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Dune review: Director Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel is a flawed cinematic wonder

Denis Villeneuve takes on a huge responsibility in adapting a 50-year-old screenplay, but makes it a flawed one.

  • Aishwarya Vasudevan

  • OTTplay

Last Updated: 05.40 AM, Oct 22, 2021

cover image
In a still from Dune

Dune is the story of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding. He must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. But the malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence. It's a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential for those who can conquer their fear will survive.


After witnessing the millions and millions of efforts in making Game of Thrones, it's tough to watch something made on that scale and excel in it. For the same, I give full points to Dune for creating a futuristic film on a large scale and adapting a vintage book as it is. Dune is based on the 1965 book of the same name by Frank Herbert. But it reeks of that era although the screenplay is adapted by Jon Spaihts, director Denis Villeneuve and Eric Roth.

However, the writers didn't make any effort in updating the screenplay while adapting it. The film showed the year 10191 that's nearly 8000 years ahead of us. Sadly, it seems like the future on any other planet, yes, the story is not about Earth but a dangerous desert planet named Arrakis will always suffer from colonialism. The film has 'houses' and terms which are quite similar to that of Game of Thrones from House Atreides, House Harkonnen to the Fremen tribe and more.

The film has a very Middle East setup, and it's the trading of spice on which the backdrop of the film is based. From the costumes of women wearing a veil even though she is of the Highest Order. The Fremen tribe who belong to the planet are sadly the prisoners in their own home.

In a still from Dune

The representation of the people in the name of colonialism is shown by a white Duke and his family played by Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides, Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica and their son Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides. Their subordinates include Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck and Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, both serving as Paul's mentors and are also weapons masters.

The film is a Chalamet show with the actor being present in every frame. He is touted as the Chosen One from his mother's side who is a Bene Gesserit having superhuman powers. Although she is concubine to Duke Leto, she has been given all authority as a Duchess. Chalamet as Paul impresses with his every presence while on the path to self-discovery. On one hand, he doesn't wish to be his father's successor while on the other, he has been imbibing his mother's powers which he was unaware of.

In a still from Dune

Paul gets constant dreams of a mysterious girl who is none other than Zendaya. Sadly, that's the most we see of her in the 99% of the film, in dream sequences. The Emmy-winning actor is hardly present in flesh, despite playing the leading character of the film.

The opening credit of the film shows Dune Pt. 1, so if all the second instalment falls into place, it will be more out Chani, the character Zendaya plays and not in dreams.

Coming back to Chalamet as Paul, the unravelling of the mystery of his character has been well-executed just like the cinematography of the film. The actor blends in every frame beautifully making his naive yet tough character palpable to watch.

In a still from Dune

Another stupendous performance to watch out for in the film is of Ferguson as Lady Jessica, who has the maximum screen space after Chalamet and nails her role in every possible way. Her character has an aura wherein she makes mysterious moves at every inch which as a viewer is surprising. Her character has an interesting arc as Bene Gesserit expresses disappointment in her bearing a boy child.

They have a history of having girl children taking their lineage forward, a tradition she 'fails' to follow. That doesn't make her stop from imparting her powers to her son which is against the rules. But which parent doesn't want their kid to have their best qualities? However, that's not what the child wishes for and has to settle for it.

This is what Paul battles with, he wishes to lead a simple life, learning the ecological system of Arrakis and also duelling with his weapon masters. But fate has something else in store for him and it's more like a King Arthur for Paul.

In a still from Dune

Isaac as Leto is another actor who is a treat to watch in Dune. The actor as a family man and a peace-loving Duke has to face the wrath of many but he never diverts from his sole purpose. So do Brolin and Momoa who excel in their action-packed parts. Despite being set in a futuristic era, they are given a casual-cool look. Was it a deliberate move or was the assignment not understood for their character, one might wonder!

Another actor who will leave you surprised from the word go is the veteran star Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. The actor is unrecognisable as a floating enemy to House Atreides.

Zendaya as a blue-eyed girl with a limited screen presence will leave you asking for more. She manages to make herself look magical and very mystic but wishes there were more dialogues and not just her eyes do the talking.

In a still from Dune

But kudos to the makers for creating a meaty ensemble cast who is a crowd puller.

When director Denis Villeneuve took the charge of helming Dune, it was no surprise as the man is a genius in creating sci-fi futuristic films. Although the screenplay is not that strong, it's the execution that takes away the bigger slice of the cake. The brilliant cinematography by Greig Fraser is too beautiful for words. The way he showed the desert as a character is a visual delight and will even pump an adrenaline rush while watching the film.

However, the editing by Joe Walker is not that crisp and a few elaborative sequences could have been cut short to save the runtime. The two and a half hours long film seems very long but with an abrupt end, citing the sequel. The film is only half of Frank Herbert's book and a lot more needs to be covered if the sequel is definitely in the making.

The music plays a very important part in Dune which has an Arabic touch to it. However, the man behind it, the legendary Hans Zimmer failed to surprise this time by bringing in his usual elements for the film.

Dune is a hands-down must-see theatre watch but it's not assuring that the film will be liked or not.


Dune is a visual treat with a flawed execution in terms of adapting a screenplay from the book that has not aged well in these five decades.

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