***Warning! Spoilers ahead!***
“Dreams are messages from the deep.” Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic novel Dune uses that exact quote, a quote that’s not even in the original book or adapted film, to establish this movie’s theme right from the get-go. Dune was one of the most hyped-up films of 2021. After watching it, I wouldn’t say it lived up to the hype to its fullest ability… but it wasn’t a let down, either. One thing that was kept quiet about this film was that Villeneuve would turn his adaptation into a series of parts. From what I’ve seen, critics and the media have very mixed opinions about this, saying it has a very abrupt or anti-climatic ending. I think otherwise.
Villeneuve’s adaptation is accurate to the original book. Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) is son of the great Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) and Lady Jessica Atreides (Rebecca Ferguson). He’s good friends with Atreides advisors Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) and Duncan Idaho (Jason Mamoa). Lady Jessica is a witch-like character, who, along with other witches, makes up an organization called the Bene Gesserit that controls the Emperor and his Empire from the shadows. They all prophesize of a chosen one, or a Kwisatz Haderach, that will dethrone the Emperor, uniting all the houses under full control from the Bene Gesserit. Paul is thought to be that one.
The film finds House Atriedes moving – under the, for now unknown, Emperor’s order – to the desert planet Arrakis, origin point of the famous drug known as Spice, AKA Melange. Spice is used as a drug, but it’s also needed for off world travel. House Harkonnen, cousin dynasty of House Atreides, had been mining spice on Arrakis for many, many years. In the opening scene, the Harkonnens are shown mining and farming spice. A young woman narrates the scene, introducing the Harkonnen. This is later revealed to be Zendaya’s character, Chani. She says they have oppressed her homeworld and her people, the Fremen, natives of Arakkis, for many generations. At the end of the scene, she says “one day, the Emperor ordered House Harkonnen off Arrakis. Nobody knew why, but they left. Why did the Emperor do this, and who will our next oppressors be?” The movie then immediately transitions to a ceremony for the full House Atreides. This sets up a false narrative and the plot of the film, drawing the audience even closer to one of the biggest twists in sci-fi history.
When House Atreides gets to the royal city of Arakeen, they find little, if nothing, left for them by the Harkonnens. After a few days, Paul and his family notice something off about things, and before you know it, House Harkonnen – with the help of the Emperor’s army, the Sardaukar – assault the Atreides fleet and palace and assassinate Duke Leto. It’s revealed that the Emperor sent the Harkonnens away for the Atreides to come in because he feared Leto and Paul and wanted them to “get taken care of”. Following the attack, Paul and Lady Jessica have to survive the harshness of the desert, learning about the deadly, but sacred, sand worms, while still practicing the ways of the Bene Gesserit, until they meet up with the Fremen. For acceptance to travel with the Fremen, Paul has to undergo a trial which involves a duel to the death. This duel capitalizes the end of Paul’s journey with the constant lines, “Paul Atreides must die, for the Kwisatz Haderach to rise!”
I give Denis Villeneuve’s Dune a solid 9/10. It addresses everything a Sci-Fi movie needs to address without going over-the-top, it has amazing cinematography, and the characters are amazing. The ending could’ve been a little less anti-climatic, though. You don’t need to be a huge Sci-Fi fan to watch and enjoy this. You don’t even need to like Sci-Fi stuff at all to enjoy this. It’s a great movie and I encourage seeing it no matter what.