The much-anticipated adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel had a lot of people to impress, particularly fans of the Dune book saga and fans who are accustomed to blockbuster sci-fi such as Star Wars. Luckily this film is faithful enough to keep both tribes happy. It’s a brilliant spectacle and definitely worth seeing on the big screen if you can sit for over 2 and a half hours. I prefer films to be shorter than that. However, I also enjoyed the previous work of director Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049, which is even longer.
It’s a few years since I read Dune, so I can’t really discuss any noticeable differences between the book and the film. I’m not sure that there was a lot of detailed description of characters, settings and technology in the book (although I could be wrong!), and if that’s the case then it’s easier for the film-makers to be creative in their interpretations. In addition, I think that increased diversity in the characters and the empowerment of female roles is a given in new adaptations of older books now, so we can assume that these are present in this adaptation. We can also take it for granted that simplifications are made in the plot to keep our focus on the main characters and help the story flow better.
The story is set in the far future, when the Duke of Atreides is told by the Emperor to take over the ruling of a desert planet, Arrakis. The planet is vitally important as the producer of spice, a mind-enhancing substance which is needed for space travel. It was previously ruled by the Harkonnen (the enemies of Atreides) who do not take kindly to this. Meanwhile, the Fremen and the giant sandworms – the native populations – know there is going to be ‘the one’ to help bring about peace. This is Paul, son of the Duke, trained in various arts by his mother Jessica, who is one of the Bene Gesserit, a powerful sisterhood. Paul has also been having visions of what is going to happen, involving battles, a knife and a Fremen woman, Chani.
You can interpret Dune as a coming of age film, an extension of the ‘one’ trope, a criticism of colonialism, an ecological warning, historical fiction updated with a futuristic look, a culmination of different religions… or an entertaining science fiction fantasy with stunning special effects and awe-inspiring music (Hans Zimmer).
Just 2 years to wait until the second part of the story…
I would recommend the film whether you’ve read the book or not.
Low-resolution film poster sourced from Wikipedia.