‘Dune’ debuts as the most epic sci-fi movie of 2021

Having just finished reading the science fiction classic “Dune” a month ago, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the new movie to hit theaters and homes via HBO Max. That time has finally come, and for fans of the genre it’s a visual marvel to behold.

The iconic book by Frank Herbert was released back in 1965, capturing the imagination of millions of readers over the decades and reshaping the sci-fi landscape. It remains the best-selling science fiction novel of all time.

A “Dune” movie released in 1984 is still considered a cult classic, though mostly because of how bad it is.

Respected director Denis Villeneuve gives it a go this time, having received glowing reviews for his last three movies: “Blade Runner 2049,” “Arrival,” and “Sicario.” He doesn’t disappoint, creating the fantasy world of Arrakis in stunning detail, with all of the fascinating technology and intriguing characters first introduced more than 60 years ago.

It’s a story set in the distant future, following young Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), who joins his father Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) and his mystical mother Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) when they’re ordered by the Emperor to take control of a planet called Arrakis.

Arrakis is a desert wasteland with three main things to offer: an invaluable, hallucinogenic spice harvested from the sand that is required for intergalactic space travel, angry natives known as Fremen, and danger in the forms of raging sandstorms and humongous sandworms.

Upon his arrival, Paul begins to hear chanting from locals who believe he may be a sort of messiah from an ancient prophecy claiming he will lead them out of hiding to overtake the repressive Empire.

House Atriedes doesn’t know it, but the Emperor sent them to this planet with little hope of successfully mining the spice. Instead, it was a political ploy, with the Emperor planning to send his army along with the army of former Arrakis ruler Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) and his nephew Rabban (Dave Bautista) to kill everyone associated with House Atreides.

The already awesome cast is made better by the additions of Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) and Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin) who are ever-loyal to House Atreides, as well as Stilgar (Javier Nardem) and Chani (Zendaya) of the Fremen.

The scope of the visuals is awe-inspiring and should earn the film plenty of major awards. The spacecrafts and sandworms are larger than I could’ve imagined, and the technology manages to feel new despite how long ago it was written. Viewers will likely recognize how George Lucas was inspired by “Dune” in creating “Star Wars.”

A movie this impressive is best appreciated on the big screen of a theater. The action is extravagant, and the desert setting has a life of its own.

With so much creation of new things with new words in this fictional world, I do wonder if viewers who haven’t read the book might be a bit confused about what’s happening. However, if you’re paying attention the dialogue explains enough to clear up the confusion without obnoxiously spoonfeeding the audience.

Even though the film is long at 155 minutes, the ending feels sudden and does little to leave the viewer more excited for the next movie. Nonetheless, everything prior to the ending is memorable enough to create interest for part 2.

Though the novel itself is split into three separate parts — “Dune,” “Mua’dib,” and “The Prophet” — the second movie is expected to cover the rest of the story in its entirety. There is not yet a release date for the next film.

“Dune” is an epic journey to remember and an honorable depiction of the renowned source material.


“Dune” is in theaters and on HBO Max.

Scott McDaniel is a journalist who lives with his wife and three kids in Bargersville. He is an adjunct professor of journalism courses.