Dune Delivers On Book’s Potential


Lily Lochhead, Rhetoric & Composition student

Dune, written by Frank Herbert in the 1960s, became a titan of science fiction and inspiration for many to come. The books even have a clear influence on George Lucas’ Star Wars. Between a complex world with dense descriptions of it, political intrigue, religious cults, mind control, and giant sand worms, the world of Dune has much to offer. This is why it was so necessary that it got a faithful screen adaptation. Dune has been adapted before, but there has never been a well done, true to the book adaptation. This is why a new modern Dune movie has absolutely so much potential. Needless to say, the film delivered in every regard.
The source material of the film follows a young boy thought by many to be the messiah, but he himself thinks differently. Paul Atreides is born into two lines of power. His father, Leto Atreides, is the head of House Atreides and ruler of the ocean planet Caladan. Leto’s concubine, Lady Jessica, is Paul’s mother and an important member of the Bene Gesserit. The Bene Gesserit are a religious group of women who control the inner workings of all of the houses by planting religious superstition. The largest superstition they have implanted is that a messiah will come to the natives of planet Arrakis. This will be a man born from a leader of the house of Harkonnen and a member of the Bene Gesserit. He will be the only man with Bene Gesserit powers. Bene Gesserit have been selectively breeding their members for centuries in order to prepare for the Kwisatz Haderach, or the messiah. Paul fits the characteristics of the Kwisatz Haderach, except he is not from the house of Harkonnen. This enrages the Bene Gesserit, causing lots of conflict within Jessica between standing with her son or with her people.
It is said that the Kwisatz Haderach will be born to the leader of house Harkonnen. This house owns the rights to planet Arrakis. Planet Arrakis is the only source of a drug called spice, or Melange. House Harkonnen’s monopoly on spice is very profitable because spice is the one and only substance that allows space travel in the Dune universe. It is a hallucinogenic drug that doubles user’s lifespans. When consumed, it results in users having glowing blue eyes, known to the native people of Arrakis as the Eyes of Ibad.
The planet Arrakis is given to the house of Atreides in a deal devised by the empire of all the houses. The house of Atreides, Luto, Jessica, and Paul must adapt to life on the desert planet and prepare for threats from the once powerful house of Harkonnen while continuing spice trade. This is where the story of Dune 2021 takes off.
Plot intricacies aside, Dune 2021 was an outright beautiful movie. While many complained that it was too slow or too complex, it was widely agreed upon that the movie had amazing effects and scenes. The world building is not just Dune 2021, but the source material is very dense and descriptive. The planet of Arrakis has a very complex ecosystem that is depicted beautifully throughout the movie.
Another major complaint with the film is that the main character Paul is an example of the white savior complex. This complaint holds sound within the context of the first film because Paul seems to be under the impression that he needs to be a messiah to the native people of Arrakis. In the books on the other hand, as the story progresses he grows weary and angry with his role as the Kwisatz Haderach. He does not believe in the role he plays because he understands the Bene Gesserit is behind the prophecy. Hopefully in part two these ideas will be explored more and elaborated on.
Lots of complaints with the film will be resolved with the second movie. The movie ends in the middle of a story beat. When the second part picks up, it will hopefully smoothly transition into the second movie. Many people thought there was not enough action in the first movie. Dune was never meant to be an action-packed film. There are a handful of fight scenes, but the majority of the film is setting up the world, conflict, and political structure of the universe. One would think the second part in the franchise will focus more on the action aspects of the story.
The political intrigue is not for everyone. Many found it confusing, hard to follow, or just boring. If one listens closely, it is very engaging and interesting. It is all a matter of following along with the confusing names. With that being said, science fiction is not always for everyone, and there will always be a group of people who just cannot get into it.
One thing the filmmakers did to draw a large audience was to have a large quantity of very famous actors. This was smart, considering the substance of the movie may not have been enough to attract a large audience. Timothee Chalamet is the main character Paul. Chalamet is very popular with young people after his roles in Lady Bird and Little Woman. Zendaya plays Chani, Paul’s later on love interest. Zendaya is another very famous actress who is extremely popular with a younger audience. She started her career as a child actor on Disney Channel, so many teens today have grown up watching her. She was also in the newest Spiderman movies and a very popular HBO show called Euphoria. With others such as Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista, and Rebecca Ferguson, Dune has quite the all-star cast.
Overall, Dune had all the potential to become the best adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune book series. Compared to the 1984 film, the new Dune has really outdone itself. It is truly the ideal screen adaptation of Dune. The movie is not only interesting and fun to watch, something that the 1984 version lacks, it is also considerably more true to the book. This makes it the ideal adaptation for Dune.