According to Google, a dune is a mound or ridge of sand or other loose sediment formed by the wind, especially on the sea coast or in a desert. While this information will help you understand the setting of this particular adventure, it doesn’t answer the question that I’m actually posing for you today. We now know what a dune is…but, what is Dune?

In Theaters and HBOMax on Oct. 22

Dune, the movie, is opening up in theaters and streaming on HBO Max on Friday Oct. 22. As this date approaches, it’s hard to go on social media without seeing Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya walking the red carpet premieres, or donning stillsuits as they make their way through the desert planet of Arrakis.

Along with Timothée and Zendaya, the upcoming film is filled with actors that don’t shy away from action packed blockbusters. This lineup includes Jason Momoa, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, and many more.

This delicious mix of new age heartthrobs and Hollywood’s favorite villain actors has brought in a new crowd of people that didn’t even know Dune was a book. Let alone one of the best science fiction novels to ever be penned.

While many fans of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi epic have already seen the world of Dune come to life through David Lynch’s 1984 cult classic film of the same name, they still have a bit of an itch left to scratch.

As die-hard Dune fans come together with those that are just wanting to watch an epic in theaters for the first time in a while, people continue to ask the question, what is Dune?

As a fan of Dune myself, and someone who is eager to see Mr.Chalamet on the big screen very soon, I’d like to think I have some knowledge to share. So, let’s get into some of the nitty gritty details.

Story Synopsis

To put it simply, Dune is a story set in the faraway future. Where people and species are divided throughout different planets. Computers or similar technologies are no longer allowed, and the spice melange is the most valuable currency the world has to offer, due to its ability to give those who ingest it extended life and prescient awareness, as well as it’s necessity for space travel. The real kicker is that the spice can only be found on the planet of Arrakis, also known as Dune.

In pursuit of the spice melange, the powerful Duke Leto Atreides, head of House Atreides, leaves his home planet of Caladan to build a home on Arrakis. Along with the people of his house, the duke brings Jessica, Bene Gesserit witch and mother to his son, Paul Atreides.

In pursuit of power, House Atreides runs into trouble with their nemesis, House Harkonnen of the planet Giedi Prime. House Atreides also forms some type of alliance with the people of Arrakis, known as Fremen.

Now that you know a little bit about the plot, I’m going to go into some details that you should definitely know before you sit down in the theater.

"A popular man arouses the jealousy of the powerful” - Thufir Hawat

Duke Leto Atreides is a very popular man among the Great Houses of Landsraad. Due to his popularity, the House Atreides is given the responsibility of mining the spice on Arrakis, which has been the job of House Harkonnen for years.

As the Duke rises in popularity, the Padishah Emperor grows jealous, and sets out to destroy the entire house. In order to keep himself safe, he forms an alliance with Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, head of his house, as well as using his own fighters, known as the Sardaukar, to eliminate House Atreides.

Now, the real protagonist of this whole story is a 15-year old kid named Paul. A little weird, but interesting nonetheless. Paul is the son of Duke Leto and Jessica, the Bene Gesserit. Although Paul has a bland name, his purpose in this story is far from boring.

This is where you should read closely. In my opinion, it’s the most important thing you should know before heading into the theater (or sitting down on your couch). The Bene Gesserit are some of the most important people in the empire. They are considered the truthsayers of the Empire, having the ability to detect lies in humans, and advise people to make the right decisions for humanity. For years, they have been breeding specifically to improve humanity.

Lady Jessica, Duke Leto’s concubine, was supposed to birth a daughter to fulfill the breeding program. The daughter would later mate with a Harkonnen male to produce the Kwisatz Haderach.

The Kwisatz Haderach

I’m so glad you asked that, because it’s important to know. Kwisatz Haderdach, also known as, “Shortening of the Way,” is the “label applied by the Bene Gesserit to the unknown for which they sought a genetic solution: a male Bene Gesserit whose organic mental powers would bridge space and time.” This is the definition given by Frank Herbert. To put it simply, the Kwisatz Haderach will have capabilities beyond any human being in the Imperium, including the Bene Gesserit.

The plan to produce the Kwisatz Haderach went awry when Jessica gave Duke Leto what he wanted, a son. As a result of this, they got scrawny little Paul. However, as he grows up, he’s taught excellent fighting skills and the way of the Bene Gesserit. He also has interesting dreams that seem so real...they could be. These qualities are essential to Paul’s destiny and his role in the story.

Sandworms and the Spice Melange

Moving on, I never thought I’d say this, but let’s talk about worms. Sandworms of Arrakis are huge, sometimes growing longer than 400 meters (1,312 feet) and living to a very old age. They can only be killed by one of their own, or by drowning in water, which is poisonous to them. The Sandworm is also extremely important to the creation of the spice melange.

The main things you should think about when entering this world is: water is money, spice rules all, and don’t even think about underestimating Paul.

The Mammoth Sized Sand-Worms That Rule the Deserts of Arrakis

Zendaya and Chalamet

I first learned about Dune when I heard murmurs about Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya starring in a movie together. As a huge fan of reading and science-fiction, I was surprised it took an update about the work of my celebrity crush for me to discover this classic. Nonetheless, I have now entered the imperium, and have no plans to leave.

Dune has been considered one of the most influential novels of all time, with many saying that Star Wars wouldn’t have even existed without it. In the Afterword of Dune, written by Brian Herbert, Frank Herbert’s son writes, “Dune is the most admired science fiction novel ever written and has sold tens of millions of copies all over the world, in more than twenty languages. It is to science fiction what the Lord of the Rings trilogy is to fantasy, the most highly regarded, respected works in their respective genres.”

Like many young adults in my generation, you could say I was living under a dune (get it?) for years. Thanks to the upcoming movie and TV series, I was introduced to this amazing work of writing.

About the Novel

If you haven’t read Dune yet and are eager to start, I have a few pointers that might help you on your journey to Arrakis.

First, Dune is not totally action packed like some sci-fi novels. It has a bit of a slow build, lots of world-building, and multiple important conversations between characters. That doesn’t mean that it’s boring, and stagnant. It’s all about how the Empire runs, and the deeper meaning behind everything. Frank Herbert takes you into the politics, human connections, and the ecology of the world more than anything else.

At the heart of the novel is the relationship between a mother and son. As I read the novel, I couldn’t help but be moved by the way Paul and Jessica interact and view each other. There bond and journey with each other could be overlooked to a first time reader, but I highly recommend taking the time to evaluate their relationship as you read.

As great as the book is, it’s highly complex. There’s a lot going on, tons of concepts and things that were crafted in the brain of Herbert that take a small human brain like mine some time to grasp. So, if you're not Herbert, or a Dune-head from the very beginning, it’s a good idea to take your time to completely understand the world he created. Although, the book is captivating enough to breeze right through. You just might miss a definition or two that’s vital to the story.

About the Movie

Dune, the movie, is set to hit theaters on Friday Oct. 22. Fans of the novel can only hope that it’ll be a bigger success than its predecessor. Although the original 1984 film has become a cult classic, it was seen as a box-office failure, grossing nearly $31 million from an estimated $40 million budget, according to IndieWire. American film critic, Robert Ebert, discussed the 1984 movie saying it was, “a real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time.”

Denis Villeneuve has already separated himself from David Lynch’s film by separating the novel into a two-part film series. The 2021 Dune director has discussed that the novel was too complex to fit into one movie, therefore only agreeing to direct if he could split it into two. Although, after watching the trailers, I can’t help but think it may cover a little more than half due to the amount of time we see Zendaya’s character appear.

Dune cast
The Cast of Denis Villeneuve's 2021 Dune

What should fans of the novel expect from the film?

I can’t speak for the entire fan-base on what we want to see on the big screen, but I can speak for myself. There are many times where I have seen amazing sci-fi and fantasy novels get turned into overly-romantic rubbish with unnecessary conflicts and fight scenes that were never mentioned or even hinted at to begin with (looking at you Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief). It’s my hope that Villeneuve keeps the integrity of Dune, lets it build steadily, and correctly shows the world and its struggles on the screen.

As the film has started premiering, some critical reviews are already in. So far, it has received an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, 76% on Metacritic, and an 8.3/10 on IMDb. After reading a handful of reviews, it seems most critics are impressed with the beginning, but slowly lose their interest towards the end. However, many critics are happy with the way the book’s political contexts are conveyed, and even happier with the casting.

As the release date draws near, you might be running out of time to read the book from beginning to end, but I highly recommend reading it nonetheless.

A few months ago, a dune was just a sandhill to me, and Timothèe was just out making money moves. Now, Dune is a world so enchanting, engaging, and complex, that I’ll be spending the next few months trying to figure out everything I possibly can to reach complete knowledge on the subject. Timothèe is no longer just eye candy on the big screen. He's portraying a character that survives off wit, power, and knowledge, which I thoroughly enjoyed in the novel. If he gets it wrong, he and I are going to be on pretty thin ice.

Make sure to check out our Dune review and Synopsis by our editor, Jack Sutherland. And if you have 2+ hours open this weekend, I suggest you go check out Dune in theaters. Maybe I’ll see you there.

About The Author
Sidnee Short

Sidnee Short

Boise State University

Bachelor of Arts (BA),
Journalism, Media Studies and Communication

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