‘Dune’: Needs a little more spice

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Payton Anderson, Editor-In-Chief

Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) stand on the grounds of the Arrakis desert (Photo: Warner Bros. Studio).

Orange and red hues dance across a dusty, desert landscape as the sun peaks over its tops and speckles of spice infiltrate the air. This is the first glimpse of planet Arrakis in the opening scene of Warner Bros. Studios’s “Dune.” Displaying a future where religion, government and ecology work in unison to control society, the sci-fi adventure film nominated for 10 Academy Awards in 2022 brings Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel to life.

“Dune” follows Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), ducal heir to the Atreides throne, whose family accepts the role of ruling the inhospitable desert wasteland of planet Arrakis. 

Arrakis is the main source of Spice Melange, which is vital for space travel as well as immortality. This puts Paul’s father, Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), in charge of the spice trade while he rules as the Duke of Arrakis. Ultimately, this leads to controversy with other planets and those looking to abuse or take over the trade.  

Paul begins to learn how to rule as he anticipates becoming the next Duke of Arrakis. Paul’s mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) is part of the Bene Gesserit clan, which means she has supernatural physical and mental abilities. The female kin to a Bene Gesserit inherits such powers, but when Paul proves to have the same abilities as his mother he becomes the first male member of the clan. As a result, Paul gains more responsibility in Arrakis than he expected. 

Nominated for best cinematography, “Dune” lives up to this title through its artful shots of character expression and the desert scene — considering the “Dune” set was in several locations such as Budapest, Jordan, Norway and Abu Dhabi. Chalamet’s lead role in the film also aids in the well-shot fight scenes to effectively tell the heir’s coming-of-age story.

Chalamet, most known for his breakout roles in “Little Women” and “Call Me By Your Name,” and his role as Paul is striking but not the character from Herbert’s original novel. In the book Paul is strong and even villainous as he comes to be the next Duke of this strange planet. Chalamet’s Hollywood heartthrob reputation leads to an inaccurately soft and kind portrayal of Paul’s character to hinder the original storyline.  

As the film progresses, Paul’s family expects him to lead ruthlessly and for the sole benefit of making the planet richer. As a result, many middle and lower class Arrakis civilians, known as “Fremen,” begin to struggle with the Atreides further taking over the spice trade as well as the planet. Director Denis Villeneuve then comments on the larger issue of an over-capitalist society by using Paul’s realization that selfish rule is unjust when he witnesses the true struggle of his father’s people.  

It seems as though Villeneuve intends for “Dune” to be a more elegant “Star Wars,” even including Oscar Isaac who plays Poe Dameron in the most recent Lucas film. Yet the confusing storyline and excessive amount of exposition lacks the classic action-filled “Star Wars” style.

Villeneuve also includes Zendaya as Chani, Paul’s love interest, in the cast and exploits her appearance in the film for almost all of the movie’s marketing. Her five minutes on screen leads me to believe that Villeneuve wants her to add more audience appeal and increase viewership.

The end of the movie, one expected to be action-packed, falls short of its expectations. The audience goes through the film anticipating something big as tension between other planets and Arrakis furthers, but the film simply ends with Chani and Paul looking out into the distance — a generally overused way to end a film but especially one meant to be an adventure film. Granted, “Dune” sets up the storyline for several other films to follow with part two premiering Oct. 20, 2023.  

Overall, Villeneuve does the best job at adapting Herbert’s story yet still misses the mark of portraying “Dune” in all its intended glory. The plot may be too much for Villeneuve to break down into a two hour run time, but it still lacks the true substance seen in the original novel.

“Dune” 

2 hours, 35 minutes. 

Rated PG-13 for some violent scenes.  

Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Starring Timothée Chalamet.