Frank Herbert’s ground-breaking heft of a novel, written in the 1960s, paved the way for many future movies in the genre including early Dune films and, of course, Star Wars which owes it a debt of gratitude. This latest version directed by Dennis Villeneuve has a contemporary political feel despite being set way in the future. Although the Emperor and his fiefdoms are from different planets, his ruthless pitting of one Lord against another in order to protect his own interests seems more than familiar, as does the cause of the inter-galactic struggle, the cultivation of a mysterious ‘sacred hallucinogen’, spice. A drug war you might say…
Sharon Duncan-Brewster as the Fremen scientist, Dr Liet Kynes
It is a film of two halves, the first context-setting, appealing to the more nerdy aficionado, with lots of spaceships, pomp and ceremony, showing the goodies of one planet, embodied by Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) being ordered to usurp the Harkonnen from the planet Arrakis (the eponymous Dune) led by a revolting and obese Stellan Skarsgård. The highpoint in this part is a glorious Charlotte Rampling, high priestess of a mysterious cult whose most important member is Lady Jessica Atreides (Rebecca Ferguson), mother of our hero Paul (the ubiquitous Timothée Chalamet) who is rumoured to be some sort of Messiah.
The second part begins with the arrival of the Atreides family in Arrakis to supervise the spice harvest and tame its rightful inhabitants, the Fremen. Here Paul’s visions come to life in the form of local Fremen tribeswoman Chani (played by a piercingly-blue-eyed Zendaya) as trust and betrayal vie for supremacy. This is where proper narrative takes over from special effects and Dune becomes interesting – although the terrifying sandworm that ripples though the sand sea is probably the best CGI in the film, with its jaws of death ready to devour all in its path. But just at this point the film ends with the words, ‘And this is just the beginning’. I think I’ll see part 2 when it comes in 2023!