The film ‘Dune’ by director Dena Villeneuve is based on the novel by Frank Herbert. In the United States, the film was originally scheduled for release on December 17, 2020, but the world premiere was later moved to October 21, 2021. The picture has collected $40.1 million in the United States, so ‘Dune’ not only reached number one in the rankings but also showed the best result for Warner Bros. An analysis of the film’s main characteristics is essential to a reliable assessment of its success.
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The story of Dune occurs in the future when humankind has migrated to every corner of the galaxy. In the millennia since modern times, humans have become addicted to computers and freedom from machine intelligence due to a two-century rebellion of the Butlerian Jihad. Now even the spaceship is controlled by a living intelligence, pumped up through the consumption of a space drug, mélange (Villeneuve). This drug is produced on only one planet, a giant dune named Arrakis. The father of the protagonist, Duke Leto Atreides, is removed by the Emperor to Arrakis, the richest but also the most dangerous planet of the Empire (Villeneuve). The Duke realizes that a trap awaits him on the planet, placed by his worst enemies, the greedy and vicious Harkonnen.
However, he thinks that since he is warned, he is armed. The novel’s protagonist is the Duke’s fifteen-year-old son and sole heir, Paul Atreides. His mother, the Duke’s concubine Lady Jessica, represents the powerful Bene Gesserit order of women. The order had been planning for millennia the birth of a messiah, Quisatz Haderach, a man capable foresee of the future and looking into the memory of the ancestors. He was to be born from the marriage of Duke Leto’s daughter and Baron Harkonnen’s nephew.
Despite, of love for her husband, Jessica violated the order’s imperative and had a son instead of a daughter. Perhaps he is the Messiah, or possibly the other way around (Villeneuve). Nevertheless, after the inevitable Harkonnen attack, he must survive on an inhospitable planet with independent local characters, the Fremen, where a drop of water is worth more than gold and where giant sandworms furrow the sands.
Dune explores man’s possibilities and the result of humanity if enhanced by biology and technology in subtle and even incredible ways. Frank Herbert’s novel is filled with special terminology that the writer invented for the specific fantasy world he had created. Director Denis Villeneuve understands that an audience that has not read the book will find it very difficult to absorb the story, which is full of strange words (Villeneuve). For this reason, he organizes the introduction and the lead so that the viewer is ready to catch up with the story very quickly. It is also essential to understand that cuts and some fudging of events are needed for a movie adaptation of a massive book.
They are not that significant in the film, and besides, some of the omitted nuances may emerge in the sequel. Dune is attractive from the director’s perspective and from the attention to detail of production designer Patrice Vermette and the creative team in charge of special effects. Everything in the picture is well thought out – the hues of the planets Kaladan and Arrakis, the design of costumes and spacecraft (emphasizing the difference between the Atreides and the Harkonnens), and the view of the elite guard unit of soldiers (Villeneuve). The fact that the dunes of the planet Arrakis were filmed not in pavilions with green backgrounds but the real desert territory in Jordan (which blends perfectly with the CGI sandworms) also plays its role positively.
The movie occurs in the distant future, where the Emperor orders Duke Leto Atreides (played by Oscar Isaacs) to become the leader of the planet Arrakis. It is the only place to obtain the most valuable substance in the entire universe: spices. They are essential for interstellar flights, and spices have the unique property of changing human consciousness.
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It is significant to mention how the main characters of the film change (Villeneuve). Paul Atreides is a descendant of an aristocratic family who has his high mission on Arrakis.
At the film’s opening, he does not yet understand the uniqueness of the abilities he inherited from his mother and his father’s capabilities as the future heir of the House of Atreides. Unfortunately, the attack on Arrakis forced the inexperienced Paul to grow up quickly. He matured rapidly to adapt and overcome harsh conditions (Villeneuve). Paul Atreides gradually becomes more confident and demonstrates his courage across the spectrum.
It is also worth mentioning that Duncan Idaho is a skillful swordsman and one of Leto’s most confidantes. He was the first man to arrive in Arrakis and fearlessly set out into the wilderness to meet groups of free individuals (Villeneuve). In contrast to Gurney, Duncan was not afraid to be friends with free people, even though he felt he was one of them. Additionally, Lady Jessica faced many obstacles; despite this, she demonstrates many skills, including fighting abilities. This helped when she and Paul escaped captivity from Harkonnen’s people after the attack in Arrakis (Villeneuve). Her largest obstacle was surviving in the harsh wilderness of Arrakis. Still, Lady Jessica quickly learned and coped with the brutality of the desert and gained respect from Freeman by demonstrating her fighting skills.
Dune is truly amazing in its scale, beautiful technical execution, and space opera spirit. The film’s events happen on the surface of the planets, but there are still shots of liners and warships in outer space. The film features moving walls barring sunlight, semi-subterranean ant colony cities, and minimalist, gloomy interiors that look more like museums than living quarters. Villeneuve constantly emphasizes how small human beings (even the chosen ones) are compared to the rest of the world. The ships, buildings, and natural objects are also enormous.
The film also includes Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem, Zendeja, Dave Batista and Josh Brolin. Not all of the artists listed have a lot of screen time, but even a few scenes are enough for their characters to be well remembered. Most of all, people watch Timothy Chalamet, who fits perfectly as the Duke’s heir, growing up under the weight of his destiny. It would be a noticeable imperfection not to say a word about the ‘Dune’ soundtrack, which Hans Zimmer wrote (Villeneuve).
The composer’s music keeps pace with the story, dazzling with loud noises and captivating with tense motifs. Zimmer even manages to use bagpipes to underscore the alarming danger of the planet on which the protagonists arrive. Moreover, I should like to mention the work of the sound designers – they work wonders, adding bleak sounds to the screenplay that make everyone feel anxious.
I enjoyed the movie because of the wonderful acting and the interesting plot. At the same time, the special effects also played a large role because they were spectacular. I was impressed by the scale of the film, from the beautiful technical execution to the spirit of space opera. Nevertheless, I would like to mention that the film does look like a high-budget blockbuster with a star cast, but it is a simple script devoid of additional meanings. There are references to political intrigue, examples of religious bigotry in Jessica, and hints of criticism of the ‘oppressor’ colonizers (Villeneuve). I especially appreciated the truthful and sensual performance of the actors. That is why I recommend everyone watch this movie because it grabs your attention from the first seconds and keeps you in suspense till the end.
Consequently, watching the film allows me to assert that characteristics such as music, special effects, acting, and an interesting plot influenced the quality of the film. Thus, the main idea is to show the quite possible life of people in the future. The director of the picture used many means to make a very realistic and meaningful plot, considering that the movie was based on the novel. I also think that this movie will especially appeal to fans of the novel because it tries to convey the main motifs, as the author noted in the book. I recommend seeing the movie and thinking about the philosophical sense that was incorporated into it.
Villeneuve, Denis, director. Dune. Warner Bros., 2021.