‘Dune’ Review: An Engaging Sci-Fi Adventure

Dune Cast Photo
REBECCA FERGUSON as Lady Jessica Atreides, ZENDAYA as Chani, JAVIER BARDEM as Stilgar, and TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET as Paul Atreides in ‘Dune’ (Photo Credit: Chiabella James © 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc)

In 1965, Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel Dune was published and won the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). It’s now considered one of the best science fiction novels of all time and has long been thought to be one of the most difficult novels to adapt for the big screen.

In the 1970s cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, The Holy Mountain) attempted to convert the novel to film but after three years had to abandon the project due to budget concerns. In 1984 filmmaker David Lynch (Twin Peaks) brought his adaptation to the big screen to dismal reviews and less than stellar box office receipts. (It ranks at 46% with critics and 65% with audiences on Rotten Tomatoes).

Now filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049) version of the epic interstellar adventure story of worlds at war over the most precious resource in existence, spice, hits theaters. Oscar nominee Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) stars as Paul Atreides, a brilliant and talented young man who dreams of a world made of sand and a stunning woman who he’s never met. His father, Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), has accepted the title of Governor of the planet Arrakis from the Emperor to get the harvesting of spice, used for enhancing metal capacity and making interdimensional space travel possible, back on track. Upon landing on Arrakis, Paul realizes it’s the planet he’s been dreaming about.

Duke Leto is suspicious of the planet’s inhabitants and fears the Emperor is setting him up to fail by putting his family in a dangerous situation. The Atreides, their loyal subjects, and important friends are on the planet only a few days when an assassination attempt followed by an all-out attack is launched against them by Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgard), the head of House Harkonnen who was in control of Arrakis prior to House Atreides. Paul and his mother, Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), escape their would-be killers and venture out into the desolate, barren and deadly desert while Paul’s friend, mentor, and House Atreides warrior Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) puts up a mighty defense.

Dune is visually stunning with breathtaking effects and above average performances from the talented cast. The epic and overly long science fiction adventure brings the worlds and characters of Herbert’s novel to life in memorable fashion. The film’s style, production design, and costumes are fantastic and should be remembered during awards season.

Timothee Chalamet tops the list of stand-out performances in the film, perfectly capturing the wonder and excitement Paul feels once he arrives on Arrakis and while trying to understand the special mental powers he’s inherited from his mother. Chalamet has solid chemistry with both Ferguson and Isaac in their scenes together.

Jason Momoa steals every scene he’s in as Duncan, a mighty, loyal warrior who’s more than just a mentor to Paul; he’s a true friend. Momoa’s performance is perhaps the most natural in the film. Stellan Skarsgard, who is almost unrecognizable under heavy makeup and in a fat suit, delivers an unforgettable and truly menacing performance as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. He’s sure to end up on the list of most memorable science fiction villains right next to The Emperor from Star Wars.

Although powerful and original, Hans Zimmer’s score becomes, at times, overbearing and even distracting, especially during the action scenes. Another problem Dune has is the long and tedious setup introducing most of the characters and the worlds in this universe. This causes the film to drag and feel like a very slow burn when a more rapidly paced setup would get the point across just as well.

Still, with stunning visuals, wonderful sets, and strong performances, Dune is an engaging sci-fi adventure that should be experienced up on the big screen.


MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some disturbing images, sequences of strong violence, and suggestive material

Running Time: 2 hours 35 minutes

Release Date: October 22, 2021

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures