Dune Movie Review


Tyler Holden , Editor-in-Chief

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” –Frank Herbert

Dune is an iconic series that has shaped modern science fiction since it’s original book release in August of 1965. Over the course of its life, people have attempted to adapt Dune to the big screen, with varying levels of success. In 1984, a Dune movie was released to mixed critical reviews and a disappointing opening weekend. However, with Dunes’ most recent theatrical release, things look to be on a different path. Denis Villeneuve (a director known for Blade Runner 2049 and Prisoners) has taken the reins on this most recent adaptation and brought Dune the critical and financial success it deserves. 

The movie opens with Chani, a member of the Fremen, speaking about how beautiful the sunsets on her home planet of Arrakis are. We also hear the first mention of spice here. Spice, Spice Melange, or just Melange is a substance used throughout the Dune universe to do many things. It can be used for health benefits, extending life, and altering human DNA. The reason it has become such a coveted resource is because it can only be harvested on Arrakis, making it an extremely important and valuable planet to the Imperium, which is the controlling authority in the Dune universe. Due to the value of spice, Arrakis has been handed between controlling powers throughout history, with almost all of them ending in war between the Fremen (the natural inhabitants of Arrakis) and those who seek the spice melange. During the opening scenes of Dune, we see a raid conducted by the Fremen on one of the spice harvesters. The current owners of Arrakis are House Harkonnen, a brutal and militaristic faction who has little to no sympathy for the Fremens, using masked soldiers and guided rockets to quickly destroy the opposition. 

After 80 years of controlling Arrakis, House Harkonnen is given an order by the Imperial Emperor to leave the planet at once and to give control of Arrakis to House Atreides, a refined yet powerful faction feared and respected by all, but who also happens to be Harkonnens closest rivals. At first, many members of House Harkonnen were furious with the Emperor’s decree, believing it to be a clear display of favoritism. But, after many realized the nature of his decision, opinions began to sway. The Emperor gives Arrakis to House Atreides because he fears their political, cultural, and militaristic powers. So by taking House Harkonnens most valuable planet, and giving it to their rivals, he hopes to set the stage for war between both houses. Weakening both of them and ensuring the longevity of his dynasty. 

Before the imperial decree can be signed into effect, we meet several of our main characters. Paul Atreides, son of Lato Atreides, is a young man gifted with the supernatural talent of the “Voice”, an ability that allows one to speak in a way that people cannot say no to, essentially giving them control over others. When we first meet Paul, his power with the voice is largely unimpressive, but his persistence eventually gives him more power. His mother, Lady Jessica, is also powerful in the “voice” being a member of the Bene Gesserit, a group of mysterious and extremely powerful voice users responsible for many things such as the steering of galactic politics and selective breeding among those powerful in the voice. 

When members Paul and Lato of House Atreides first arrive on Arrakis, they find machinery and equipment poorly taken care of. Many members of Atreides begin to suspect that the acquisition of Arrakis from Harkonnen has been a set up. As tensions rise between the different Houses, Atreides begins to make contact with the Fremen. Before any deals can be struck between the two parties, the capital of Arrakis is attacked by an army composed of Harkonnen and Imperial Soldiers. Due to the timing of the attack, Atreides is caught completely unprepared and slaughtered before many defenses can be raised. Paul and his mother escape into the desert, while Lato is captured and killed by Harkonnen forces. 

Much of this first movie is spent explaining aspects of the world and filling in details on characters so that the audience can become attached and sympathize with them throughout the remainder of the film series. Paul, played by Timothee Chalamet, is given a lot of time to show his personality and desires. This movie features a pretty solid cast with very few people feeling out of place or not giving their all to their respective roles. The writing is also fantastic, with characters speaking believably and responding with genuine emotions. Nothing feels out of place despite the massive amount of exposition and explaining the Dune universe takes to understand. 

The biggest thing I want to highlight about this movie, though, is the visual and audio design. The cinematography done for Dune is absolutely fantastic, many of the shots are used to show the scale of what’s happening in front of us, and the audio is used in creative ways to back the visuals up. The soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer carries the perfect amount of grit and brutality but also retains that flair and elegance that so many associate with Dune. The design for the environment and ships is also spot on, showing off the medieval/science fiction style of Dunes’ architecture and clothing. I have almost nothing bad to say about how this movie looks and sounds, and if you get the chance to see it in Imax or at a theatre, I would highly recommend it.

Dune is an iconic series that has now finally been done justice on the big screen, and despite some of the little flaws or nitpicks I may have of this movie, I still really enjoyed it and am excited to see what happens next. For being a complex yet enthralling movie with large scale visuals and an impressive soundtrack, I’m giving Dune an 8/10.