REVIEW: Dune (2021)


Isheeta Pal

Although Dune (2021) did not live up to people’s expectations, it was still an enjoyable movie to watch.

Isheeta Pal and Lila Ettedgui-Scott

“Dune” (2021), is a science fiction movie directed by Denis Villeneuve that follows Paul Atreides, the son of the Duke of the House of Atreus, as his family moves from the Earth-like planet of Caladan to a dangerous desert planet called Dune. 

Based on Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, the House of Atreus moves to Dune to replace the evil House Harkonnen, as the occupying force on the planet of Dune in control of spice production, a valuable natural resource in Herbert’s universe. 

At its core, “Dune” is a dystopian story. The book is set 10,000 years into the future after robots rose up and overtook humanity, only for humanity to wage a revolution against the robots and win. Human beings are spread all throughout the galaxy and organized into complex imperial social structures.  

Villeneuve’s adaptation of Herbert’s dystopia was suspenseful, thought-provoking and disturbing. “Dune” (2021) has this elemental social and moral value to it. The most disturbing parts of “Dune” were the blatant religious manipulation and colonization. 

When the house of Atreus lands on Dune to replace the Harkonnen as the occupying power on Dune, the native people greet Paul as a messiah, because the Bene Gesserit, a sisterhood of spooky space nuns determined to control the path of humanity, had spent years on Dune proselytizing prior to his arrival. (Paul’s mother also happens to be a member of the Bene Gesserit.) 

Paul Atreides’ dynamic with his mother, especially once the action starts, is another major feat of “Dune”. It’s unsettling to see 15-year-old Paul suddenly outrank and overtake his mother’s authority, who was by no means defenseless, but seemingly unwilling to take control of the situation. In turn, his mother’s enhanced state of Bene Gesserit passivity only serves to enhance Paul’s heroism. 

Paul is a stoic hero, and the often wordless lead relied heavily on Chalamet’s personal magnetism. His performance was laced in familiarity: the angsty boy-king who reluctantly takes his father’s place echoed Chalamet’s role in “The King” (2019). 

By no fault of his own, his character gives off the distinct impression of being Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides instead of Paul Atreides played by Timothee Chalamet. 

This was the case for most of the leads; the cast almost had too much star power. Dune may have been better with a legion of more obscure actors that don’t make the audience go: “Look, there’s Aquaman!”

In a way, Paul Atreides was the perfect heroic role for Chalamet. Paul represents some of Chalamet’s own peace-loving values, like his disdain for technology, concern for the environment and fear of a dystopian future. Chalamet once said that “1984” was his favorite book.

Zendaya’s presence in the “Dune” publicity created a storm of anticipation for her role in the movie. However, her character, Chani, is only seen for seven minutes during the entire thing. Many fans were upset that Zendaya received such little screen time, but it was in line with the book. 

The soundtrack, composed by Hans Zimmer, was exhilarating and majestic. Each piece of music had a mixture of orchestral melodies and electronic sound. When we first heard Zimmer’s score in the theater, we instantly got goosebumps as the soundtrack pulled us into the movie.

On Oct. 26, 2021, Chalamet announced on Instagram that there will be a “Dune” sequel, scheduled to release in October 2023. Zendaya is anticipated to be much more present in the second film.

Isheeta Pal ’24 recounts, “When fans saw the post, they were very excited, especially since he posted this news while theaters were still swarmed with eager watchers of the first movie. Although we have to wait for a while, we believe the sequel will continue the legendary suspenseful plot line of the first movie, and it will be worth the wait.”


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