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‘Dune’: A Classic Sci-Fi Story Brought to the Screen


Dune (2021)

Dune, starring Zendaya and Timothée Chalamet, premiered in theatres Friday, Oct. 22. Image Courtesy of IMDb.

The blockbuster film Dune (2021) directed by Denis Villeneuve made its premiere in theatres on Friday, Oct. 22. This film was an immersive and stunning cinematic success that remained truthful to Frank Herbert’s original novel, written in 1965.

Dune, a gripping tale of geopolitics, cultural immersion, and mental strength, follows the story of the promising heir to the Atreides family, Paul Atreides. With political tensions rising, his family is sent to govern the spice-rich desert planet of Arrakis, a harsh terrain inhabited by natives known as the Fremen. The film boasts multiple well known actors and actresses, such as Timothee Chalamet (Paul Atreides), Zendaya (Chani), Rebecca Ferguson (Lady Jessica), Jason Momoa (Duncan Idaho), and many more. 

The story of Dune originates from the first half of Frank Hebert’s award-winning novel Dune, published in 1965. This past spring, I read it in preparation for viewing the movie. As a person who has read the book as well as watched the movie, I can confirm that the movie was accurate to the book, even down to some of the smallest details. I found this impressive, as staying true to the book yet maintaining a distinct plot is no easy feat. The plot of the movie was identical to that of the book, and also managed to emphasize important and complex themes, themes that seem like they would be difficult to portray in film. For instance, the significance of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood and the stoicism exhibited by the story’s main characters is captivating to watch on screen, with the notorious quote “fear is the mindkiller” a prime example of that. 

Dune exhibits themes such as religion, power, and human control over ecology. Frank Herbert carefully crafted the complexities of this fictional world, resulting in Dune’s events being comparable to real world issues and events. Although some may find this concept boring, I personally found it fascinating how they managed to combine complex politics and economics along with sci-fi exhilaration into the film.

Frank Herbert carefully crafted the complexities of this fictional world, resulting in Dune’s events being comparable to real world issues and events.


The acting in this film was truly exceptional. Each actor portrayed their character exactly how I had imagined them while reading the book. I found myself especially impressed by Timothee Chalamet’s role as the lead protagonist, Paul Atreides. He not only portrayed Paul’s nobility, but hinted at his underlying teenage angst and unrest, which I found admirable. 

Amongst Dune’s watchers, there was controversy over Chani’s seven minutes of screentime. I can understand the disappointment, as Zendaya’s role in Dune had sparked notable anticipation in younger viewers. However, this should be expected, as Chani made minimal appearances before the second half of the book. Giving her more screen time would be dishonest to the book.  

My favorite part of Dune was the stunning, breathtaking videography. Every scene was absolutely alluring in its own way, switching between unique angles and detailed close up shots. The scenery not only entertained the eye, but represented the film’s themes of beauty, darkness, and chaos as well. 

A significant component to the story of Dune is the existence of the humongous, mighty creatures that ruled the deserts of Arrakis: the sandworms. The sandworms play a very important role in the book, and I was anxious to see how they would appear in live action. To say the least, I was absolutely blown away by the design of these creatures. They were haunting yet entrancing, and exactly how they were described in the book. I am confident to say that visually, this was one of most beautiful films I have seen in a very long time.

On Tuesday, Oct. 26, Legendary Entertainment officially confirmed Dune’s sequel. The sequel is scheduled for release on Oct. 20, 2023, sparking excitement amongst fans. Frank Herbert’s original series consists of 15 books total, therefore raising the question of whether Dune could potentially become a sci-fi saga similar to Star Wars.

Those who watch this movie will find themselves enveloped in an intricate, merciless, and stunning world of space travel, desert winds, and unshakable ambition. In general, I absolutely loved Dune, and I recommend it to anybody who enjoys sci-fi or action films in general. 

About the Writer
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Mallory Milner, Reporter

Class of 2024

Hi! I am a senior and this is my third year as a reporter for Westwood Horizon. Outside of press I enjoy hanging out with my friends,...

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Epic Sci-Fi Film ‘Dune’ Sands Down to a Lackluster Experience


Warner Brothers

After being set to premiere in late 2020, Dune held off until Friday, Oct. 22 for its debut. The film was a sci-fi action narrative highlighting the tale of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet). Graphic by Amoli Agarwal. Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers.

After the blockbuster film Dune premiered on Friday, Oct. 22, I couldn’t wait to watch the beginning of a new epic sci-fi saga I knew I was sure to love. The enthralling trailers snagged my interest as soon as they popped up on my YouTube feed, promising a movie packed with action, alien worlds, interplanetary politics, and inventive plotlines. What’s more, the professionals working to bring this movie together were truly extraordinary. Denis Villeneuve, the big cheese of the title film Arrival, teamed up with Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer and actors Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, and Jason Momoa to create his masterpiece. What could go wrong?

I’m sad to say that the film was not at all up to scratch, a mediocre action film with overdramatization and yet no emotional attachment whatsoever. It felt as if I was watching two and a half hours of desert scenery on National Geographic, and not the intense chronicle suggested by the trailers. While the videography was indeed stunning, portraying the beautiful but treacherous Arrakis landscape, I was constantly waiting for the moment where I would be at the edge of my seat and completely immersed in the protagonist’s story.

The film centers around Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), the son of Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) and heir of House Atreides. Paul, Duke Leto, and his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), are sent to the planet Arrakis by the Emperor to replace House Harkonnen as its caretakers. Arrakis is home to giant, fearsome sandworms, rebellious Freman natives, and a vast supply of a valuable compound called “spice.”

The sudden overturn in power ignites the jealousy of Baron Vladimir (Stellan Skarsgard), the leader of House Harkonnen. He plots to overthrow Atreides on Arrakis and regain control of the spice supply. In the midst of this, Paul starts having dreams of a mysterious Freman woman (Zendaya) and a forthcoming crusade where he is at the helm of ruthless carnage.

While the overarching plot was straightforward enough, there were several moments of apparent randomness where an incident would transpire and never be referred to again. For example, while Paul is in his room on Arrakis, an insect-like piece of technology attempts to target and kill him. The scene is full of drums beating like a heart, a supposedly tense scene of gripping action. Yet Paul merely hides in a holograph and ends up destroying the killing device with little trouble. Afterward, there is hardly any explanation about who deployed the device and its significance for House Atreides. The suddenness of the exaggerated event and its near-immediate departure felt like a tornado had just swept by and then abruptly vanished into thin air. 

The suddenness of the exaggerated event and its near-immediate departure felt like a tornado had just swept by and then abruptly vanished into thin air. 

One of the film’s weakest areas was its pacing. While Villeneuve skirted around many explanations to speed up the plot, I could feel the lack of dialogue every empty second, especially as the scenery stretched on and on. Any dialogue was terse and incomprehensible (most of it was whispering, really). I actually would have preferred lengthy clarifications to the overuse of wide shots for every insignificant detail. For a supposed action film, there is surprisingly little action. Villeneuve lingers on almost every battleship, building, and explosion while significantly shortening any real intensity to mere minutes. 

The action the trailers display so vividly is primarily composed of Paul’s dreams. While I understand that his characteristic dreams were essential to the plot, they were repetitive and dull; there was a continuous cycle of the mysterious Freman woman gazing invitingly back at Paul in slow motion. I assume the point was introducing the Freman woman, later named Chani, as Paul’s love interest; even so, her presence was just another waste of screen time. However, Villeneuve elucidated any paramount dreams poorly and hurriedly, especially those that foreshadowed destiny; only after reading the plot online did I comprehend that Paul was visualizing the ruination of everything his family believed. 

As I watched, I could feel no emotional connection to the characters or their trials. The film was much too lifeless and cold. While some scenes were supposed to be heartfelt, there was a want for authentic character development. That is not to say that nothing emotional happened, just that the delivery felt comparable to watching a soap opera starting from somewhere in the middle (melodramatic and yet wholly uninteresting simultaneously). 

One of the main reasons I elected to watch this movie is because Hans Zimmer composed the music. As one of my favorite movie music composers of all time, devising the music for films like The Dark Knight, Inception, and The Lion King, Zimmer always seems to exalt his movies to another level. For instance, in Inception, Zimmer cleverly uses a simplistic eight-note theme to complement the concept of time versatility, building a sonority of orchestra and synths throughout the entire movie. In Dune, I felt Zimmer had once again brought his exceptional talent to the table, elevating every scene with his use of haunting choir segments, pounding drums, and smooth chord progressions. The music was one of the few aspects of the film I enjoyed, as it augmented the foreign Arrakis atmosphere of hair-raising sandworms, enigmatic dreams, and brutal warfare. Yet, it was not enough to compensate for the monotony.

The music was one of the few aspects of the film I enjoyed, as it augmented the foreign Arrakis atmosphere of hair-raising sandworms, enigmatic dreams, and brutal warfare.

As a viewer without prior knowledge from Frank Herbert’s book series, I thought Dune was a double-edged sword. While the action was invariably lackluster and the plot sluggishly executed, the actors and actresses played their parts well. Timothée Chalamet manifests Paul’s teenage-ridden angst and reluctance to bear a leader’s burden exquisitely. Torn between protecting her son and staying true to her order, Rebecca Ferguson brings Lady Jessica’s internal struggle to life. Even so, it was clear that Villeneuve was merely introducing the characters to set the stage for a sequel. Two and a half hours was much too long for this exposition, as it could have easily been half its screen time. This disappointing start to the new series, especially with such an incredible team of professionals, has left me uncertain whether I will return to see Dune: Part Two, Villeneuve’s anticipated continuation of the story set to debut in October 2023. 


About the Writer
Photo of Amoli Agarwal
Amoli Agarwal, Horizon Editor-in-Chief

Class of 2023

Welcome to the Horizon! I am looking forward to leading this wonderful team of reporters and editors with Catharine. Outside of the newsroom,...

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