Dune: ‘an accessible epic made for the biggest screen’

29 Sep 2021

REVIEW – Dune, the film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction classic, opened in cinemas on September 16. For a long time, many thought this bestseller unfilmable. What makes this story so special? Marije Dümmer, student Philosophy of Language and Cognition at Radboud University, explains it in her review of the movie.

The avid movie goer cannot have missed it: Dune is in cinemas. Two previous directors failed in their attempt to bring this futuristic epic to the big screen. Is the current version by director Denis Villeneuve worth seeing?

(Warning: spoilers ahead)

To answer that question, we must first return to the book of the same name. It tells the epic story of Paul Atreides. A summary of the – complex – plot: it is the year 10191 when Paul, heir to the noble Atreides family, must leave his home for the planet Arrakis, a desert planet aptly nicknamed Dune. Paul’s father is given the imperial task of harvesting spice on Dune, for this is the only planet where this extremely valuable and mind-altering drug can be found.


It turns out to be a trap to get him out of the way. Paul and his mother Jessica must flee into the harsh desert. They succeed thanks to the special gifts of Jessica, a member of a mysterious religious order that has been working towards the arrival of a cognitively superior Messiah for generations. Once they arrive in the desert, giant sandworms and the native Fremen, excellent fighters who have completely adapted to life in the inhospitable sand world, await. Under the influence of spice, Paul develops clairvoyant gifts with which he foresees himself becoming the Messiah who will lead the Fremen in their rebellion and unleash a universe-wide jihad.

Sounds like a lot? It iss. That’s why previous directors didn’t manage to turn the story into a film. The Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky tried it in the 70s with a long script. Studio bosses, however, were not prepared to pay the necessary 15 million dollars. And David Lynch’s 1984 version flopped.

Villeneuve stays true to the source material but manages to avoid an overload of mythos and information.

But now there’s Villeneuve’s version. The expectations are high, with actors like Timothée Chalamet, Stellan Skarsgård and Charlotte Rampling and a budget of no less than 165 million dollars. Villeneuve gained experience in recent years with arthouse-style blockbuster films such as Bladerunner 2049 and Arrival. Dune fits in well in this series of science-fiction films. Villeneuve stays true to the source material but manages to avoid an overload of mythos and information. The details of the book are subtly reflected in the beautiful imagination that Villeneuve presents to us, without it being overpowering. This allows the audiences to immerse themselves fully in the world the director has created.

Wonderful interaction

This world is made for a great experience. Villeneuve designed the film specifically for iMax. Spice racing over the dunes, the jagged rocks, impressive spaceships, and gigantic worms that appear in spectacular fashion make Dune a beautiful interplay between nature, artificial worlds and distinct costumes. The picture is completed by the music of Hans Zimmer. His thumping and drumming make you experience the scale of the action with your whole body, while the oriental accents pick up on the references to Islam in the book.

Did it work out this time? Villeneuve is confident: in the opening credits we see ‘Dune: Part One’ on the screen, even though Warner Bros has not yet approved a sequel. Want to judge for yourself? You’ll have to go to Arnhem for the full iMax experience, but Dune is also playing in Nijmegen at Pathé and Vue.

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