Dune: Part One

Dune: Part One

Feature adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel, about the son of a noble family entrusted with the protection of the most valuable asset and most vital element in the galaxy.

A new adaptation of Frank Herbert's science fiction novel hits the big screen with . In 10191 A.G., Duke Leto I () of House Atreides is assigned by the Emperor to the desert planet of Arrakis to takeover harvesting of the precious substance melange, also known as “spice.” Leto's son Paul () has been having dreams about Arrakis, including visions of a woman named Chani (). The dreams are a result of Paul's training by his mother Lady Jessica () in the ways of the Bene Gesserit, which gives advanced physical and mental abilities. Upon arriving on Arrakis, Leto soon learns that the spice harvesting operation was purposely left in shambles by House Harkonnen, led by Baron Vladimir (), who along with his nephew Beast Rabbin () plan to take back control of Arrakis by force.

Frank Herbert's original 1965 novel “Dune” was a very influential piece of science fiction, which set the stage for everything from Star Wars to Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. The very dense nature of the novel often resulted in many considering the story to be unfilmable, despite there being many attempts to adapt the novel over the years. This includes a failed attempt in the early 1970s by Alejandro Jodorowsky, documented in the 2013 documentary Jodorowsky's Dune, the poorly executed 1984 adaptation by David Lynch (which still generated a bit of a cult following), and a TV miniseries from 2000.

Now French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049) takes the helm of a new adaptation of Dune, with the ultimate goal being to tell the story in two films (despite the singular marketing, the on-screen title of the film is Dune: Part One). Indeed, the film has a very dense story that would take forever to fully break down, but the main crux of the plot is that Duke Leto I of House Atreides is made fief ruler of the desert planet Arrakis. Wanting to make peace with the indigenous Fremen population, Duke sends his swordmaster Duncan Idaho (Jason Mamoa) ahead to make contact, with Gurney Halleck () taking over Paul Atreides' weapons training. However, unbeknownst to House Atreides, they are walking into a trap set by Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.

Science fiction fans have been waiting for nearly six decades for there to be a faithful adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune, during which time a lot of the influential elements of the story have become commonplace within the genre. While I have never read the original novel, I will content that Dune: Part One is undoubtedly much more faithful than David Lynch's much-maligned 1984 adaptation, which tried to tell the entire story in a 137-minute running time. Dune: Part One is 18 minutes longer than Lynch's film and roughly covers only half of the original novel. Now, this is a bit of a gamble for Denis Villeneuve, since the two parts were not filmed simultaneously and a second part is instead dependent on Dune: Part One‘s box office performance. However, given the cult fandom of the story, it is probably safe to say that Dune: Part Two being greenlit all but inevitable.

If there is another thing I have to emphasize about Dune: Part One is that this is a film that is meant to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Denis Villeneuve was one of the harshest critics of Warner Bros' response to the COVID-19 pandemic by releasing their entire 2021 slate day and date on their HBO Max streaming service. While Dune: Part One is still available on HBO Max in the United States, and will likely get a Premium VOD release in a few weeks here in Canada, I am asking everyone reading this review to see this film on the big screen if you are comfortable doing so. Nearly all the exterior scenes were shot in IMAX and the film really needs to be seen in that format, in order to see the planet of Arrakis and its hulking sandworms in full glory.

I am not going to go out of my way and say Dune: Part One is a perfect film and I'm sure some are going to be disappointed that it is only half a story. However, the film is still an enjoyable science-fiction epic that left me clamouring for more.

Dune: Part One is now playing

Trailer for Dune: Part One

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.