good standing in many shots of wind and blowing sands, contemplating.

Chalamet has genuine interactions with his father, an authoritative but loving Duke Leto Atreides, well-played by the always captivating Oscar Isaac. With warm fatherly advice, Isaac tells him: “A great man doesn’t seek to lead; he’s called to it.”

It’s not his fault that Paul is a blank slate. He is being groomed to take over, and while at times reluctant and confused, he ultimately accepts his duties. His mother, all-serious Lady Jessica, is a tough taskmaster, and subtly played by Rebecca Ferguson, they have a protective relationship.

Far more compelling is Jason Momoa as the fierce warrior Duncan Idaho. He brings some oomph to the fighter’s bravado and his fists of fury are legitimate. Momoa and Chalamet warmly convey a loyal long standing friendship.

Not given much to do is Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck, the duke’s right-hand man, and Dave Bautista as antagonist Beast Rabben Harkonnen – along with Momoa, they are the recognizable fighters.

A barely there Javier Bardem is Stilgar, a leader of a desert tribe. An unrecognizable Stellen Skarsgard appears, Jabba the Hut-like, as the disgusting despot Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. The Harkonnens are the evil not-to-be-trusted bad guys.

The first hour is full of awe. But why do movies about the future tend to mix medieval and “Star Wars” knock offs in production design and costumes, similar to the “Game of Thrones”? The color palette is deary shades of gray, beige and black.

While that gets wearisome, the cinematography of Greig Fraser is dazzling. An Emmy winner for “The Mandalorian” and Oscar nominee for “Lion,” he expresses the grandeur of the planets’ landscapes as well as the more intimate moments in various degrees of light.

He worked on “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and the upcoming “The Batman,” so tackling sandworms and spaceships is natural for him. His majestic work is one of the pleasures of seeing this in IMAX.

Hans Zimmer’s score is a stirring mix projecting danger and derring-do in dissonant chords, setting an urgent tone for action.

Dune (2021).TIMOTHEE CHALAMET.Credit: Chia Bella James/Warner Bros.

Despite its storytelling flaws, “Dune” is such a monumental example of state-of-the-art filmmaking that its cinematic universe deserves to be seen on the big screen.

“Dune” is a 2021 science-fiction action adventure directed by Denis Villeneuve. It stars Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson
, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista, Stellan Skarsgard, and Javier Bardem. Rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, some disturbing images and suggestive material, its run time is 2 hours, 35 minutes. It opened in theaters Oct. 22 and is streaming on HBO Max for 31 days. Lynn’s Grade: B.

The Critics Choice Association (CCA) has announced that award-winning actress and activist, and current Critics Choice Award nominee, Zendaya will receive the fifth annual SeeHer Award at the 26th annual Critics Choice Awards. The honor will be presented by her “Malcolm & Marie” co-star John David Washington during the live ceremony on Sunday, March 7, 2021 from 7-10pm ET/PT hosted by Taye Diggs.  

The SeeHer Award recognizes a woman who embodies the values set forth by the SeeHer movement, to push boundaries, defy stereotypes and acknowledge the importance of authentic portrayals of women across the entertainment landscape. SeeHer is the leading global movement for accurate portrayals of women and girls in media. Led by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), SeeHer is a collective of leading marketers, media organizations and industry influencers committed to creating advertising and media content that portrays women and girls as they truly are. Previous award recipients are Kristen Bell, Viola Davis, Claire Foy, and Gal Gadot. 

“We are so proud to be a part of the Critics Choice Awards, and celebrating our fifth SeeHer Award,” said Nadine Karp McHugh, President, SeeHer. “We are delighted to be presenting the award to Zendaya, who is such a strong representation of what it means to be a woman in 2021. One of the busiest rising stars in Hollywood – with a generation of Disney Channel fans, Marvel devotees and ‘Euphoria’ evangelists – she is a role model and leading voice of her generation. From being the youngest actress to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series to using her platform to advocate for Black women in Hollywood, she is showing the next generation that you are never too young to use your voice to make a difference. Inspiring girls everywhere to see themselves in their full potential, Zendaya represents everything SeeHer is.”  

Emmy Award-winning actor Zendaya is one of the most prominent and influential names in the entertainment industry today. Born and raised in Oakland, California to two teachers, Zendaya grew up performing, having spent a lot of her time at the local theater where her mother worked. She is currently starring in Netflix’s “Malcolm & Marie,” now available to watch globally, for which she also serves as a producer. Her role as Marie earned her a Critics Choice Award nomination for Best Actress this year.  

Zendaya launched her career as an actress on the Disney Channel starring in the hit series “Shake It Up” for three seasons and Disney’s “K.C. Undercover” for three seasons, which she also helped produce. 

Zendaya moved to the big screen in 2017, when she played the role of MJ in Marvel’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” followed by its sequel “Spider-Man: Far From Home” that premiered July 2019. She recently starred in the HBO and A24 hit series “Euphoria” for which she won the 2020 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. 

She can next be seen in Warner Bros. highly anticipated movie “Dune” which will be released in October 2021. 

Other film projects have included “The Greatest Showman” in which she played trapeze artist Anne Wheeler opposite Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman. The film was released in 2017 and instantly became a cult classic. In 2018 Zendaya played the voice of Meechee, a young yeti in the animated musical film “Smallfoot.” 

Zendaya is currently a beauty ambassador for Lancôme, as well as an ambassador for Bulgari and for Valentino. 

Critics Choice Awards are bestowed annually to honor the finest in cinematic and television achievement. Historically, they are the most accurate predictor of Academy Award nominations. 

The 26th annual Critics Choice Awards show will be produced by Bob Bain Productions and Berlin Entertainment. The CCA is represented by Dan Black of Greenberg Traurig. The show will continue its combined Film and Television awards format, honoring the finest in both cinematic and televised/streaming achievement. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 26th annual Critics Choice Awards show will be an in-person/virtual hybrid, with Diggs and some of the evening’s presenters filming from a stage in Los Angeles, and nominees appearing remotely from various locations around the world. 

Follow the 26th annual Critics Choice Awards on Twitter and Instagram @CriticsChoice and on Facebook/CriticsChoiceAwards. Join the conversation using #CriticsChoiceAwards. 

Digital assets and artwork can be found HERE

About the Critics Choice Association (CCA)  

The Critics Choice Association is the largest critics organization in the United States and Canada, representing more than 400 television, radio and online critics and entertainment reporters. It was established in 2019 with the formal merger of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association, recognizing the blurring of the distinctions between film, television, and streaming content. For more information, visit: www.CriticsChoice.com.  

About SeeHer 

Despite strides made in recent years to accurately portray women and girls in media, unconscious bias persists throughout advertising and entertainment. The average age, race, body type, and other aspects of women depicted in media today still represents only a small fraction of the female population. Led by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), SeeHer is a collective of marketers, media organizations and industry influencers committed to creating advertising and supporting content that portrays women and girls as they really are. It launched in June 2016 in partnership with The Female Quotient (The FQ) in Washington DC at the United State of Women. To help marketers benchmark success, the group developed Gender Equality Measure® (GEM®), the first research methodology that quantifies gender bias in ads and programming. GEM® shows that content portraying females accurately dramatically increases both purchase intent and brand reputation. In 2017 GEM® won the prestigious ESOMAR Research Effectiveness Award. The methodology quickly became the industry standard, which led to a global rollout in 2018. In 2019, the movement expanded into new verticals: sports (SeeHer In Sports) and music (SeeHer Hear Her). Visit SeeHer.com and follow @SeeHerOfficial on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 

About The CW  

THE CW TELEVISION NETWORK, a joint venture between Warner Bros. and CBS, launched in 2006. The CW is a multiplatform network that broadcasts a six-night 12-hour primetime lineup, Sunday through Friday and streams its ad-supported content, free, without login or authentication on CWTV.com and The CW app which is available on every major OTT platform. In daytime, The CW broadcasts a Monday through Friday afternoon block, and a three-hour Saturday morning kids block. The CW’s digital network, CW Seed, launched in 2013, and offers beloved limited-run series, as well as past seasons of recent fan-favorite television shows. For more information about the network and its programming, visit www.cwtvpr.com.