To many, the best selling “Dune” novels written by Frank Herbert are as fascinating and intriguing as a desert’s shifting sands. Nonetheless, when director Denis Villeneuve created a new star studded movie adaptation of the novels, watchers were somehow left both satisfied and incredibly confused.

Villeneuve’s “Dune” was released in the theaters and on HBO Max on Oct. 22, 2021. This year’s adaptation was a remake from the 1984 version, which received bleak reviews from the public and critics after its release. To avoid a repeat of unsatisfactory reviews, extensive advertising and  PR measures were taken to increase the movie’s anticipation. Such promotional efforts worked, for “Dune” opened the United States box offices with 40.1 million dollars in opening day sales

Embodying the attributes of a somber yet high scale level science fiction film, “Dune” is filled with intense tribal fights, enormous armies, a bizarre, grotesque villain and an acclaimed hero who could possibly be the next Messiah to his world. The movie is set in the future and begins on the water planet of Caladan. While in Caladan, the main character, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), is introduced to the audience. Paul is a member of the elite, intergalactic House of Atreides, run by his father Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Issac), and mother Lady Jessisca (Sarah Furgeson), who is also a member of the quasi religious order of the Bene Gesserit. 

The main conflict of “Dune” arises after Paul’s father Leto acquires rights to the planet of Arrakis. Arrakis houses one of the most crucial resources in the galaxy: spice. Serving as an energy source and hallucigen, the spice on Arrakis was previously mined and colonized by the leadership from the evil House of Harkonnens. Upon hearing about their removal of power from Arrakis, the Harkonnens are enraged, and their inhamune leader Baron Vladimir (Stellan Skarsgård) stops at nothing to destroy the House of Atreides and control spice wealth and production. As this intensifying conflict continues to boil between the two houses, Paul begins to believe that he is “The One,” or a savior to the indeginous inhabitants of Arrakis, the Freeman and his people.

To those who are unfamiliar with the “Dune” series, or the science fiction cinema as a whole, “Dune’s” intricate plot can be difficult to understand and appear like a trailer to the next movies in the franchise. Throughout the course of the film, Paul has dreams and visions which embed him and his mother on the planet of Arrakis with the naive Freeman. These implications promise the watcher that Paul will undergo a grand transformation in which he becomes “The One,” and uses his powers to his benefit. Although watchers get a small taste of Paul’s skill towards the end of the film, “Dune’s” storyline lost the majority of its pulse after the key characters died. The short scenes of dialogue play like a collection of episodes, usually starting, ending or being interrupted by one of Paul’s visions. 

Despite its fractured storyline, “Dune’s” immersive cinematography compensated for the sporadic plot. From the opening scene, which pans over a harvest stricken desert in Arrakis, to the closing scene where Paul and Lady Jessica join the Freeman in their trek along the desert, the film’s landscapes make the viewer feel like they too are in space. Small and large visuals alike are never unnoticed, from the crunching noises of the soft sand underneath boots to the propelling buzzes of large space ships. The prime cinematographic creation in the movie is the formation of the giagnitic and mounstrus sandworms. Sandworms found on Arrakis were said to be able to grow up to 450 meters long, and completely swallow an entire harvesting rig in a single gulp. These colossal creatures are portrayed with eerie sand vibrations, which turn into the jaws of the worm that abruptly devours anything within its radius. Ultimately, the dullness of certain sections in Dune’s storyline is shadowed by the consuming spectacles of space and desert that hook and satisfy viewers’ wandering eyes. 

When the first images of  “Dune’s” star studded cast were released on social media platforms, the public immediately fell into a frenzy. High expectations were set for cast members after the majority of the movie’s marketing completed. Ultimately, each cast member met and exceeded these expectations in their dialogue, regardless of the amount of screen time he or she was given.

Chalamet delivered an admirable performance, which both denied and embraced Paul’s complexity and intelligence. The emotion displayed during his future reading episodes seemed torturing, yet intriguing for his character. Issac as Leto conveyed a noble, likeable demeanor, while Fergerson personified a fierce, mysterious character in Jessica. Even popular actress Zendaya’s Chani impressively executed her only seven minutes of  combined screen time, despite being publicized as a main character. 

Through giant sandworms, vicious combat and staggering visuals, “Dune” mesmerized its viewers. Loopholes in the plot are strategically filled by the elements of mind reading that Paul possesses and hints to using by the end of the movie. Movie watchers will have to wait on a cliffhanger until 2023 to watch “Dune: Part II,” and see what is in hold for the franchise’s future.

  • Plot
  • Cinematography
  • Costumes
  • Acting
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