Javier Bardem

REVIEW: Dune (2021)

After his family, the House of Atreides, is called to take ownership of the planet Arrakis, Paul (Timothée Chalamet) becomes entangled in the war for the most valuable resource in the galaxy.

I read Dune by Frank Herbert a few years ago and saw the 1984 film version earlier this year so I did have some background knowledge going into this latest adaptation which is a good thing as Dune as a story is still incredibly dense with political intrigue and various people and families being important.

Dune is indeed absolutely stunning to look at. There’s no denying that director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Greig Fraser have put together a fantastic looking film that really emphasises the scope of this story and makes all space craft look huge and tangible. The size of ships and rooms in cities may mean there’s a lot of space but the way things are shot and how the tension builds between some characters means that there’s often a claustrophobic feel to things too. Everything is so vast but as there’s so many things out there looking to harm Paul and those he cares about – huge sand worms and other Houses included – that it feels like there’s a threat from every corner.

The huge score from Hans Zimmer also contributes to this. It often compliments the shots on screen but some of the musical choices (I’m talking about the bagpipes) does feel a bit out of place. Though House of Atreides and Arrakis each have a distinct theme which is always nice to hear and it’s always nice to hear echoes of music throughout a film.

Dune has a huge and talented cast and some (Zendaya and Javier Bardem) are not in it much at all but they all do give great performances. Chalamet does a fine job being pretty much the centre of the whole thing but the two standouts were Rebecca Ferguson as Paul’s mother Lady Jessica and Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, one of Duke Leto’s (Oscar Isaac) right-hand men. Ferguson captures the many sides of Jessica brilliantly. She’s composed and skilled while also barely containing her terror in one key scene. Before even Paul or you as the viewer know what he’s about to face you are on edge thanks to her performance. On the other end of the scale, you have Jason Momoa. While Ferguson is restrained, Momoa is exuberant in all situations, even battles. Every time Jason Momoa comes on screen it’s like the film got a shot of adrenalin. He is charismatic and charming and Momoa seems like he’s just having a great time being a space warrior who also manages to befriend everyone. Duncan Idaho is like a mentor to Paul and their dynamic is great and he’s such an affable character that it’s hard not to enjoy his presence whenever he’s on screen.

Most of the problems I have with Dune the film are the ones I had in Dune the book. It’s a dense story with a lot of political machinations and moving parts, and a lot of the characters aren’t afforded much depth. Chalamet does a fine job at Paul but the problem lies with the kind of character Paul is, he’s a prophesised saviour-type of character and so while there’s moments where you can see he’s smart or skilled, you never really get to see who he is as a person. It’s difficult to connect with a lot of the characters because there’s so much to take in about each of them, and with many of them it’s their sense of duty or legacy that comes across more than any kind of appealing personality.

Another problem with Dune is that it’s technically part one of the story. This would be less worrying if two things had happened. One, that the second film was confirmed to be happening – at the moment it seems to be dependent on how much money this one makes etc. And two, if this film actually felt like it had a beginning, middle and an end. This film just stops and in some ways a lot seems to have happened, and in others it doesn’t seems to have achieved anything at all. If anything, it feels like it stops hallway through the second act, so there has been a lot of setup but not a lot of resolution. Even films like The Lord of the Rings that are three distinct parts of one overall story each have three clear acts. With Dune you can’t help but feel a bit dissatisfied.

There is no denying the impressive filmmaking that produced Dune. The special effects often look invisible making you believe in these worlds and the technology and people that live in them, and the whole atmosphere of the film is very distinct. The cast are great too but it’s the story structure and the story itself that doesn’t quite stand up to how the film is presented. Maybe if/when we get a Dune Part Two it’ll make this film go up in my estimations. For now, it looks great, but much like the novel I cared little for the story or most of the characters. 3/5.

REVIEW: Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (2017)

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) past catches up with him when undead Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his crew are out for revenge. Jack sets out to find the trident of Poseidon as it might be the only thing to save him.

The Jack Sparrow you meet in this film is not like the one seen in the previous films, especially the first three. Those films he acts a bit drunk and is weird but he’s still a crazy kind of smart that he can see the moves ahead and surprise people. In Salazar’s Revenge he’s a bit past his prime, is very drunk and if he does achieve something it’s more by accident than any type of skill. Unfortunately, it makes Sparrow annoying as the film focuses more on the slapstick humour of the character than his wit and it’s kind of sad to see him like that.

Joining Sparrow on his adventure is Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) and Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) who each have their own agendas for searching for the trident. Both are fun additions to the franchise and each do things to further the plot and seem to have their own character arcs. I did like Henry a lot, he’s his own person but you can see both of his parent’s attributes in him which is nice.

This film has a messy plot with a lot of characters and motivations. There’s a witch (Golshifteh Farahani) that serves no real point than delivering information to other characters in two scenes and then is never seen again, and there’s the British Navy once again but that plot thread is almost an afterthought.

One of the problems with this film is there’s a fair few times that the plot and character backstory contradicts what you’ve already learnt in the previous four films. This might not be as noticeable if you haven’t seen them in a while but watching this film less than a week after concluding my rewatch, I noticed multiple things that didn’t add up.

On the most part, the action looks good and is fun, the guillotine sequence is a bright point in the film but it gets very CGI heavy as the film progresses. Salazar is a menacing villain, though admittedly he’s a bit hard to understand sometimes, and the scenes between him and Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) are pretty tense.

Salazar’s Revenge lacks the charm of the first film and while it brings back some old characters which helps add to the emotional impact of the film, it’s not that memorable. 2/5.

REVIEW: Skyfall (2012)

skyfall-poster_510x756When a hard drive with the identity’s of undercover MI6 agents is stolen M’s (Judi Dench) past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack James Bond (Daniel Craig) must hunt down the mysterious and deadly Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), no matter the cost.

Skyfall is a good-looking film. Standout moments include the static shot of Bond and Patrice (Ola Rapace) fighting in Shanghai. They are silhouettes with blue lights behind them and not only does it look really cool, you can actually see and follow the fight much more easily than when fights are shot with a lot of close ups and quick cuts.

New characters are introduced in Skyfall – or rather old characters with new faces. Q (Ben Whishaw) is much younger than the previous incarnation and allows for interesting commentary for the new age of espionage. Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) is definitely a twenty-first century version of the character and is awesome. (more…)