Harkonnens. Messiahs. Deadly, insect-like hunter-seekers. A secretive all-women order of spies, nuns, scientists, and theologians that’s bending history to its will. A spice harvested from an arid desert that enables space travel. ’Thopters. Interstellar war.
The film opens on a hazy Zendaya commenting on colonialism (perhaps signaling an intention to unpack white-savior themes in the sequel), then cuts away to a satisfyingly wan and angsty Timothée Chalamet, a physical manifestation of the powerlessness of youth. Villeneuve has stated that Zendaya’s character will have a greater role in the sequel. Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista, and Josh Brolin are completely in their element, serving righteous space-bro energy. Charlotte Rampling is deliciously haughty and scheming as the Reverend Mother, matched against matrilineal renegade Lady Jessica, quietly played by Rebecca Ferguson.
Then there’s all the original storytelling Dune has inspired. The most notable example, perhaps, is George Lucas’s Star Wars trilogy, which shares so much with Herbert’s series that Herbert and a few colleagues organized the farcical “We’re Too Big to Sue George Lucas Society.” If you’ve watched the Star Wars films, Dune’s reluctant, petulant, fated hero living on a desert planet in the shadow of a looming empire and the battle for the fate of the galaxy will feel a little familiar.
At a tight 2 hours and 35 minutes running time, purists may grumble that countless details were inevitably left out. However, as Watchmen fans know, a too-faithful adaptation is a surefire way to end up with yet another pile of garbage in the gullet of a giant space-worm. After all, Dune the novel still exists and will always remain a compelling read.