If I were to describe “Dune” in one sentence, I would have to use the wise words of the person who sat behind me in the theater during my second viewing. When the credits rolled, this man let out a chuckle and said, “That was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, and I still have no idea what the hell was going on.”
For those who did not read the books, “Dune” is a blend of bizarre characters tossed into a sea of extraordinary visual effects. From the lush water planet of Caladan to the scorched sand dunes of Arrakis, director Denis Villeneuve utilizes exotic locations around the world to make the audience feel as if some of these locations were shot on another planet. I had to ask myself, did Denis Villeneuve hop into a wormhole made by Elon Musk to travel to another solar system to shoot this movie?
The special effects were incredible. And when special effects are used, say for scenes on a spaceship or a battle sequence, the set design seamlessly merges reality into a green screen. There is no argument that “Dune” has the same effect on your eyes as a cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer’s day has on your body, but does the visual eye-candy make it worth trying to figure out the story?
Let me break it down for you, spoiler-free.
The best way to think about “Dune” is that it is a mix between “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars.” This story follows the Atreides family, specifically the son Paul, who has the ability to see visions into the future. He is also taught by his mother something called, “The Voice” which can manipulate people into doing your bidding (much like Jedi mind tricks we see in “Star Wars”). Paul’s mother is a part of a group called the “Bene Gesserit” who use their minds as a form of weapon or protection. This political group is primarily made up of women, but Paul’s mother, Lady Jessica, conceived Paul in hopes that he would be the “Kwisatz Haderach” which is pretty much like a Messiah or a Chosen One.
The House of Atreides owns and operates the ocean planet of Caladan. One day they are asked by the emperor of the galaxy to take over the desert planet of Arrakis. This would be like if the president of the combined world asked you to move from the Bahamas to the Gobi Desert. But it’s not all that bad for House Atreides. Arrakis consist of “Spice” which is the main fuel that spaceships use for interstellar travel. It is also used as food by the desert inhabitants of Arrakis, The Fremen, who consume it to the point where it turns their eyes blue. Spice is extremely important, and whoever runs Arrakis is incredibly wealthy. The only problem is that Arrakis is already owned and operated by another group called the Harkonnen, and their Jabba the Hut slug-man leader, The Baron. The Baron and the Harkonnen do not take kindly to House Atreides stepping in—which is where the main conflict of “Dune” comes in.
The most recognizable thing about “Dune,” however, is the massive, carnivorous sand worms. These skyscraper-sized whale sharks of the desert prevent much of the planet from being inhabited. Like a great white shark can smell blood from a mile away, these worms can feel vibrations in the sand from just as far. Without giving too much away, these creatures are huge and every time they are shown on screen, I stared unblinking and opened-mouthed like a medicated teenager who just got their wisdom teeth removed. These scenes are almost worth the price of admission alone or the $10 monthly fee for HBO Max.
There’s no question that “Dune” is confusing. The different characters with their special powers and the political side stories sometimes make the movie hard to follow, especially for those who have not read the “Dune” series, but a strong cast of characters and unbelievable visual effects makes “Dune” a must see, especially in theaters.
It’s a 4/5 on the Kyle Brown eye-candy scale.