Dune: Part One is an epic science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve and also written by Villeneuve, along with Jon Spaihts, and Eric Roth. It is the first of a two-part adaptation of the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert, which mostly covers the first half of the book. Set far in the future, amidst a feudal interstellar society in which various noble houses control planetary fiefs, Dune follows the story of young Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), whose noble family accepts stewardship of Arrakis but is thrust into a war for the deadly and inhospitable desert planet. Having seen Dune in 1964, I didn’t remember it, so I decided to give it another try. Dune is extremely complicated and hard to explain but very entertaining.
In a far future when faster-than-light travel is possible and almost all the planets in the known universe are under the sway of a feudal aristocratic empire, Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) of House Atreides, ruler of the ocean planet Caladan, is assigned by the Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV (Frank Herber) to replace House Harkonnen as fief rulers of Arrakis. Arrakis is a harsh desert planet and the only source of “spice”, a valuable substance that bestows its users heightened vitality and expanded consciousness. It is critical for interstellar travel as it allows Spacing Guild Navigators to use a limited form of prescience to safely navigate interstellar space. In reality, Shaddam intends to have House Harkonnen stage a coup to retake the planet with aid of the Emperor’s Sardaukar Bashar’s (Neil Bell) troops, eradicating House Atreides, whose influence threatens Shaddam’s control. Leto is apprehensive but sees the political advantages of controlling the spice planet and forming an alliance with its native population, skilled fighters known as the Fremen.
FYI: The members of House Atreides rule the planet Arrakis, which is the source of the precious “SPICE”. Duke Leto has been ordered by Emperor Shaddam to replace House Atreides with House Harkonnen as ruler of Arrakis. This would be a coup. While Duke Leto is also a member of House Atreides, he is also the ruler of the ocean planet, Caladan.
Leto’s concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) is an acolyte of the Bene Gesserit, an exclusive sisterhood whose members possess advanced physical and mental abilities. As part of their centuries-long breeding program, the Bene Gesserit instructed Jessica to bear a daughter whose son would become a male Bene Gesserit called the Kwisatz Haderach, a messianic superbeing with the clairvoyance necessary to guide humanity to a better future; instead, she bore a son, Paul. Throughout his life, Paul is trained by Leto’s aides, Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa), Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin), Suk doctor Wellington Yueh (Chang Chen), and the Mentat Thufir Hawat (Stephen McKinley Henderson), while Jessica trains Paul in Bene Gesserit disciplines. Paul confides in Jessica and Duncan that he is troubled by visions of the future. Because of these visions, the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling) visits Caladan and subjects Paul to a deadly test to assess his impulse control, which he passes. Mohiam instructs House Patriarch Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) to spare Paul and Jessica during his coup, to which he duplicitously agrees.
So, if you think what you’ve read so far is complicated, try watching the movie. You will probably need to see it more than once to get it all! Even with all the characters, lingo, and congested plot, Dune is a pretty good movie. There is so much more adventure to experience. I don’t think Dune is for everyone but today’s youth and even some of us older sci-fi and fantasy lovers can appreciate the likes of Dune. As of February 14, 2022, Dune has grossed $107.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $292.3 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $400.1 million. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 83% of 452 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.60/10. The website’s consensus reads, “Dune occasionally struggles with its unwieldy source material, but those issues are largely overshadowed by the scope and ambition of this visually thrilling adaptation.” Dune: Part Two was confirmed with a planned release in October 2023. I actually saw a trailer for Dune Part two slated for release on October 22, 2022. Dune is currently streaming on HBO Max — Check It Out!
[DUNE is Oscar-nominated at the 94th Academy Awards for BEST: Picture, Original Score, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Makeup & Hairstyling, Production Design, Sound, Visual Effects, and Writing: Adapted Screenplay — Totalling 10 Oscar Nominations]