Frank Herbert’s epic science fiction bestseller Dune – the first of six novels and numerous spin-offs – has been filmed before for both TV and cinema (David Lynch’s 1984 extravaganza, the one with Sting in a metal nappy, being the best known) with mixed results. The story is sprawling, the landscape epic, and the monsters – giant sandworms – completely bonkers, making a screen version a challenging undertaking for even the most experienced director.
Denis Villeneuve, no stranger to sci-fi having directed Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, is up to the task, bravely taking only a portion of the first novel as the basis for this movie and gambling that it would be successful enough that he’d be given the money for a sequel (which is now in the works).
Set in the distant future where the inhabitants of various planets value a substance called Spice, the story follows dynastic family House Atreides as they are sent to rule the desert planet Arrakis, source of Spice. There is much to take in as the family – led by Duke Leto (a quietly commanding Isaac) – take over from the vicious House Harkonnen, Leto’s son Paul (Chalamet, in thoughtful pin-up mode) is distracted by visions of blue-eyed Chani (Zendaya), and Paul’s mother Lady Jessica (Ferguson) notices signs that her son could be the Chosen One prophesised by the mystic order she belongs to.
It’s an interesting story that takes an age to get going as Villeneuve lingers on the stunning backdrops and impressive CGI scenery. Each character is given a chance to develop on screen –Paul’s relationship with warrior Duncan Idaho (Momoa) is one of the movie’s highlights, his morose dreams one of the slower aspects – which makes the action set pieces, when they eventually arrive, a real sit-up-straight treat for those whose posteriors haven’t gone numb during the languorous first half.
While it may look like Star Wars in places (and that’s because George Lucas’s movies owe a debt to Frank Herbert and Dune in their world-building), be warned, this is no family-friendly, quip-filled science fiction blockbuster that kids will easily sit through. Instead it is a visually beautiful, slow, almost art house movie that will appeal far more to older teen and adult science fiction fans (who are no doubt already counting the days/months/years to the promised sequel).
Is Dune suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This is a 12A certificate in the UK and is aimed at older kids (15+) and adults.
There are battles in the movie and characters are seen injured. Two people are decapitated but it is not shown on screen.
The sandworm may prove frightening for the under 12s and it goes swallow humans.
The members of the House of Harkonnen look frightening, especially Baron Vladimir.
Characters are often in danger, and a group of people are poisoned. There are scenes featuring dead bodies.
If you like this, why not try: