If you haven’t read the book Dune before seeing the movie it’s probably a good idea to read a summary first.
Not being a science-fiction fan, I hadn’t read Frank Herbert’s much loved 1965 book before seeing Denis Villeneuve’s big screen interpretation. As a result I became a little confused about who was who!
However, some of this confusion may also have been caused by a lack of concentration due to the visual impact of the film. The cinematography and special effects are truly attention grabbing especially when seen on an IMAX theatre screen.
As I later discovered there are three major “players” in Dune, which is set in the year 10191. There’s the House Atreides, one of several dynastic factions co-existing under a grand empire known as the Imperium and ruled by an Emperor (who we don’t see in the movie).
House Atreides is ruled by Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) who is tasked by the Emperor to take over the rule of the desert planet Arrakis (aka Dune). Arrakis is the home of the most valuable substance in the galaxy, a spice called melange which has supernatural powers and fuels interstellar travel.
Atreides is to take over mining the spice from the brutal House Harkonnen controlled by the most unpleasant Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård). Harkonnen had been in charge of the mining for over 80 years.
The Duke, his concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and their son Paul (Timothée Chalamet) sense a trap however agree to the Emperor’s order. Needless to say the natives of Arrakis, the Fremen, don’t want anyone mining their homeland.
Together with melange, Arrakis is also home to colossal burrowing sandworms that devour everything in their path.
The first part of Dune sets the scene for the development of the film’s main characters and the drama which unfolds. We learn of Paul’s many dreams and visions. Some of these dreams are very disturbing. Others feature a young Fremen girl with shining blue eyes named Chani (Zendaya).
Paul’s mother, and indeed all of those he comes in contact with, believe he could be a prophesied Chosen One as foretold by the Bene Gesserit, an order of mystic women of whom Lady Jessica is a member. As a result Lady Jessica is training Paul to use the special powers he and she possess.
At the same time Paul is also honing his skill as a fighter under the watchful eye of Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) and sword-swinging warrior Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa).
The second part of Dune concentrates on the action-packed battles between the armies of Atreides and Harkonnen as the Harkonnen set to wipe out all the Atreides.
There’s plenty of bloody hand to hand combat, major explosions and death.
The movie then follows Paul and Lady Jessica’s fight for survival which includes dealing with the Harkonnen and Fremen together with the unforgiving desert terrain and a particularly aggressive sandworm.
What’s missing from Dune is the final section of the book – explaining why the movie is subtitled Part One. It seems box office reaction to this first movie will determine if there is a second.
Feedback suggests Dune offers plenty for lovers of the book. For non Sci-Fi buffs, the attraction of the cinematography and larger than life special effects, especially as seen on the big screen, is likely to ensure box office receipts are enough to encourage the filming of the rest of the book.
Dune releases in Australian cinemas on Thursday December 2.
*Photo Credit: Chiabella James. Copyright: © 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. Dune is a Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary release.
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