The story of “Dune” is a sweeping epic that has been influential for decades. So many other series took cues from Frank Herbert’s 1965 science-fiction masterpiece — those seeing it for the first time on the big screen might make comparisons to something more recent like “Game of Thrones” but in outer space.
It is important to keep in mind that the book as well as any other media adaptations predate “Game of Thrones“ by quite a number of years.
The story is profound, following House Atreides besieged by betrayal from within the Imperium, the interplanetary political structure governing the cosmos. After generations of faithful loyalty to the emperor, House Atreides is exiled to Arrakis, the titular planet known as Dune. This desert planet may or may not have been the basis for a couple of locations created by George Lucas for “Star Wars.”
This 2021 film adaptation is not the first; David Lynch of "Twin Peaks" fame directed a complete adaptation released in 1984. There was also a television miniseries released in December 2000 on the Syfy channel, with a 2003 follow-up based on Herbert’s book, "The Children of Dune."
This new adaptation, directed by Denis Villeneuve (“Blade Runner 2049,” “Arrival”), has been highly anticipated for the last two years, boasting an impressive cast, including Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, Jason Momoa, and Stellan Skarsgård as the villainous Baron Harkonnen. Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Dave Bautista and Josh Brolin also join the cast.
Many of the sets for Arrakis were filmed in the Middle East, using permission to film in countries like Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. The use of natural terrain and real geographic locations provides a tangibility to a film that could be visually hindered by having too many computer-generated locations.
The planet’s desert terrain is crucial to the plot, almost becoming a character in and of itself because of how prominently it features on screen. The performances by the actors, the staging and the choreography of the fight sequences are all well-shot and lit; the director knows what he is doing when it comes to making this grandiose story come to life.
The story’s incompleteness is the biggest turn-off. The opening credits indicate this film is part one of a two-film project and Part 2 was not even greenlit by Warner Bros. until a few days ago.
More than likely the studio waited for the box office return; this is a massive big budget film that not only received theatrical release, but a same-day digital streaming release on HBO Max. Ultimately, it feels like Warner Bros. had no faith that the project would succeed.
That is disappointing. With something this epic, one would think the studio learned from New Line Cinema — a studio they acquired in 1994 — who produced both “The Lord of the Rings" and “Hobbit" trilogies, allowing Director Peter Jackson to simultaneously film each part before distributing them annually.
There is nothing worse than being given the first part of the film franchise only to find out that it’s an incomplete story. Regardless, “Dune“ is a tremendous cinematic feat and definitely worth seeing.