Dune Was Disappointing, But I’d Give Anything To See It For The First Time Again


Legendary Pictures

Dune (2021) starred Timothée Chalamet. Despite hyping up Zendaya’s role in the film, she only appeared in a short piece of it, much to many fans’ chagrin.

Alex Gribb, Assistant Opinions Editor

With a star-studded cast and an award-winning director, Dune was set up to be one of the best movies of the year. Yet it failed to reach its potential.

The movie is based on the six-book series by Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson. The series follows Paul Atreides, the young son of the leader of House Atreides, a dystopian-like country. His family had been sent to the planet Arrakis, a land that is a giant desert filled with sandworms, who create a product called spice.

Spice is used to navigate transportation across the universe and is vital to interstellar trade and travel. The emperor of the Landsraad, the universe ruling over the House of Atreides and others, has sent them there to revamp spice production. The planet itself lacks water, and in turn, lacks vegetation. But that did not stop this film from being beautiful.

What was most striking was the scenery. All filmed on-site, director Denis Villeneuve wanted an authentic experience for the actors, as well as the audience.

This setting is as impactful as it is exquisite, as the magnitude of the desert, a key plot point that symbolizes Paul’s private struggle and path to finding himself, is truly shown. It is vast and terrifying, allowing the audience to respect the passage across the desert throughout the movie, and in turn Paul’s own internal battle.

Second to this is the music. Composed by Hans Zimmer, the jarring score only builds anticipation for the audience as we wind through the treacherous plot. In times of danger, an eerie voice appears and in a time where nothing is going on, there is silence. This contrast makes the movie feel more cohesive as the intensity of the setting and acting pairs with the music. This makes the movie feel like more of an experience than just storytelling, with the performance from the cast making it even more convincing.

Timothée Chalamet truly steps into this character, and the levels of depth Paul Atreides has, are shown by Chalamet’s acting. His rigid voice combined with his sense of humor creates an impactful blend of a young boy who is confused with his path in life. Jason Momoa does the same, with his portrayal of Duncan Idaho being humorous, protective, and solemn. It is refreshing to see these actors step out of their typecast roles as young boys and superheroes.

Chalamet has had many blockbuster movies, with his most recent being Little Women (2019). He plays Theodore Lawrence, a young boy navigating the odds and ends of his future. Although the movie is beautifully done, Chalamet lacks any deep emotion, with his character ranging from sad to happy, to sad again.

Momoa, known for his role in the 2018 film Aquaman, did the superhero justice, although his character lacked depth, which was something he was able to show here. Duncan Idaho, Momoa’s character, is forced to watch his allies die one by one, and still muster the strength to continue protecting Paul Atreides. This depressive take doesn’t prevent the character from staying light-hearted, and the complexity developed in this film finally reveals Momoa’s potential.

Unfortunately, the cast lacks diversity, as the three main characters are all white, and Zendaya’s role is shortened to 10 minutes with lines like something out of a perfume commercial.

The movie’s press constantly relied on Zendaya to bring watchers in, with every interview with Chalamet being one with Zendaya as well. It was disappointing to see such an esteemed actress reduced to so little. The casting director and writers could have done so much more with this role than they did, and Zendaya’s lack of screen time made it all feel like a cash grab.

It was simultaneously too much and too little. With a run time of 2 hours and 35 minutes, only half of the first book is covered and leaves the viewers wanting more. It felt like a trailer to the rest of the series, as the last half of the book is left unexplained. It makes me want to read the series, rather than stay on the path of waiting for the next movie.

My expectations for Dune were high but the way the press strung along on Zendaya’s [almost] non-existent character felt as though the watcher was valueless to the production. Still, I would pay an infinite amount of that money to watch this movie for the first time again. The experience Dune created was something I don’t believe I will see in any other movies this year. Its plot was unique and lacked the cliches of other sci-fi films. I caught myself staring in awe at the beauty of the explosions of ships, something that would be tragic in other films. This uncommon beauty is something that I will rewatch for years to come.