Dune Review: Books or Movies?

Dune Review: Books or Movies?

Keith Dai, journalist

Have trouble deciding on what to pick first? Want to see how someone else thought the movie was? Or maybe the title barely rings a bell, but you’re curious to give it a try? As someone who has observed both pieces of work, I am here to help you compare the 1965 bestselling novel, Dune by Frank Herbert and Dune 2021 under the director, Denis Villeneuve.

NOTICE: SPOILERS AHEAD!!
(You have been warned).

To give you a brief background, our protagonist, the gifted Paul Atreides of the House of Atreides, was born for a “hero’s destiny”, one beyond his understanding and meticulously planned by a secretive religious sect for thousands of years. Set roughly 20,000 years in the future, our advanced society has evolved into warlords who control planetary fiefs, with spice, a valuable substance that is prized throughout the cosmos. Amidst the complicated history, betrayal, secrets, religion, and technology, Paul has to overcome his own inner obstacles and rise to become the prophesied Kwisatz Haderach, or lead him and his house towards an unforeseen, uncertain future.

The movie was mind-blowing the first time I saw it. I loved seeing how the movie imagined their versions of the technology and clothing of the book. Everything came to life. The wide captures of sand and the sky were beautiful. The director was, in fact, a Dune fan as a child. “Yeah, I read it when I was 13 or 14 years old… I was impressed by how intelligent it was… It stayed with me through the years,” he revealed in an interview with Wired. He stuck closely to the plot of the book and showed the power dynamics and character changes, mostly through contrast with Paul (since he’s the main character).

There are some little parts of the book that I wished the movie was able to show. For example, at the very beginning of the book, Paul was visited by the Reverend Mother before his ‘test’, brought by his mother. The Reverend Mother saw through Paul’s pretense on his sleeping, knowing well enough that he was listening to their conversation and comments on his slyness and cautiousness. This wasn’t portrayed in the movie, and I think it makes the audience lose how gifted Paul already was through his training. Paul’s mother was also falsely accused to have been the Harkonnen spy inside House Atreides, but the accusation wasn’t as strongly emphasized as in the book. It’s important because the false accusation was one of the first steps of the fracture of the House Atreides.

As a book-lover, this was definitely written by someone who put a lot of thought into it. The plot, the characters, the setting, and even the culture, was so detailed and beautifully written. It’s enjoyable to read both for leisure and for deeper analysis. Paul is relatable, despite his surreal circumstances, he’s also a growing boy who’s just starting to understand the society around him. His self-awareness and leadership rise to the occasion through hard work and sacrifice.

The 500+ page book can be daunting and off-putting for some readers, and its more formal language use can take time to adjust to. Also, the writing style of the book assumes the reader was already part of the fictional universe, so there will be dialogue on concepts that are unelaborated, but only revealed later in the series, or revealed slowly as you progress throughout the book.

This movie adaptation is really something, and it stands out from other adaptations of books because it stuck close to the plot. The characters, setting, and subtle details are all there and are represented impeccably. Overall, I think both media provide gratifying entertainment, whether you are a fan or not.

Sources cited:

https://www.wired.com/story/denis-villeneuve-dune-q-and-a/
https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FDune-Deluxe-Frank-Herbert%2Fdp%2F059309932X&psig=AOvVaw2XCiK60tmn8ppT5nVz_lDW&ust=1636316478699000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAsQjRxqFwoTCIC7343IhPQCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAN (Picture of book)
https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.imdb.com%2Ftitle%2Ftt1160419%2F&psig=AOvVaw0pByWypsCzdp8dqKnvONtT&ust=1636316409906000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAsQjRxqFwoTCNim15XJhPQCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD (Picture of movie)