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Dune - Part One – St. Patrick's Day Review

Dune, one of the most groundbreaking sci-fi novels of the 20th century, inspired a legion of fans who relished the storytelling, worldbuilding, characters, and overall epic scope unleashed throughout the six books Frank Herbert wrote of Dune in his lifetime. Because of Dune’s success, countless directors tried to translate the classic story into film and television, most of them to middling results.

 

The first attempt, which fell through in the 1970s, was made by Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Frank Herbert disowned it entirely despite the movie never being made. The second attempt, which Frank Herbert did like, was directed by David Lynch and starred Kyle MacLachlan, but it ended up splitting audiences, who weren’t fond of the movie compressing much of the first book’s story. The third attempt consisted of a few miniseries based on the first three books and made for SyFy in the early 2000s when it was called the Sci-Fi Channel. Even if the visual translations may not have amounted to Dune getting the royal adaptation treatment, the franchise nonetheless left its mark on pop culture.

 

Then, in 2021, as the world was slowly recuperating from the COVID-19 pandemic, acclaimed sci-fi director Denis Villeneuve took on the first book for the cinematic treatment, starting with what is, by technicality, its first half. The results guaranteed that Dune was on its way to being unleashed through film the same way Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and The Hunger Games were before it.



With this in mind, let’s refresh our memory of the story. Set in 10191, on the planet Caladan, Leto Atreides and his entire family and fleet were ordered by Imperial decree to vacate their home planet and relocate to Arrakis. Before they prepared for departure, Paul was tested by the Reverend Mother – and his mother Jessica’s former teacher – Gaius Helen Mohiam, to see how well-trained Paul was in their Bene Gesserit ways. This test was for her to assess his resolve and see if he had what it took to prove himself as the next Kwisatz Haderach, who could’ve been in many places all at once and looked into the past, present, and future.

 

After that ordeal, the Atreides family left Caladan to settle in Arrakis, which turned off Paul and especially Jessica, who was used to the lush, green environment and lakes of Caladan. However, as Leto assured Paul, they had to figure out how to stay strong, not with air power or sea power, but with desert power, and use it to their advantage.

 

But that’s not the only thing they had trouble with after settling on Arrakis. The former occupants of the planet, the Harkonnens, were outraged by the Atreides taking control of the development of Arrakis because they were harvesting one of the most unique and valuable resources in the universe, a spice called Melange. During their former inhabitation of Arrakis, the Harkonnens slaughtered countless natives of Arrakis, known as the Fremen – and famous for having deep blue eyes – to do so. It was said that outside of making intergalactic travel possible, the Melange would also have granted life-enhancing benefits to those who fed off it.

 

To make things even messier for the Atreides, the Padishah Emperor, Shaddam IV, staged this rearrangement to weaken the Atreides force via Arakeen powers, especially after the Harkonnens relished using the planet to collect the Melange. So now, with this in play, the Harkonnens swore revenge on the Atreides for taking their place as the supreme rulers of the planet. However, Duke Leto attempted to express rule over Arrakis through different means. Whereas the Harkonnens used brutal forces to govern the Fremen, Leto hoped to cooperate with them. In one of the earlier scenes in the movie, the head of his Fremen tribe, Stilgar, arrived to voice his concerns and indifference toward Leto and tell him that for all his trust in Leto and all of Leto’s good intentions, Stilgar did not trust outsiders like Leto or the Harkonnens before him.

 

Meanwhile, the head of the Harkonnens, Vladimir, plotted his revenge against the Atreides family, even if his demands were separate from those of the Imperial order. He plotted every conceivable plan necessary, including entrusting his eldest nephew, Rabban, to take Arrakis back by force with both his Harkonnen troops and the Imperial troops, called the Sardaukar.

 

So, shortly after the Atreides got settled on Arakeen, the metropolis of Arrakis, the incoming Harkonnens ambushed them when they blew up their home and a good portion of the city. Meanwhile, after being tied up and gagged, Paul and Jessica quickly made it out only to consequently wander in the Arakeen deserts, where they had to adjust to the environment and stay hidden from the invading Harkonnens. What were Paul and Jessica to do on such uncertain and unfamiliar terrain as that in which the Padishah Emperor sent them?



For the past decade, at least, Denis Villeneuve proved himself to be a seamlessly talented director with a knack for providing us with brainy sci-fi films that delivered on all the visual wonders and the intellectual, stimulating storytelling to back them up. He worked his magic on such movies as Arrival, Sicario, and the surprise cult classic, Blade Runner 2049.

 

Fortunately, spellbinding visuals with inventive sci-fi ideas, intellectual writing, and robust characterizations are a perfect match for stories like Dune. And I should know; when I read the original book earlier, I looked back on it thinking of it as if it embodied the galactic grandeur of Star Wars and the philosophical intrigue of The Matrix.

 

This prompts me to highlight the first two things I want to appraise Dune for since it is twofold: the directing and the cinematography. Whether on the intimate scenes with the characters, the complicated vendettas between the Atreides and the Harkonnens, the massive and colossal sense of atmosphere, or the battles that occurred, Villeneuve made sure to keep his audiences focused on the elements that mattered most throughout the movie.

 

In the intimate scenes, Denis Villeneuve emphasized the characters’ expressions and feelings to clue the audiences into their thoughts at any given moment. Even if they did not say much about the circumstances afoot, there’s still a sense that what the characters thought-processed clued me into their personal history or how they attempted to handle their current predicaments.

 

As the massive world shoots were unveiled, cinematographer Grieg Fraser helped display every location on the grandest scale, whether with the landscapes and the Atreides’ household on Caladan, the widespread deserts of Arrakis, or even on the military bases and cityscapes near and in Arakeen. All those shots were stunning to watch, and it made the various locations on Arrakis and in this universe feel expansive, and the smaller moments feel more crucial.

 

And every time a battle or something overwhelming was about to occur, both Villeneuve and Fraser went out there to relish in the massive chaos that unfolded without losing sight of the characters who were involved. For instance, as Leto and his men, including Paul, tried to evacuate the personnel out of their mobile Melange factory before a nearby Sandworm – or, as the Fremen called them, the Shai-Hulud – struck them down, I admired the atmosphere and visual displays while also fearing for the safety of those who were stuck there and trying to flee for their lives. I can especially say the same about the battles between the Atreides and the Harkonnens, whether in Arakeen or the underground chamber in the middle of the Arakeen deserts. Because I was acquainted with the Atreides and their troops, as well as House Harkonnen and their troops earlier, I felt the magnificence of the battles unfolding, but I also felt the urgency as the good guys tried to make it out alive before they were slain by the vendetta-bearing Harkonnens.

 

Elaborating further on some of the scenes’ sense of intimacy, the reason they worked so well might be attributed to the next major factor that gave the movie its muscle: the acting. Outside of potentially formulating an all-star cast for Dune, all the actors gave their all in bringing the story’s memorable characters to life, as I felt they deserved to be.

 

Don’t get me wrong, all the characters in the movie are nicely conveyed as well. Even though I would not have known much about them at first glance, what they did convey in their relationships, convictions, and plans was enough to draw me slowly but surely into their dilemmas and get me hooked enough to want to follow them throughout the movie. However, for what little they expressed in their characterizations, I felt it was all made up for by the performances. Besides, it’d feel repetitious and superfluous if I elaborated on the characters here since I already did that in my review of the original novel. As they are in the movie, they all felt just as I remember them feeling in the book, so I don’t need to go into that much detail about them unless I noticed any deviations concerning the characters from the book, which there are some that I caught and will point out.

 

All the actors did a phenomenal job here, and I could go on about each of them forever. But I should elaborate on the most memorable performances.

 

First, despite not appearing in the movie often, Josh Brolin gave a committed and surprisingly fierce performance as Atreides ally Gurney Halleck. In the book, I remember him expressing a similarly committed personality while conveying a slightly artistic edge by carrying a stringed instrument called a baliset to play and make songs with. Here, Brolin displayed his character with a more noticeable heartiness that boosted his devotion as an Atreides warrior, especially as he prepared Paul for the forthcoming battles he would soon have faced. His convictions against the Harkonnens, as he elaborated on them to Paul, convinced me that he took things very seriously compared to the Gurney Halleck of the book. Yet, in passing conversation, Paul asked Gurney if he’d play him a song with his baliset, so it’s likely that this Gurney Halleck would’ve played his instrument when he wasn’t worrying about Arrakis or the Harkonnens.

 

After recognizing him from Game of Thrones, Aquaman, and many other movies as of late, Jason Momoa unleashed inner strength and respectable camaraderie through Duncan Idaho. Being one of Paul’s other mentors who taught him the ways of combat behind Jessica’s back, Momoa displayed Idaho with somewhat of a sense of humor, even more so than Gurney Halleck. His respectability made it seem that between Paul’s two combat mentors, Paul had known Duncan Idaho like a dear friend, almost like he was the Baloo to Paul’s Mowgli. But whenever Idaho was out in the field or readying himself for combat, I’d have sensed his determination to strike his enemies down to the fullest by any means possible, even if it meant giving up his life. That’s why it’d hurt when it looked like he was about to be slain by the Harkonnens or the Sardaukar and how it’d leave viewers like me with an innermost twinge of despair over his defeats.



I admire the transcendent instances Rebecca Ferguson conveyed through Lady Jessica Atreides. Next to her fear of the unknown, her composure, dignified expressions, and commitment displayed Lady Jessica as the noble-born lady of House Atreides who had a lot to wrap her head around, especially concerning Arrakis. When she was on the run from the Harkonnens with Paul by her side, Ferguson demonstrated how frightened Jessica became and how she tried her best as a mother, not just as the lady of House Atreides. With her Bene Gesserit training, I can tell that Jessica was trying not to lose her nerve in the face of unimaginable chaos, and Ferguson helped her look like there’s only so much she can keep a straight face before she can no longer hold it back, especially as far as her son was concerned.

 

Having been acquainted with him from Guardians of the Galaxy, watching Dave Bautista go from playing Drax the Destroyer to playing Rabban, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen’s eldest nephew, clued me into how he’s slowly mastering his acting chops. He did not appear for very long throughout the movie, but whenever Bautista conveyed his character, his gravelly prowess helped him come across as a generally determined, ruthless, and power-hungry Harkonnen willing to do anything to seize power for his benefit and that of his family. I would argue that his involvement in this movie was no more plentiful than in the book. Yet, Bautista’s performance helped me buy into his bloodstained feud against the Atreides and determination to reclaim Arrakis to harvest more of its Melange.

 

Stellan Skarsgård emitted a genuinely ominous and fitting performance for Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. He nailed down the character’s overweight appearance, and his disposition was such that he thought through solutions for any problem that may have arisen regarding the Atreides. Whenever he was in a conference room with countless other people or confronting someone individually, his unwavering disposition and power over those he considered inferior added delectable sliminess to Vladimir, even compared to in the book. If anything, his slithery, almost soft voice reminded me a bit of that of Emperor Palpatine in the Star Wars movies. In this case, the voice came from someone technically following the Emperor’s orders. So, I can feel his inner workings showing through and how he was willing to play to both sides of the political battles, one against the Emperor and one against the Atreides, to reclaim what he considered rightfully his. I’m also amazed how he is the father of Bill Skarsgård, who portrayed Pennywise the Dancing Clown in both parts of It to terrifying effect. I guess talent runs in the family, especially concerning the villainous roles given to them.

 

Oscar Isaac emitted a solid performance as Duke Leto Atreides. Amidst his sense of honor, I can tell that Isaac expressed through Duke Leto a slight no-nonsense attitude that made him look like he knew what he was doing when confronted with insurmountable challenges and that, whatever came his way, he was prepared to turn the tides to his favor somehow. I was also impressed because as Isaac displayed it through his character, I never once thought that he portrayed him in a generally indifferent light as I thought of Duke Leto in the book. Instead, Isaac gave Duke Leto excellent shades of respectability to his character, especially concerning his family. So, while it may not amount to much, Isaac still gave Duke Leto a great cohesion that signified his position in House Atreides.



Like Dave Bautista, Zendaya did not have much screentime in the movie, either, when she portrayed Chani. However, also like Bautista, she helped bring her character to life in the very little time she spent in the movie. Whether at the beginning of the film, in Paul’s dreams and visions, or in the last portion of the film, Zendaya enlivened Chani with her graceful expressions, pretty demeanor, and no-nonsense motivations and personality, given her reputation among her fellow Fremen tribe. Whenever she was confronted by forces beyond her understanding, whether it was with the Harkonnens or with outsiders like Paul and Jessica Atreides, I could feel her commitment to her family and tribe and that whatever happened, she was always on edge and ready to do anything for them, especially those on the verge of earning her trust.

 

And finally, let’s shift our attention to Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides.

 

With his teenage-ish inflections, tender disposition, and a frank yet committed stare of cold contemplation, Chalamet embraced every naïve but also secretly determined facet of Paul Atreides as he was uprooted with the rest of his family from Caladan and adjusted to Arrakis. Even with his lack of general experience, I can tell that he’s had some decent experience with what he confronted throughout the movie and on Arrakis, which seemed fitting given the actor’s overall experience with acting before finally breaking through with roles like Paul Atreides and even Willy Wonka later in 2023. Here, Chalamet demonstrated how superb an actor he was whenever he played the ducal heir of House Atreides. When he confronted the Harkonnens or the Fremen tribe or was exposed to the Melange, Chalamet saw to it that Paul Atreides lunged through the film with every shred of honor and budding warrior-like instinct that can be traced out of him.

 

Next, the story as it was laid within this film was something to write home about. But I will address the story portion later because first, since I read the book long after I watched this movie and before revisiting it – similarly to how I was introduced to True Grit – I noticed plenty of things tweaked around throughout the film that felt different from how I remembered them in the book. So, let’s sift through which major ones I thought were different from the book and that took me by surprise.

 

The book starts with Paul preparing for his test with Gaius Helen Mohiam, complete with his hand in the box and the Gom Jabbar by Paul’s neck. While that scene occurred in the movie, it laid out plenty more story threads before it reached that point. Among other things, it displayed what life was like on Arrakis when the Harkonnens were still in charge and how brutalized and terrorized poor Chani and her fellow Fremen tribe were under their rule, all before the Padishah Emperor decreed that the Harkonnens leave Arrakis for the Atreides to take their place.

 

Speaking of which, the movie showed me more of the House Atreides of Caladan down to its surrounding areas and Duke Leto Atreides and his forces being greeted by the Imperial troops to announce the Emperor’s order and Duke Leto’s agreement to vacate Caladan and venture towards Arrakis.



Most of all, there’s an efficient scene where Paul and Leto wandered through an Atreides graveyard within their Caladanian home as they talked about why they were leaving Caladan and what to expect on Arrakis once they landed there. I remember in the book that Caladan was the Atreides’ home for at least 26 generations. And considering how many graves were scattered throughout the land by their house, I felt that same significance here.

 

And only then did Paul finally go through with his test with the Reverend Mother.

 

As for what I caught afterwards? For starters, I remember in the book how significant the palm trees were in Arrakis and that the amount of water needed to help the trees grow healthy was equivalent to five men’s worth. However, Jessica Atreides and the Atreides doctor, Dr. Wellington Yueh, had that conversation when looking at the palm trees from House Atreides in the book. In the movie, it was discussed up close beside the palm trees instead of from afar, and the discussion was had between Paul Atreides and one of the palm trees’ gardeners instead. The gardener told Paul how sacred palm trees were on Arrakis, despite not being indigenous, and I don’t recall it being elaborated in greater detail in the book. But it was still interesting to think about the perspectives in which this was highlighted as far as Arrakis was concerned.

 

Getting back to the evacuation of the mobile Melange factory and the attack on Arrakeen in the movie, what happened in both circumstances became interconnected in what they shared in common and how different they were in the book because of it. In the film, when Duke Leto, Paul, Liet-Kynes, and some of their men showed up to investigate the development of the Melange factory via their three ornithopters, they all noticed a giant sandworm plowing its way into the Melange factory’s direction. In the book, Leto was the one who got out of the ornithopter to order his men to evacuate the factory before the sandworm reached them. And while Leto did give out the order in the movie, it was Paul who lunged out of the ornithopter to tell them to get out instead. However, here’s what happened that hit two birds with one stone. In the book, Paul Atreides did not catch on to the enhanced effects of the Melange spice until he and Jessica were on the run from the Harkonnens in the middle of the desert after being ambushed. In the movie, however, Paul got his exposure to the Melange and was subject to his heightened senses that came with it earlier when he tried to evacuate the factory workers before the sandworm arrived. This was an intriguing way to present Paul’s accustomed relationship to the Arakeen environment. When he was exposed to the Melange in the book, it made me feel like he was finally on the verge of becoming the prophesied Muad’Dib in the story. But in the movie, Paul having firsthand exposure to the Melange so early portrayed his gradual adjustment into the Arakeen environment with more of a naturality to it, like he finally got the hang of the environment before the more crucial circumstances had to get him all prepared for what might’ve followed on his journey to becoming Muad’Dib, and thus, the Kwisatz Haderach. So, these two story beats were played around quite inventively in the movie.



Shifting now onto Vladimir Harkonnen, with regards to how he moved around and was kept alive, I remember the book mentioning that he was held aloft by countless tubes and wires protruding from his back that kept him alive and how it reminded me of Doctor Octopus from Spider-Man. In the movie, however, how he moved from one place to another felt very effective while heightening the character’s more menacing factors. Rather than having wires and tubes blatantly protrude from his back, Vladimir instead grew upwards, as if he immediately went from being 6 feet tall to almost 20 feet, with his torso and legs seemingly extending, and they only shortened when he lowered himself to confront someone face-to-face. That kind of movement felt more distinctive than what was established in the book, making his methods of moving in between places feel more unique.

 

I was also fascinated by how Liet-Kynes was in this movie. Every time Kynes was mentioned in the book, I remembered how Kynes was the planetologist of Arrakis and that his long-term commitment to the Atreides family and constant going back-and-forth between them and the Harkonnens in their service made him an equally conniving character, similarly to Dr. Wellington Yueh. In the movie, however, Liet-Kynes was introduced as a black woman, which I found a most curious creative deviation. Outside of Kynes’ background in the book, even though I had not seen this coming, something about the change in heritage and gender somehow made Kynes look more like she was the Arakeen planetologist first and a Harkonnen spy second. I think it did help make Kynes feel more distinct from some of the other characters in the movie. Plus, it made her look like she got the hang of the land after being acquainted with Arrakis for a long time. Even when the Sardaukar slew her, what did she do to them as she was on the verge of death? She banged her fists on the desert, knowing there was a sandworm nearby, and sandworms would usually have reacted to this noise. So, she knew she was going to die anyway, but not without taking her murderers with her.

 

I also remember in the book how the Hunter Sniper found Paul in his room and how he caught onto it after noticing it slowly creeping through a corner of his room. I remember that feeling creepy, but not so much that I was unsure whether Paul would’ve caught onto it and quickly destroyed it or not. But in the movie, when the Hunter Sniper came, it flew straight into his room, and its slow movement, cautious observation of the location, and recognition of Paul helped make the scene feel a lot scarier than in the book.

 

In addition, while everything I knew about Dune from the book and this movie occurred, after finally reading the book, there was one thing I do not recall mentioned anywhere in the book but left a distinct impression on me after I saw the movie in theaters in 2021. It occurred while Jessica and Paul were still hiding beneath the desert and away from the Harkonnens as they heard some activity going by. Next, I saw a kangaroo mouse that wandered throughout the Arrakeen deserts and sweated water droplets as it swiftly grabbed and drank them. I remember the commitment being elaborated upon in greater detail in the book, especially in the appendices concerning Kynes. However, I also felt it through Paul, Jessica, and the Fremen as they adjusted more to their stillsuits. Even Liet-Kynes introduced Leto and Paul to the stillsuits and their importance in Arrakis. As she put it…

 

You wouldn’t survive two hours without one of these.

 

You can see how vital water was to Arrakis when even the Arakeen wildlife knew when to preserve their moisture for drinking in the desert. So, this shows that there are many ways to expose the customs of Arrakis without going into too much detail or adhering strictly to how it was said in the book.



One other thing I must note about the movie is that Stilgar, one of the chief allies to Chani – and later Paul Atreides upon his assimilation into the tribe in the book – made his appearance very early in the movie when he showed up to Duke Leto’s council at the beginning of the film, rather than when Paul and Jessica approached him and his tribe as in the book. Outside of him and Leto introducing each other, they also expressed their cultural differences. The first thing Stilgar did in his presence was to spit in front of him. But what Leto’s allies, especially Gurney Halleck, thought was a contemptuous gesture turned out to have been a peace offering. Because moisture was so scarce in Arrakis, Stilgar spitting out was not to them but rather for them. In turn, Leto’s allies, those who understood the customs like Duncan Idaho and those who caught on, spat out in return. It also clued me into how valuable water was on Arrakis while displaying some of the relationships Stilgar and his fellow Fremen had with outsiders, whether it’s the Harkonnens or with Duke Leto, down to the opportunities upon his and his family’s landing on Arrakis.

 

Strangely enough, the only character I remember so well from the novel who does not appear in this film was Feyd-Rautha, Vladimir’s younger nephew and Rabban’s younger brother. Throughout the book, I remember him feeling like a disoriented yet disconcerted, frustrated, and almost considerate young Harkonnen who always felt as ready to do his uncle’s bidding as Rabban was. But he also hesitated over doing something too extreme for his liking, as the Baron would’ve done. That demonstrated an excellent character study with him, contributing to the little shreds of humanity apparent in who’s technically the biggest enemies of the entire story. Fortunately, however, I understand he’s being saved for Part Two, so I’ll wait and see what happens.

There was also one scene near the beginning of the story where, shortly after settling in, Duke Leto, Lady Jessica, and all of House Atreides hosted dinner with their fellow Arrakeen patrons. What I remember the most about the scene is how Jessica and Paul were nonverbally studying all their guests as they talked over dinner to see who could be trusted or possibly traitorous. I remember the tension of that scene feeling most apprehensible, and as others pointed out, it helped dish out a little world-building for Arrakis. While I can understand why this was left out for story consistency, I remember feeling greatly affected by that scene when I read it in the book and missed it when I didn't see it in the movie.

 

One other element that I remember being omitted here from the book was how Leto became suspicious of there being a spy in House Atreides in Arakeen. Leto asked Paul to pretend to suspect that Jessica was the traitor and convince their fellow warmongers and allies as such until Leto pinpointed the culprit, which he learned too late – both in the book and the movie ¬– was Dr. Wellington Yueh. I remember this being a big deal before they dealt with the Harkonnens’ ambush because this interpersonal playing of the mind misled some of their allies into taking Leto’s word for it and pointing fingers at Jessica for the fraud they were told she was. It even resulted in the Atreides Mentat, Thufir Hawat, occasionally negotiating with the Harkonnens because of how betrayed he felt by Jessica, or so he thought.


Finally, let’s talk about the general outlay of the story itself. As it went in the movie:

 

  • The Padishah Emperor notified House Atreides about relocating to Arrakis.

  • They relocated to Arrakis by Imperial decree.

  • The Harkonnens, who used to control Arrakis, were outraged by this decision and decided to take revenge against the Atreides for control of Arrakis to harvest more of the Melange.

  • They ambushed the Atreides in their own home in Arakeen.

  • Paul and Jessica hightailed it to the Arakeen deserts.

  • And finally, they ran into the Fremen tribe and started assimilating within the tribe.

 

What I just laid out to you is, once again, the first half of the book. But considering how the last attempt to translate Dune into a movie, which was by David Lynch and lasted over two hours, turned out poorly because of how compressed it was, Denis Villeneuve did the right thing by splitting the first book’s story into two movies. Like with It, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, the cinematic split helps give the story more time to breathe. In a way, you could look at these two films as if they’re all one movie, but the amount of time to wait in between them is like the intermission.

 

In fact, going off-topic for a bit, that’s one of the other things in movies I feel needs to be brought back: the intermission. I’ve seen Killers of the Flower Moon, a three ¼ hour movie, in theaters, and ever since then, my parents, girlfriend, and I have always wondered why intermissions are not brought back yet for much longer movies like this one. Regardless, given how impressive Dune was on the first go, I’m confident that the rest of the Dune series – or at least, the rest of the series that Denis Villeneuve wants to translate into movies – will turn out exactly as I know they should in due time.



Another aspect of the movie I commend is the music by Hans Zimmer. If I listened to his music on its own, I could look at it like it’s another way to experience Dune’s exotic nature and majesty without having to read the book or see the movie. It is that well done. I will admit, with all the rhythmic beats of the drums, the tribal-ish chanting, and the unusual, exciting nature of the music, part of it reminded me of Ludwig Göransson’s score in Black Panther because of how native yet massive it sounded. And Zimmer’s more action-oriented music reminded me of Junkie XL’s score from Mad Max: Fury Road simply due to the size and aggression I felt within the pieces. Regardless, the entire score had an inner sense of flowing serenity, as if it clued me into the story’s gradually enlightened instincts. Hans Zimmer’s music for Dune reflected the story’s intergalactic nature, the local Arakeen elements, and sometimes the local and personal dilemmas occurring within House Atreides. I remember reading that Hans Zimmer was such a hardcore fan of the Dune series that he hoped to compose music for the movies made from Dune however he could have. He even skipped out on composing Tenet with longtime collaborator Christopher Nolan to do so. So, when I hear his music throughout the picture, I can feel his passion, commitment, and love for the franchise pouring through with every note and rhythm he composed to accompany the story and characters. It also helped that Hans Zimmer created similar scores to outstanding results in The Lion King, The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, and even The Prince of Egypt, to name a few, because the epic scope I found from his music throughout those movies are reflected in the same measure here in Dune, except with a little more urgency and exoticism to help it stand out from the others. He wasn’t kidding about how much he loved Dune, and it’s shown in all its clarity throughout his music here. It amounted to him winning his second Oscar for Best Original Score, and I’m happy to see him do that after winning one for The Lion King in 1995.

 

Sometimes, I found myself intrigued by the costumes in the movie. For the most part, they looked more like they were typically worn by those who traveled through massive desert areas. However, when some wore more royal garb, like House Atreides, I noticed more of a distinctness to them and how much they represented what they established. One of the most striking costumes I remember was from Lady Jessica as she entered Arrakis with the rest of her family and army. She wore an orange-looking dress with a long scarf behind her and a diamond veil. That added some regality to her, especially when I compare it to all the other clothes worn back in Caladan or among the Harkonnens or Fremen. It’s interesting how the costumes on some of the characters, like the Sardaukar and the Harkonnens, carried some slight futuristic vibes to them, whereas with everybody on Arrakis, their clothes seemed more regular, not unlike what was generally worn by those who lived in the Middle East. That retrospectively made this feel like a good blending of custom clothing expected out of desert natives, as well as those who lived among the high ranks while also mixing in some semblances of space attire to them. It felt tinkered around throughout the movie, and it shows among the characters.

 

The visual effects? What can I say? Everything about the futuristic technology or the local wildlife on Arrakis was conveyed as much as they should’ve been portrayed in a sci-fi, futuristic film about intergalactic feuds on a desert planet. All the spaceships, rockets, and landing gear throughout the movie were conveyed with enough structure, believability, and visual uniqueness to make me buy into this being a strong likelihood in our future. The spaceships looked distinct, and I was also amazed by the ornithopters here. Whenever I was reminded of them in the book, I kept imagining them as if they resembled helicopters, except with wind structures that deviated from those of helicopters. Here, they were portrayed as if they were, as I would describe them, mechanized dragonflies on steroids. In this case, it made them feel more imaginative and arguably not unlike how Frank Herbert portrayed them in the book. John Schoenherr’s illustrations reinforced this notion, for they accompanied the first book on some editions and demonstrated how ornithopters looked, so the ornithopters in the film were bound to carry such resemblances regardless.



And when we get to the sandworms, wow! Not only did I understand the magnificence of these creatures on Arrakis, but every time they moved along from a distance or showed themselves to the characters, I could feel how threatening they were from afar or up close, especially when I looked at how easily the sandworm could’ve engulfed and swallowed everything that was within mouth’s reach, whether it was the mobile Melange factory in the desert, or with the slain Kynes and the unsuspecting Sardaukar who felled her. It didn’t matter how big some of them were by comparison to the others; I could still feel their hungry presence every time they were around and how important it was for those nearby to be out of their way before they became their next hors d’oeuvres. So, the VFX team outdid themselves in translating the world, storytelling, and functionalities of Dune to life as they did in the movie.

 

Everything I mentioned so far about the movie is reason enough why I cannot recommend this movie enough, whether you’ve been acquainted with the original Dune before or not. Everything about it screams visual magnificence and should be best viewed as such, especially on the biggest screen you can find. With the help of outstanding acting, first-rate effects, intriguing costuming, clever storytelling techniques, encompassing music, and nuanced characterizations, Denis Villeneuve and his crew succeeded in their first attempt to bring one of the most legendary sci-fi books ever written into the type of film it deserved to be. Everything I liked or admired about the novel felt magnified with the added scope and extra personal dilemmas necessary to help the movie feel colossal in its scope and storytelling. And because Brian Hebert was involved in this movie as one of its producers, that’s proof enough to clue me into what kind of Dune movie I’d have gotten into. And for what it’s worth, I can see this first iteration of Dune making Frank Herbert proud.

 

To those of you who’re saying, what about Part Two? Well, check back here on Easter so we’ll find out. All I can say is, bring it on, Dune!

 

My Rating

A low A



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