Review: ‘Dune’ movie flows well, reignites sci-fi franchise


Photo provided by Warner Bros. Pictures

“Dune” starring Timothée Chalamet (top center), with performances from well-known names such as Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac and Jason Momoa, is in theaters now.

By Meagan Holloway-Ragland

The highly anticipated “Dune” (stylized as Dune: Part One in the opening credits), starring Timothée Chalamet, reignites the world of sci-fi and fantasy in the most recent movie adaption of the first half of the beloved novel by Frank Herbert. The movie, directed by Denis Villeneuve, was released Oct. 22 in theaters and on HBO Max after being delayed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its opening weekend, the film sold $40.1 million in domestic box office tickets and over $220 million worldwide to date, according to Variety Magazine. It is Warner Bros.’ best performing movie at the box office since the company announced their plan to simultaneously release its movies in theaters and on HBO Max during 2021.

In a distant future where ancient houses rule over planets within a greater empire, two houses reach the climax of their historic feud when House Atreides is given the task of overseeing production of “the spice” on the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the narcotic that drives the universe. 

Instead of the typical hero figure, we’re given Paul Atreides (Chalamet), the heir of House Atreides who possesses abilities he doesn’t yet understand. Throughout the film, he is plagued by dreams and visions, which are amplified when he arrives on Arrakis and these abilities are enhanced by the spice in the atmosphere. At the start of the film, Paul’s father Leto tells him that “a great man doesn’t seek to lead, it calls him.” As the movie progresses and Paul transitions out of his naivety, he realizes that his role in the grand scheme of things is not by chance and that it was not something he simply stumbled into. He never had a choice.

“Dune,” the sci-fi fantasy film based on the novel by Frank Herbert, explores the relationship of a resource-rich desert world with a materialistic universe. Photo provided by Warner Bros. Pictures

The film remains true to the tradition of the sci-fi genre by exploring a plethora of ideas about society through complex storytelling. Themes of imperialism and religion are the most prevalent. If one were to look closely enough, they would find analogies between the mining of spice on Arrakis and the extraction of oil in Iraq that began during the 1920s. This makes perfect sense given that the novel was written in 1965, eight years after the United States first sent combat troops to the Middle East. The Arab influence behind the Fremen, the people of Arrakis, are plain to see and plain to hear. The language they speak closely resembles Arabic, and it even borrows a few words.

The incredible film score, composed by Hans Zimmer, displays this influence as well. However, the listener can hear a variety of unique musical influences, notably the bagpipes. The score captures the very essence of Arrakis: primitive, harsh and unforgiving in intensity. At the same time, it also manages to maintain the feeling that comes with a story set thousands of years in the future. The music flows seamlessly through the film’s progression and it truly adds an immersive element to the viewing experience.

“Dune” is a visually stunning movie with a star-studded cast, including Rebecca Ferguson (Lady Jessica), Oscar Isaac (Leto Atreides), Jason Momoa (Duncan Idaho), Josh Brolin (Gurney Halleck), Stellan Skarsgard (Baron Vladimir Harkonnen) and Zendaya (Chani). Despite being based on a materially dense novel, the film does an excellent job of keeping the viewer clued in without taking away from the watching experience.

The decision to only adapt half of the novel allows for a fuller narrative where every scene builds upon the next until the end—or rather the midpoint. It’s more than two hours long, but it feels like no time at all because of how well the story flows. “Dune” will certainly have many viewers anxiously waiting for Part Two, which is slated to release in 2023.