“Dune” was released in theaters and on HBO Max on Oct. 22, and stars Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, the son of royalty, who must reach his full potential in order to lead his people to safety from war with the evil Harkonnens and the all-powerful Empire. The film was directed by Denis Villeneuve, who was nominated for an Academy Award for directing “Arrival” and has also directed the critically acclaimed films “Prisoners,” “Sicario” and “Blade Runner 2049.” “Dune” is based on the book of the same name, written by Frank Herbert and released in 1965.

One of the film’s main strengths is the visuals, as the film is undeniably beautiful and has many great tracking shots of the desert and the titular sand dunes. Even the spaceships shown look photorealistic and bring the audience right into the world of “Dune.” Likewise, the costumes used in the film are exquisite and do a good job of distinguishing the different groups of people for the audience. The visuals and costumes of “Dune” are a much-needed improvement over the previous film version of “Dune,” which was released in 1984.

In addition to the stunning imagery of “Dune,” the film has strong world building that sets up intriguing and detailed locations. Villeneuve takes the audience to multiple planets during the course of the film, each of which has a distinct tone. For instance, the main planet seen is Arrakis, which is a desert planet with giant sandy mountains and storied, protected cities. The world building extends beyond the physical aspects of the planets, as each planet has its own culture and government that are masterfully established at the beginning of the film.

Furthermore, “Dune” has set itself up as a juggernaut franchise that will dominate Hollywood for the next few years. The world of “Dune,” as previously mentioned, is deep and rich enough to support a series of films to come. Since “Dune” only adapts the first part of the book, there is still part of the story left to be told, and “Dune: Part Two” has already been announced for release in 2023 as “Dune” has been a success, both financially and critically. The opening of “Dune” even opens with the subtitle “Part One,” letting audiences know that there is more to come afterward.

While “Dune” does leave the door open for further storytelling, this also hurts the film because there is a distinct lack of a satisfying end to the film. It seems almost intentional that the film ends at its peak when the audience is most curious to see what happens next. This strategy may be successful if audiences come back to see “Dune: Part Two,” but it also could backfire if audiences are left with a bad taste in their mouth. Overall, the lack of a conclusion hurts “Dune” as an individual film because the plot feels hollow without a real ending.

Similarly, the pacing of “Dune” is not perfect, as the second half of the film drags compared to the beginning. In the first half of the film, there is a good balance between action, dialogue and world-building. However, during the latter part of the film, there is a significant amount of time spent on two characters wandering through the desert, which slows down the pace and makes the film feel too long, especially since the total runtime is over two and a half hours.

Next, the majority of the performances in “Dune” are passable, as they are neither spectacular nor horrendous. The supporting cast includes many Hollywood A-listers, including Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Jason Momoa and Dave Bautista, all of whom have a lot of experience in blockbuster films. However, none of the characters really pop, partly due to the script and partly because of their performances. Brolin and Momoa give the most memorable performances as they seem to be having the most fun with their characters, while the rest of the cast (including Chalamet) seem to be more bored in their roles. Since the problem is systematic among most of the cast, it is likely that the fault lies with Villeneuve and his directions.

Another negative of the film is the score. The music composer of the film is Hans Zimmer, who is known for his high-quality work in films such as “The Lion King,” “Gladiator” and “Inception” — he won an Academy Award for the former. However, his score for “Dune” can best be described as odd, as there are multiple instances where the music in the film does not at all fit the tone of the scene. During these scenes, the music is too upbeat for the scene, pulling the audience out of the film. Oftentimes, the score goes unnoticed by most film audiences, but when done poorly, as in here, it can really bring down the overall feel.

“Dune” has been hailed by many as the next “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and while both are epics based on hit books, the similarities end there. “Dune” is more akin to “Star Wars,” as both involve space politics, corrupt empires and a hero deemed to be the chosen one. It is too soon to crown “Dune” as the next great film series, but it certainly has the potential to take the throne, depending on how the sequels turn out.

To conclude, “Dune” is a solid science fiction epic that succeeds in building an interesting universe and has incredible visuals, but its weaknesses are the performances, pacing and the musical score. Overall, “Dune” is worth a watch for fans of science fiction films but can be skipped by those who are less inclined to that genre.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars