DUNE Is the Blockbuster We’ve All Been Waiting For
By Movieguide® Staff
Note: The following is a portion of our review for DUNE. For the full review, including a full break down of content, click here.
At last, there’s a big Hollywood movie that captures your imagination and emotions: DUNE. With an international cast, futuristic science fiction settings and medieval political institutions, DUNE is a fascinating movie with obvious coming-of-age elements, nods to and strong emphasis on mind expansion as well as clear Christological themes, some very good dialogue, and conservative statements about freedom and individualism.
DUNE opens on a desert planet, Arrakis, which is under the control of the evil Baron Harkonnen, the ruler of another planet, whose two nephews and men are harvesting the planet’s important resource called spice, which allows space travel. The resource is also a cure all, a rejuvenator and a strong hallucinogen. The opening scene shows space-age helicopters (called ornithopters) and harvesting ships collecting the spice in the year 10191. The natives of this desert planet, who dress like space-age Bedouins, are constantly rebelling against their overlords.
On another planet, the Duke of that planet, is raising his son, Paul, to succeed him. Duke Leto tells Paul he will be the next leader, but Paul doesn’t want to assume that responsibility. Leto tells his son he didn’t want to be Duke either, but that leadership is a calling, not something you seek. He also says to Paul, in one of the movie’s great lines, that, no matter what Paul decides, he will be loved as his son. Paul has visions of the desert planet where, because of the spice, the oppressed natives, called Fremen have bright, dark blue eyes. In his vision, Paul sees a girl, and they fall in love, but she stabs him when they kiss passionately, and a vision of her bloody hand occurs several times throughout the movie.
Paul tells his mother, Lady Jessica, about his vision. Evidently, Jessica is related to the Galactic Emperor, and Paul is in the line of succession. Jessica is also the member of a secret female religious society and is training Paul in those arts. Paul is also being trained in the military arts, although one of the commanders, Duncan Idaho, mocks him for not having any muscles.
At this point, a herald and his retinue come from the Emperor to tell Duke Leto that the Harkonnen family has been removed from the spice planet, and it’s been given to Leto as his fiefdom.
Paul has visions of his favorite commander dying on the planet, Arrakis, and tells his commander he wants to go with him to protect him. However, he’s told to stay behind with his father and mother.
This kingdom of Duke Leto has some interesting medieval aspects, including that the grandfather was a bullfighter. Some of the associated analogies go back to Greek mythology.
At any rate, Duke Leto, Jessica and Paul travel to Arrakis. They quickly realize, though, that the Emperor gave them Arrakis to pit them against Baron Harkonnen, and now their whole presence on Arrakis is being sabotaged. To add to the problem of the constantly rebelling Fremen, there are gigantic 400-yard long worms who attack and devour everything, including the ornithopters and the spice transports.
Meanwhile, the head of Paul’s mother’s religious society comes and puts Paul through an excruciating test to see if he’s the messianic savior they call the One. Originally, Jessica’s religious order had wanted Jessica to give birth to a daughter, to be wed with one of Baron Harkonnen’s nephews. In this way, they hoped to restore order to the Galactic Empire, establish a powerful grip on the throne and generate the desired messianic savior. The women of Jessica’s religious order have been able to train themselves over hundreds of generations to determine the sex of their babies, but Jessica’s love for her husband, Duke Leto, inspired her to give Leto a male heir.
Eventually, Baron Harkonnen’s army invades Arrakis, and the court physician, whose wife is being held hostage, betrays Duke Leto. Paul and his mother escape and must learn how to live in the desert. Paul believes that, if he can unite the Fremen, they can overthrow the oppression of the Baron Harkonnen and the Baron’s two evil nephews.
DUNE is a powerful epic. There are clear conservative themes and statements throughout the movie affirming a father’s love, the importance of motherhood and child rearing, the importance of independence, the clear prophetic vision of a messiah, the oppression of dictatorship and a malevolent Emperor, and much more. All these themes are mixed with the constant knowledge that the spice is a hallucinogen as well as a space propellant and the political intrigue that involves this desert planet because of its rare resource.
Part I of DUNE is exciting and captivating, but, as it should, it leaves a lot of questions to be answered in the next movie. The many loose ends and themes will tied up, but they’re not in this part.
In many ways, DUNE is like LORD OF THE RINGS, which is what the producer and director intended. For those who have read the book, it’s much more satisfying than David Lynch’s 1984 version. In fact, the director and his vision are to be commended.
Because of the intense fighting, which never gets too bloody or graphic, and the hallucinogenic references, the movie gets a caution for older children and young teenagers.
What is amazing is that the filmmakers successfully brought the first book to the screen and brought together many different people groups, actors and craftsmen to create a powerful work of art that’s also entertaining. DUNE has very little foul language and no explicit lewd content.