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Money-grab or masterpiece: Does ‘Dune’ measure up to the hype?

| Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Makayla Hernandez | The Observer

“Dune” has been one of the most anticipated movies of the year with all of its forces lining up for greatness. A star-studded cast. A budget of $165 million. A score conducted by Hans Zimmer. Almost a year’s worth of excitement building due to delays from the pandemic. And fortunately, it has lived up to its expectations. 

Before I watched Villeneuve’s adaptation, I sat down with Frank Herbert’s novel in attempts to better grasp an understanding of the “Duneiverse” and its intricacies. As the first book is roughly 800 pages in certain editions (mine included), I was only able to make it through about ¼ of the novel. However, Herbert’s world-building and storytelling abilities have left me utterly speechless. I cannot possibly begin to fathom the amount of work that went into creating this masterpiece, and despite its sometimes sluggish intricacies, it shows such a unique sophistication and depth that I’ve rarely seen before in any kind of fiction novel. 

The plot of this universe follows a duke’s son named Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet). His father, Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), has been assigned by the Emperor to rule over the planet of Arrakis (also known as Dune) and its main export, spice, a powerful substance that is essential for various aspects of interstellar life. Throughout both the book and the movie, the interactions between issues like religion, ecology, technology and politics (to name a few) are discussed. Within it all, there is also the issue of Paul’s place in the universe, as many believe him to be (among many other names) the Muad’Dib, or the messiah. 

In comparison to the novel, I believe that the film was very faithful to its source. This movie only covered about half of the book’s content (a sequel will finish off the content of the first book), and so my limited knowledge of the plot carried me a good way through the film. Despite some understandable changes in the plot events and the showcased character profiles, I found the film to be a wonderful visual representation of the book’s happenings. 

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, director Denis Villeneuve explains the changes he made to better suit movie audiences. In my experience, directors who make movie adaptations of books can sometimes take creative liberties in the wrong direction, but I do not believe this about Villeneuve. Some of the changes he made involve the emphasis of the female characters’ complex and interesting stories, streaming story-lines for the sake of audiences, and even holding back the interactions of certain characters so that they might have a bigger spotlight in any future installments. While fans of Herbert’s novel may be upset at some of these changes, they show the breadth and intimacy of Villeneuve’s knowledge regarding the content and his audiences. 

As in-depth as this film goes into the world of “Dune,” audiences unfamiliar with the story can still enjoy the beauty of the cinematography, the quality of the actors’ performances (despite the deceiving lack of Zendaya in this installment), and the sweeping crescendos of Hans Zimmer’s score. While the film provides an aesthetic feast for the eyes, it’s not impossible to get lost in the immense details of the plot that can, at times, overwhelm the visuals and dialogue. 

After watching the film, I have found myself diving deeper into the “Duneiverse” and the beauty it presents. While I have found a great interest in Herbert’s worlds, some may not. Despite this, I believe that “Dune” stands as a strong and powerful example of the wonders of science fiction in film. Future installments have just been green-lighted, and the success of the film points to good news for fans.

Title: “Dune

Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac

Director(s): Denis Villeneuve

If you like: “Star Wars, “Ender’s Game, “Ready Player One

Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5

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About Anna Falk

Anna is Scene Editor for the 2023-2024 academic year. She is a senior studying Neuroscience and Linguistic who talks about music too much for her own good. Follow her on Spotify @annam.falk

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