There is Spice in the air, and no, not of the pumpkin or chai variety
Dune: Part One is the 2021 sci-fi epic directed by Denis Villeneuve that tackles one of the grandest stories in its genre with mastery. Dune, written by Frank Herbert, tells the story of Paul Atreides, the son of a Duke in the Imperium which rules much of the known universe. Duke Leto Atreides is given control of the desert planet Arrakis, referred to as Dune: the only place in the universe where the valuable Spice Melange can be found. This means that Paul has to face not only his future as his father’s heir, but the harsh desert of Arrakis, the native Fremen who live there, and the Harkkonen’s who previously controlled the planet.
While it is as dense as it is long, the novel is extremely influential and has been called the best science fiction novel of all time. The world of Dune has been referenced by greats like George Lucas for inspiring Star Wars and countless others. It has been adapted multiple times, yet none of these adaptations achieved any sort of significant success.
After having seen the film on opening day, all I can say is: wow. Against all odds, Dune: Part One has more than met my high expectations. I put my faith in Villeneuve’s directing, and he delivered one of the most artistic blockbusters ever made. The movie balances the action and spectacle we’d hope for in a big production, but with such style and arthouse appeal that it treads the thin line between the two.
The few disappointments I had were expected. Since the film and novel take so much inspiration from Middle-Eastern culture and aesthetics, I would have hoped for more of the casting to better reflect that.
Dune: Part One is undoubtedly a success despite its few flaws. Structurally, the story about this desert planet is water-tight. Having read the original novel, I can’t find any significant plot holes or deviation from the text that wasn’t well done. The film is accurate to the book, so fans of the original won’t be disappointed. The few scenes that aren’t present in the film are justifiably absent, and the pacing is better for it. The two-hour and thirty-five-minute run time doesn’t drag, and even the slower moments have a grandiose momentum. The ending was satisfying for being halfway through the novel, but such a compelling cliffhanger left me begging for more.
As for the story, I’d argue that they made everything much more coherent, and my friends who went in blind found it understandable and engaging. It could’ve easily been overwhelming, but the filmmakers kept what was integral to the story and left the rest for the audience to figure out. Dune does not baby the audience and trusts us to interpret many of the elements ourselves…something that Marvel films do not do.
This movie is expensive, and it looks like it. What cannot be overstated is how gorgeous the cinematography is. From action sequences to intimate close-ups, I would be willing to put almost any frame from this movie on my wall. The costume and set design are incredibly immersive. Though it could’ve become very one-note in shades of tan, the desert planet is painted in an array of colors. The special effects are indiscernible from reality, transporting you onto the planet of Arrakis. It’s necessary to see Dune in theaters; it uses the entire screen to full capability and it would be disappointing to watch it any other way. There were moments where the whole theatre rattled with sound — you cannot get that anywhere else.
Timothée Chalamet was unbelievably remarkable as Paul and turned a character that could be bland into someone complex. While he can come off as cold at moments, it was a refreshing approach to see a protagonist who can be calculated and manipulative. Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica blew me away much like sand in the wind. The supporting cast was well-selected, and their individual impact has a gravitational pull. Zendaya was just as present as I thought she would be. In reality, her character, Chani, is only in the film for less than ten minutes, which is disappointing. She felt important to the story and I’m eager to see more of her in the second part.
As a whole, Dune was incomprehensibly extraordinary. This movie has something for everyone: explosive action setpieces, intimate moments, immaculate worldbuilding, stunning visuals and a story that can be appreciated on any level. I say with complete seriousness that Dune, in my opinion, is better than every single Star Wars movie and honestly makes them feel cheap by comparison. With a projected release for part two in 2023 and hopes for a three-part series, we might be seeing the birth of the next big film saga. I give Dune: Part One four and a half stars out of five because it’s a moviegoing experience unlike any other in recent memory. Dune is the movie that can spice up your holiday season in more ways than one.
Connor Stanford is a first-year theatre studies major who is ready and willing to debate why Dune may be better than Star Wars. They can be reached at [email protected]. Art by Art Editor Adam Dee.