Review: “Dune” introduces a new world to cinema, treads the line of good and bad


Photo credit: Dune Promotional Poster

Dune was released Oct. 2021, after a year’s delay in release due to COVID-19. The film is an adaptation of the novel by Frank Herbert and follows a young boy in his predestined journey to power over the galaxy.

By Thea Leimone, Features Editor

Fifty-six years after its initial publication, the film adaptation of “Dune” has hit the screens and the box offices. The film, starring Timothée Chalamet and  Zendaya Coleman, springs the viewer into this generation’s “Star Wars”; a universe of sand dunes, sand worms and the magical property of spice, which allows for space navigation and contains mind-enhancing powers. Along with complex societies, “Dune” ushers in a new cinematic world with more installments to come. In a grand allegory for imperialism and exploitation of oil, land and livelihoods, “Dune” introduces a world filled with fantasy that still resonates with modern day problems. “Dune,” follows Chalamet, playing young Duke Paul Atreides, in his ascension of power over the House of Atreides and beyond.

The world of “Dune” is incredibly complex, with two major houses competing for power over the planet Arrakis, which holds the spice in it’s sand dunes. Power over Arrakis means overwhelming wealth: wealth that succeeds that of the emperor. Yet, power over Arrakis isn’t uncontested. The native Fremen people and their highly advanced fighting pose threats to the planet’s imperialists, while opposing the House of Harkonnen seeks to obtain power over the planet again.

The filming includes, but is not limited to, the endless rolling sand dunes of Jordan and Abu Dhabi, creating an immersive story with an intensive score from the brilliant Hans Zimmer. The story also includes the Bene Gesserit, a sisterhood with mental and physical superhuman powers, and greater political agenda for the galaxy, which Chalamet has been looped into since birth. Just giving an overview of the plot is challenging due to the sheer amount of details in the “Dune” universe.

The acting is exceptional, with Chalamet, an emotionally charged character, conflicted over his destiny and the extent of his free-will. Rebecca Ferguson is cutting as her multi-faceted character Lady Rebecca, communicating so much with her still and powerful presence. Sadly, Zendaya’s anticipating part and performance was fleeting, with only a few short minutes of speaking and endless silent shots to foreshadow her coming role.

Much like “Star Wars”, “Lord of the Rings” or other major fantasy series, there is a need to establish familiarity and to situate the viewers with the problems at hand. Director Denis Villenueve achieves this hurdle, but just barely, by seeking a balance between storytelling and grandiose filming.

The problem lies in the density of the story. As we all know, this movie was only part one of the “Dune” series, and only covered the first couple hundred pages of the nearly 1,000-paged book, although Villenueve does manage to convey the premise of this film and possibilities of the future. Yet, the complicated story doesn’t account for all the lost potential in the nearly three-and-a-half hour long film.

Too many scenes and sequences rely on observations from the viewers as they work to piece together the universe. Villenueve focuses too much on aesthetic and emotional looks and encounters between actors, forgoing potential for a natural flow of the story and dimension to characters beyond, and even including, Chalamet. The film feels glossed over.

The “big fight”  of the film feels like more of an establishing scene than the climax of action, as we only see a couple of minutes of actual fighting. The mind-bending, captivating moments that viewers anticipated fall short, with the setting and long shots feeling empty without action.

Could Villenueve have cut the aesthetically pleasing scenes of journeys across the dunes, magnificent shots of the homes of Atreides, and grand fights with sands worms in exchange for more substantial content in the two hour and 26-minute runtime? Yes, he absolutely could have. But with big names starring the show and an even bigger backing from Warner Bros.,  Villenueve had the freedom to spread the first book of the series into two films, and we can only hope part two will find a better balance of breathless beauty and complexity of plot and characters.

  • Story
  • Acting
  • Technical Quality
  • Enjoyment


Film adaptation of the famous novel “Dune”, follows young pre-destined Messiah-figure, Paul Atreides, Duke of House of Atredies, in his journey to the planet Arakkis upon order of the emperor who seeks to start a war between Atredeis and the House of Harkonnen. Atredeis finds himself having visions, courtesy of his genetic Bene Gesserit powers gifted by his mother, of a native Arakkin, known as Fremen, girl and their partnership in a path to power.