Viewing “Dune” From The Outside – Will It Be Enough For A General Audience?

2021 vs 1984 Dune movie

This article was a submission from Jake Breidenbach. Find Jake on Instagram at @j_brdnbch. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial Zine, send us an email at thezillennialzine@gmail.com or reach out to us on Instagram or Twitter.

Four years ago, Denis Villeneuve announced he was directing a live-action adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune. Previously adapted by David Lynch with the 1984 Dune movie (to tepid response), Dune is a grand space opera and a classic among science-fiction fans. Set in the year 10191, it centers around the House Atreides, a noble family amongst several in an intergalactic, neo-feudalist empire. House Atreides has been granted fiefdom of the planet Arrakis, better known as “Dune”, which is home to the spice melange. The most valuable substance in the universe, the spice extends human longevity and is also crucial to interstellar travel. This puts Atreides in conflict with House Harkonnen, the previous overlords of Arrakis, who seek revenge on the Duke and his family and aim to regain control of the planet.

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The plot is a lot more dense than that, but you’ll need to visit the Wikipedia page to get a full understanding (or I guess just read the book?) Visually the film is nothing short of stunning. Painting lush cinescapes has been Villeneuve’s established forte since Blade Runner 2049, though Dune also calls back to his earlier sci-fi feature Arrival, with its somber tone and unique rendering of alien technology. The story exists in a timeline that is hyper-advanced but not technologically so, at least in the way most sci-fi would posit. Ancient tomes replace futuristic LED screens as vectors of information. Telepathy and esotericism take the place of supercomputers as we’re presented with a future where human consciousness is the set limit of capability. It is a truly alien, immersive world; mystic if you will.

What we’re left to analyze, then, is the most important feature of the film – its story – and it’s difficult to pass judgment here. Fans of the novel will likely find plenty to gawk at, able to form their own opinions of Villeneuve’s interpretation of the antagonist Baron Harkonnen or the mysterious Bene Gesserit. As a non-reader, I was left at times to fill in the narrative blanks myself (or more accurately Google the answers to lingering questions after the film had ended.) The dramatic thrush of the film is something that also seems to be lacking, particularly in its final act. It’s quite obvious that this is the first half of a larger story, and while fans of the source novel may be able to geek out in eager anticipation, I don’t know if the same effect will be held on more casual viewers. Has the average moviegoer been given enough to ensure they’ll return for a Part 2?

Perhaps. Perhaps Dune will be rebooted again 30 years from now, this time as a popular streaming series, or whatever format is de rigueur by that point. Or maybe the two-part epic will become a classic in its own right, having succeeded in adapting Herbert’s infamously unfilmable novel. Time will tell. 

Do you prefer the 2021 or 1984 Dune movie? Were you given enough to watch Dune Part 2? Let us know in the comment section below!

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