If you haven’t read the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert or watched the 1984 movie by Director David Lynch, you might be expecting a Star Wars style SciFi film when you go to see the updated Dune. The fact that George Lucas was inspired by Dune is readily apparent but doesn’t change things – this is nothing like Star Wars. It is serious and cerebral, great science fiction.

Herbert was a master world-builder, a refined skill among successful Fantasy and Science Fiction authors, including Isaac Asimov, J. R. R. Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, J. K. Rowling, George R. R. Martin and Terry Pratchitt. The inspiration for much of Dune comes from Islam. So this movie, which is very true to the book, is sociologically complex, richly detailed and believable, despite being set in the year 10,191 in a universe populated by warring factions of humans.


The story follows young Paul Atreides, of the House of Atreides, as he chooses one of three paths into his future. His mother Jessica, a Bene Gesserit witch, played by Rebecca Ferguson, and his father, Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac), each have their own ideas. A third path begins to emerge in Paul’s dreams, enhanced by the rare and valuable “Spice,” mined on the desert planet Arrakis. Control of the Spice trade has the attention of the Emperor, ruler of the Imperium and the known universe. A big job, and a mysterious, unseen presence thus far in the Dune saga. As with the half dozen Dune books, this tale cannot be told in a single film, so the 155 minutes devoted to this introduction is only chapter one.


Spacecraft, battles, sets and costuming are all spectacularly realized in this version of the Herbert classic. We are even introduced to “The Voice,” an obvious inspiration for The Force.

And then there are the sand worms. These ubiquitous monsters travel below the surface of the sand as if it was water, emerging to swallow giant machinery or whatever else attracts their attention, in giant whale-like gulps. They are reminiscent of the creatures in the film Tremors.


But the native inhabitants of Arrakis, the Fremen, have not only mastered life on a waterless world, they worship the worms, and we get a brief clue that they have learned to ride them.


This is a very slow, dark film that may not appeal to those who aren’t already fans. But the cinematography and special effects will have you tasting sand and running to concessions to quench your thirst, because, well, that’s better than recycled sweat.


Dune (2021) runs 2 hours, 37 minutes and is rated PG-13.


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