“Dune” is a mesmerizing introduction to a planetary power struggle, but leaves audiences wanting more as the story only introduces us to the first half of the science fiction epic.
The movie, released in theaters and HBO Max Oct. 21, follows a transfer of power over a resource-rich planet in a universe originally depicted in the classic sci-fi book of the same name.
The story was first tackled by David Lynch in 1984, and is now helmed by director Denis Villeneuve, known for Blade Runner 2049 and Sicario. "Dune" is Villeneuve’s third sci-fi project in a row, and it’s notable that he’s perfecting the art of crafting them as his movies get more bizarre and extravagant. However, his best ability comes with keeping audiences at the edge of their seats.
Paul Atreides, played by Timothée Chalamet, is sent to the fictional planet Arrakis in the year 10191 along with his father Leto Atreides after their dynasty is gifted the planet.
The planet produces spice, which is coveted for its ability to enable space travel, making it extremely valuable. But the spice’s extraction has left Arrakis’s native people, the fremen, subjugated by the previous rulers, the Harkonens.
When the Atreides family arrives on the desert planet, they strategize to make peace with the fremen. But an ominous plot to dethrone the Atreides family from its new home on Arrakis has been in play since before they arrived on the planet.
The movie is an unraveling of that ploy. The outcome is constantly hinted at by Paul’s visions as he unlocks abilities inherited from his mother, who is a Bene Gesserit, or a religious group of women possessing special abilities and a lot of power. Although the visions give a glimpse of what’s to come, audiences are still left wondering what will actually transpire.
Although the action is kept to a minimum, the fight for control fills the audience with suspense throughout the movie.
As the movie intensifies, Paul and his mother Jessica Atreides find themselves in the perils of the desert of Arrakis. Although readers of the book know what comes next, the desert leaves fresh audiences guessing. But once Paul and his mother reach the part of the desert where they begin preparing to strike back, the movie ends.
Overall, the movie is impressively well-constructed. The themes touched on in the book, such as power, religion and technology are translated well in the movie. But the movie is also able to also focus on more universal themes of family and human struggle.
The actors are seasoned enough to immerse the audience into their lives while the dialogue avoids cliches. There were plenty of opportunities for the dialogue to fall into dated cliches, but they were very much avoided. The dialogue often pays homage to lines in the book without sounding awkward, which is impressive considering the book originally depicted sci-fi elements over 50 years ago.
Visually, “Dune” is an impressive piece of art. Even when the movie uses CGI, it seems like it was done with prosthetics or practical effects. Some scenes could be compared to scenes out of “Star Wars'' or “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Ultimately, the movie’s $165-million budget, along with its huge lineup of stars and its brilliant cinematography, kept you wanting to watch the whole movie just for its beauty. But audiences who were not prior fans of the book may be left unfulfilled, as the movie only introduces us to the story’s first half.
The movie did the best job it could at keeping the audience wanting more, but we’ll have to wait a couple more years to get the final payoff.
Contact Alexander Lugo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AlexLugo67.
Alex is a fourth-year journalism student at UF and is in his third semester at The Alligator where he is serving as the university editor. He previously reported on university administration and the city and county commission. In his free time, he enjoys video games, traveling and being outdoors.