Dune, the highly anticipated sci-fi epic, was finally released last weekend after its release date was rescheduled twice. I was eager to see this new adaption Frank Herbert's 1965 novel, "Dune" directed by Denis Villeneuve. The film did so good in the box office (globally, Dune has raked in $220 million as of this past Sunday) that a sequel has already been greenlit by Legendary & Warner Bros.
In the fantasy world of Dune, things seem to revolve around the production of spice. Spice production is controlled by the Emperor and is mined in the unkind deserts on a planet called Arrakis, where gigantic sand worms constantly threaten the operation, as well as the people who inhabit the planet--the Fremen. The film focuses on the Emperor taking away control of spice production from the villianous House Harkonnen and giving it to the benevolent House Atreides-- led by Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and their son, Paul (Timothée Chalamet).
The Harkonnens and their leader (Stellan Skarsgård), who is strangely tall, has the ability to levitate and could easily be the star of a horror movie, plan to take back control of spice production by planning a brutal attack that leaves mostly all of the Atreides dead. It is soon revealed that this was the Emperor's plan all along-- to lure the Atreides into a trap that would become their demise. The Duke himself even perils in this massive attack, orchestrated in part by one of his own--a traitor who reveals that he did it to save his wife but gives the Duke one last plan of attack as a token to apologize, we assume. The evil Harkonnens set up his paralyzed, naked body at a dinner table while their leader, Baron Vladimir, dines across from him. In his last breath, the duke bites down on a tooth (the gift from the traitor) which spreads poison throughout the room--killing what appears to be quite a few Harkonnens.
Lady Jessica and Paul are among two of the survivors because alongside of being "royal", Jessica holds the ability to control minds. She is part of a secret society of women, Bene Gesserit, who have been preparing to mold a person called, "The One," who will be a messiah to the Atreides and the Fremen. Warrior and mentor to Paul, Duncan (Jason Momoa) also makes it out alive, but ultimately meets his own demise while defending Paul and Lady Jessica on their journey.
Paul, from the start of the film, has dreams that hold visions of meeting a Fremen girl (Zendaya) who he assumes he will fall in love with. His dreams are part of the reason why his mother initially assumes that he could be "the one." Throughout the movie, snippets of the dream seem to guide him through the journey we see him and his mother go on. After they escape, they are on the run in the desert.
Okay, so we now that we have all of that stuff out of the way, let's talk about my overall impression. The visuals, the ambiance and the overall feel of Dune are all breathtaking. That alone, I would argue, makes the movie worth the price of admission. If you are a sucker for getting lost in the fantasy worlds found in sci-movies, this is a good movie for you. Dune had a budget of $165 million and while a lot of that goes to paying the cast & crew members, they sure did deliver when it comes to magnificent sets for the scenes. The storyline, on the other hand, is a bit overdone and predictable; it left me feeling not quite on the edge of my seat and wanting something else rather than the same old hyper masculine evil empire vs rebel forces theme. This theme is recycled over and over again in sci-fi movies.
What I liked
Many of our greatest sci fi films include some element of harnessing the power of consciousness and this film was no exception. While some may call this overdone, I find it to be quite realistic. Based on current scientific research into remote viewing, psi & quantum physics, it’s clear that consciousness is the key that will unlock our greatest future technology.
In Dune, which takes place in the year 10191, spice is a psychoactive substance that allows humanity the ability for FTL (faster-than-light) travel and life preservation. This premise is one of my favorite things about the whole movie. In the real world spice would likely be similar to the mother of all hallucinogens- DMT. I can absolutely see some technology being developed in the future from the expanded consciousness that it provides.
There are many researchers of DMT who are convinced it allows us to communicate with inter -dimensional beings. Experienced meditators and channelers demonstrate that communication on this level can be done without the aide of DMT, as well. Nonetheless, the idea of spice in the world of Dune is one of my favorite features of the plot.
What I Didn't Like
The plot could have featured more advanced and developed characters. It seems like in sci-fi movies, humans of the future always revert back to very basic existences. Knife fights to the death, killing for greed and power, and being essentially off-grid while simultaneously having very advanced technology. While Paul may become the planet's greatest leader somewhere in a sequel, the planet seems to be a monarchy. The Emperor rules all, while the evil Harkonnens rule the spice production at the start and end of the film. Whichever group is in control of the spice production holds all of the power over the Fremen. I would hope that in our future, we don't revert back to a monarchy state.
The character development of Paul and Lady Jessica was also very basic, in my opinion. Yes, there will be a sequel, as the movie ends with a cliffhanger, "This is only the beginning." Paul will likely develop into a young leader in the sequel, but I still think there could have been more development of Lady Jessica. I hope the sequel allows her character to bloom a little more. Our minds hold a tremendous amount of power and I want to see what other powers the women of Bene Gesserit hold.