WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Somehow, even in a two-and-a-half hour timeframe, the glory of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel “Dune” is still not fully expressed on the big screen.
Herbert’s extensive world-building and insanely creative imagination was able to come up with an entirely new, futuristic, interstellar world. It is no wonder Denis Villeneuve, the director of the 2021 version, wasn’t even able to include the entire first novel in the film.
The plot of the movie consists of roughly a third of the book and leaves the remaining estimated 200 pages to exist only in the soon-to-be “Dune: Part Two”.
Even with the majority of the story in the first film, there are major plot discoveries which are left out of Villeneuve’s creation.
However, as a brief introduction to the summary of the novel and book, it is important to first note the cast and the importance of their familial and friendship connections.
It can be argued you will never see such a spectacular cast fit so well into each of their roles.
Based on the descriptions in the novel, the characters’ personalities, physical appearances and portrayals were not only incredibly accurate, but were enticing and much easier to develop attachments with than the original 1984 “Dune” directed by David Lynch.
Timothée Chalamet, who plays the main character, Paul Atreides, was one of the most accurate castings anyone could’ve expected. Paul is 15 years of age in the novel, but his maturity levels are akin to an average adult.
Even though the actor is 25, he can still play a young boy well and is able to balance the maturity Paul holds within.
In the scene when Paul discovers his true nature of being bred to become the “Kwisatz Haderach”, a man who is supposed to essentially save the world and be the people’s messiah, he plays the freak-out moment exceptionally well.
As they sit under a small tent in the middle of nowhere, Paul screams at his mother for making him a “freak” and mourns his father after he has a vision of the future. This was one of the most emotional and important scenes in the book and was captured beautifully by Chalamet and the director to make sure everyone remembered it.
Paul’s mother, who’s with him during this scene, is Jessica Atreides. Jessica is portrayed by Rebecca Ferguson in the film, and she was also an excellent fit.
Not only does Ferguson have similar attributes to Chalamet, but she also plays a strong-willed female lead.
She’s definitely got some strong wits about her, too.
Jessica is a member of the Bene Gesserit, a metaphoric religious organization composed solely of women who condition their minds and bodies to develop superhuman powers.
This is where the concept of “the voice” comes into play.
We see the voice right in the beginning scene of Paul and his mother at the table. Jessica urges Paul to force her to give him a glass of water by ordering her to with his mind.
The scene does an incredible job of summarizing these manipulative powers to help the audience who hasn’t read the book understand the capabilities of the Bene Gesserit and their powers.
However, the movie fails to include the deeper definition of a “Menat” and what their capabilities are. Paul has the underlying traits of a Menat, which are essentially “human computers” as defined in the book. The Bene Gesserit training his mother gives him heightens his abilities.
The closest definition of a real Menat we get in the book and movie is Duke Leto Atreides’s right-hand man, Thufir Hawat.
Hawat, portrayed by Stephen McKinley Henderson, is a significant character who does not get mentioned as often in the movie as fans would prefer.
He is a loyal commander to the duke and feels a father-like connection with Paul. His future in the novel is eventually placed in the hands of the Harkonnens when they capture him and tell him the entire Atreides family is dead.
Duke Leto of Atreides unfortunately is the first to die in the family.
His arrival on Arrakis, the desert planet the whole plot revolves around, was doomed from the start.
Leto, played by Oscar Isaac, was also a great casting move. His manliness and loving connection to Jessica was as obvious in the movie as it was in the book, even though she only acted as his concubine, not his wife.
The level of love, loyalty and trust he held for the people close to him made Leto a liability.
His liability was ultimately what led to his demise by the Harkonnens.
The House of the Harkonnens are the enemies of the House of Atreides. Their clan consists of the leader known as Vladimir Harkonnen, often referred to as “The Baron”, Glossu Rabban, the nephew of the Baron often referred to as “The Beast”, Piter De Vries, who is the Menat and right-hand man of the Baron, and Feyd-Rautha, the brother of the Beast who is expected to be introduced in the second movie.
The Baron is played by Stellan Skarsgård, who does an excellent job of playing a villain. In the House of Harkonnen, power is metaphorically held by the body weight of the characters.
When we are introduced to the Baron, it is very easy to identify him in every scene.
His baldness, pale white skin and insanely massive height and weight are captivating and definitely makes the Harkonnen leader stand out.
Dave Bautista, who plays the Beast, is very rarely mentioned in the book. However, he seems to have a more prominent role in the movie, showing up more often than even Piter.
Piter, who is played by David Dastmalchian, is given a more brief role in the movie than in the book. However, this was a good move on the director’s part, seeing as Piter dies when Duke Leto is captured and sets off a poisonous gas to try and kill the Baron.
How did Leto get the poison placed in his tooth to attempt the assassination of the Harkonnen leader, again?
Doctor Wellington Yueh, portrayed by Chang Chen, is the ultimate traitor of Atreides, and whose plan didn’t even work in the end.
The conspiracy in the book and movie as to who the secret spy placed in the Areides house by the Harkonnens hovered over the heads of the entire Atreides clan for the entire movie.
The switch up to the belief of the spy being Hawat, to Jessica, to Gurney Halleck, to Duncan Idaho and basically every person close to Leto and Paul was all completely useless, as it was the doctor the entire time.
The doctor worked as a Suk doctor for the Atreides for several years. His forehead was tattooed with the black diamond of a training known as Imperial Conditioning, in both the book and the movie. This conditioning trains him to always stay loyal to his work and not be turned or conditioned to anyone else.
But when his wife’s life was at stake, the man was willing to do anything to save her.
In the end though, all is pointless as the Baron kills him after already murdering his wife. Yueh’s back-up plan was to plant a poison gas in the tooth of Duke Leto to use when he is within arm’s length of the Baron, but that failed too.
The Baron in the book escaped before the poison got to him and in the movie, he was healed before the poison could kill him.
In the end it was a lose-lose for Yueh, but he tried his best and that’s all that matters. Right?
Only, the blood of everyone else’s deaths are on him now, too.
Duncan Idaho, for example, is another right-hand man of the duke who develops an emotional connection to Paul throughout the movie and the novel. He is portrayed by Jason Momoa, the famous actor known for his role in the 2018 version of “Aquaman”.
Unfortunately, Duncan dies saving the life of Paul as he is snuck out by Liet Kynes, the Planetologist in service of the Emperor.
Though, there are a few book hints suggesting there may be a return in Duncan’s character. Only reading the other novels of the 21 book series will answer this question.
Gurney Hallack, portrayed by Josh Brolin, is another character who separates from the Atreides clan as a result of Yueh’s betrayal. However, it is hinted we will see Gurney again soon.
Obviously there’s a lot still missing in this complex world, but here’s a basic summary of the rest.
Kynes is played by a woman in this movie instead of a man like in the book. However, Sharon Duncan-Brewster still conquers the role wonderfully, even in her final death scene as she takes out the Sardaukar working under the Harkonnens.
The Sardaukar are the Emperor’s trained soldiers. We don’t ever see the Emperor in the first film. However, he is basically the leader of the universe.
To say the Sardaukar are warriors to fear is an understatement. They are more skilled and ruthless than even the Fremen.
The Fremen are the warriors of Arrakis who survive and hide in the dreadful desert conditions. We see a brief glimpse of their lifestyle at the end of “Dune”, especially through the characters Chani, played by Zendaya, and Stilgar, played by Javier Bardem, who are expanded upon later in the novel and hopefully the second movie.
The expansion of “Dune: Part Two” is going to be another hefty movie, because there is a lot that’s been left out and plenty that hasn’t even been touched on yet.
For example, one of the biggest plot twists in the novel is lacking in the book.
In Paul’s vision when it is just him and his mother in the desert, he discovers she is the daughter of the Baron, making him the grandson of the Harkonnen clan.
This means the two are the familial enemies of Paul’s father, the duke.
It was definitely a drumroll scene which shocked “Dune” fans everywhere, but for some reason it is not included in the movie.
It is a wonder if the director is planning to use it as a cliffhanger or potential shocker in the next movie, but the lack of it in the first movie feels like a large plot hole which changes the book’s essence.
However, it’s important to note the audience is still able to understand what’s going on in the complex film rather than being completely confused, due to the director’s fantastic and well thought-out choices when picking through Herbert’s plot.
Since there is a part two coming for the “Dune” collection, as confirmed by Legendary Entertainment on Instagram, the questions from all the original Herbert “Dune” fans will continue to linger until we see a bit of closure from the second movie.
“Dune: Part Two” is expected to be released only in theaters, instead of on HBO Max, on Oct. 20, 2023, according to Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich.
Jaedyn Young can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @jaedyn_young3.