Dune Part One, Film Review.

Dune Part One directed by Denis Villeneuve is an an adaption of the science fiction book, Dune by Frank Herbert that was published in 1965. Dune is one of the most influential science fiction books ever written, selling over 20 million copies. The book is certainly an experience to read, and I may do a review of Dune, the book in time.

Dune the book has a plot based loosely based on the hero’s journey, it has feuding houses and war and battle being waged on a galactic scale. The book is also one of the first stories to have environmentalism as a theme, within the stories. Both the book and film feature a character who is an ecologist. In the book he is called Liet-Kynes. His daughter Chani would be the love interest of the protagonist, Paul. Chani is played by Zendaya in the film. The character is gender swapped in Dune, does not seem to be related to Chani and is portrayed by Sharon Duncan-Brewster.

Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune the book is part of a six book story that takes place over a 5,000 year period. Other books in the series include Dune Messiah (1969), Children of Dune (1976), God Emperor of Dune (1981), Heretics of Dune (1984) and Chapterhouse: Dune (1986). There have also being sixteen novels set in the Dune universe, published after the author’s death.

Dune takes place in a universe full of paradoxes, humanity has technological and mental abilities that are far beyond the capacity of current humans, but the political culture is one of heredity privilege and swearing allegiance to noble houses. Improvements in shield technology means projectile weapons are obsolete, with melee being the dominant way of conducting battles.

First of all the cinematography of the film is truly awesome, with the planet of Dune, being both a planet of wonder and danger. The part of the film that was located on Dune, were shot on location at both Wadi Rum in Jordan, which was also a filming location for the Lawrence of Arabia film (1963) and Liwa Oasis in the United Arab Emirates. The film’s monster, the giant sandworms are genuinely terrifying, in both scope and suspense, and add further to the wonder and danger of Dune.

The film is two hours and thirty five minutes long, with the film covering the entire first part of the book and finishes on page 331 of the book. The film has a very slow pace, but when the cinematography and storytelling is excellent, it’s never boring.

Dune has a cast of well known film actors, who all deliver good performances. The stand out performances came from Stellan Skarsgard, as the greedy and grotesque Baron Harkonnen and Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica, mother of the protagonist. Timothée Chalamat is well cast as the protagonist, Paul Atreidas, who previously had a life that was one of shelter and comfort and now has to fight for his place in the world.

The villain in the story so far is Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, the former governor of Arrakis, a character who is the very portrayal of greed and excess. The character in both books and adaption is obese, and overall a grotesque. By the end of book one, Harkonnen is on top of the protagonist. The Harkonnens, hates and fears the House of Atreidas, and aims to wipe out the family line. The Harkonnens are allied to the Padishah Emperor in their goal to take down the House of Atreidas. The Emperor doesn’t appear in the film, but the presence of the Emperor is there.

Plot: The plot is based off the first part of the book of Dune by Frank Herbert, published in 1965. The film finished with the fight between Paul and a member of the Fremen.

The Fremen are the native inhabitants of the planet Arrakis. They are a tribal people who seem to be based off the Bedouin Arabs of the Middle East. They are a hardy people, who respect strength, and have particular reverence for water. The fremen wear suits designed to preserve water and when one of them dies, their body becomes water for the tribe. The Fremen have been brutally treated by the almost century long rule of the Harkonnen’s on their home world. Due to the combination of oppressive rule by the Harkonnens and manipulation by the order of Bene Gesserit, the Fremen are strong believers in a Messiah figure, who will lead them to freedom.

The Bene Gesserit’s are a matriarchal order, who are basically a quasi cult who have enhanced mental and physical abilities. They are one of the most powerful factions in the known universe, and appear to able to manipulate events in the Empire. Lady Jessica, Paul’s mother is a Bene Gesserit and Paul inherits the abilities from her.

The story of Dune takes place on the planet of Arrakis (also called Dune). The southern desert of Dune, is the only place in the known universe, where the spice called melange is found. The spice is responsible for space travel and gives those that can afford the spice, extra abilities such as longer life, heightened awareness and ability to predict the future. It is super addictive and withdrew from it, is fatal for the user. The spice is basically like a mixture of cocaine and petroleum.

The political faction that controls this planet, basically controls the Empire, in which this story is set, and the main conflict of the story comes from the fact that factions who distrust each other will fight over control of resources.

Is it worth a watch. Yes, it is very much so. Dune Part One, is a film shot on an epic scale, with outstanding cinematography and an excellent effort at adopting challenging source material. The film will last long in the memory. Five stars.

Published by ferdiaomahony

Writer of local news and history, in the community of Mahon, Blackrock, Cork. Graduated from UCC, with a BA in History and Politics.

4 thoughts on “Dune Part One, Film Review.

  1. Can’t wait for part 2 ……Herbert seems to have been far ahead of his time…….an original environmentalist who realise Earth was in trouble…..good stuff!


  2. Good review Ferd! I’ve only seen it in German and the audio was a bit off in the cinema – so I may have missed some bits but the visuals are certainly stunning! The story was definitely ahead of its time and it has an impressive cast. Very much looking forward to Part 2! It’s a bit unusual to watch a grown-up movie with a budget if this size! I’m looking forward to reading the book.


    1. Good heavens, why isn’t it subtitled in the German cinemas? To me dubs are the absolute devil! The original vocal performance is removed. Must be annoying for Germans who speak fluent English aswell.


  3. Excellent review Ferdia, I really feel my viewing of the film was enhanced by reading this, you’ve got such attention to detail.


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