“The spice must flow”

‘Dune’ Movie Review

by Anya Farwell, staff

by Art by Darby O’Neil

Let’s be clear: recreating an iconic, mesmerizing sci-fi opera with a dedicated audience that demands perfection is hard. Yet the new “Dune,” directed by Denis Villeneuve, gives you an awakening to the world of Arrakis and the powers of the main character Paul played by Timothee Chalamet. This modern portrayal of the book “Dune” by Frank Herbert is nothing short of amazing.

The book, released in the mid 60’s, is an ode to the wonders of the sci-fi world and immediately touched the hearts of sci-fi lovers. Over time, Herbert released 13 other books making “Dune” a series. The first book introduces us to Paul Atreides, played by Timothee Chalamet, a young boy who grew up being groomed for power by his father, Duke Atreides and his mother Jessica, a Bene Gesserit witch.

In the book, powerful aristocratic houses fight over a planet that produces a valuable drug called “spice” used to enable space travel. You follow Paul and a people called the “Fremen” through the harrowing and unexpected twists in his life surrounding the planet Arrakis and a girl called Chani played by Zendaya.

The first “Dune” movie, released in 1984 starring Kyle MacLachlan, did not live up to the expectations and high standards that the book set. While being true to the story, movie-making production lacked the technology to really describe the futuristic setting.  Now the new “Dune,” with the benefit of modern computer graphics, has set a high bar for sci-fi films. It takes a modern twist with a reverence to the original story that makes all the combat and strong grappling emotions come to life.

Throughout the book you also see a strong gender matriarchal relationship with the leading women in the story including Paul’s mother, played by Rebecca Ferguson, who is part of a strong bloodline called the “Bene Gesserit” that originates from a group of witches. These women in the story hold the political and spiritual power over all the houses, and test those who are worthy to be the “Messiah.”

The picture for women painted in this story stood out during the time it was written and it’s still relatable to what we are seeing in the real world today in the fields of strong prevailing women in politics and now on screen.

Shot in the deserts of Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, the movie shows us amazing landscapes with an ominous feeling on the screen created by endless sand dunes and large crimson and sandstone colored rocks. Along with the landscape, the CGI will not disappoint, leaving you in awe when Paul stumbles upon desert creatures including “Shai-Hulud,” a large sand worm.

In the film we also see the close detailing of the wardrobe. The costume designer, Jacqueline West, expresses specific detail from the book through subtle colors and small jewelry, with a somewhat otherworldly twist, which pairs greatly with the regional magnificence introduced. The costumes contribute to the phenomenal detailing throughout the film and bring the characters to life. In one scene with the head “Bene Gesserit” called the “Reverend Mother” played by Charlotte Rampling, you see that she wears a black lace beaded veil over her face setting a mysterious ominous feeling on a scene that is packed with strong screaming emotions coming from Paul. Through the costumes made by West, the characters are shown in a different light to make them seem more helpless or powerful based on the color scheme and the way it depicts the character.

After the trailer, I was counting the days until I could see the legendary book played out on the big screen, along with some of the best up and coming actors of the year. But, it has come to my attention that many people didn’t go see the movie for the story, but to gawk at beautiful Timothée Chalamet who stars in the film. Now, this isn’t exactly a bad thing, saying that many people were then shown the amazing story through their obsession with the young star, along with the rest of the cast being the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae.

Throughout the film, Chalamet isn’t the only hottie on screen. He shares his spotlight with the beautifully alluring Zendaya. Now I am going to be honest, I was a little disappointed to only see Zendaya on screen for 10 minutes, in a movie that gives the feeling that it might never end, and I don’t think I am the only person that thought this. Many had the idea that due to all the publicity, we would be seeing much more of Zendaya on screen. Eventually we meet her character at the end of the movie, as Paul joins her and the Fremen on his long and continuous journey through the Arrakis desert.

Along with Zendaya, the rest of the cast was absolutely exceptional and most certainly did not disappoint, and by the looks of it we will be seeing them on screen again shortly for Dune Part 2. Villeneuve had to cut the story in half to be able to incorporate and show as much of the book as possible on screen. Therefore we will be the audience to many more on screen debuts of different characters and the full story in part 2, which will also show much more of Zendaya’s character Chani.

I highly recommend seeing this movie, and if you have the mindset and patience I would also recommend reading the book. Both give you an inside look on a riveting sci-fi world separate from those of “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.” The film is packed with characters and feelings of triumph and loss with emotions splattered all over the screen. The cast is phenomenal along with the director, costume designer and the help of the magnificent landscape. It was one of my favorite movies that I have seen during the exasperated pandemic and would highly recommend it to people on a rainy Seattle day, or for a night out in the theater.