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Dune Movie Review

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

by Julia Peavey

From 1965 best-selling novel to 2021 hit film, Frank Herbert’s Dune has endured generations. A cultural phenomenon of science fiction, it has inspired countless other stories and adaptations with its expansive complexities and massive, pioneering feat of world-building. From political and religious commentary, clandestine religious orders, and giant sand worms, the story remains ever-relevant in modern society despite its notorious difficulty to bring onto modern screens.

But why has Dune remained compelling so many years later, even when so much of society itself is virtually unrecognizable? A story of social revolution, destiny, and warning, Herbert's remarkably prescient masterpiece takes place in the future, long after Earth itself has been forgotten. But familiar conflicts are still jarring in their prominence: themes of desperate environmental preservation, technological reform, and the dangers of imperialist exploitation echo true.

In this fictional world, computers have long since been outlawed after a brutal past war, referred to as the Butlerian Jihad, which destroyed the rule of machine-based logic. "Thou shall not make a machine in the likeness of a man's mind", stands as a root of Herbert's civilization, a mirror image of our own modern battles with Artificial Intelligence, mass connection, and privacy loss. Consequences of the world we now live in are articulated as another aspect of impeccable plot development. Yet Herbert's work represents much more than impending change - he delves right into the predicaments we face almost sixty years after he first wrote them, in raw and startling pertinence.

Paul, the story's young protagonist, comes of age much like our current, rising generation. The world he discovers is one of vital resources and harsh, feudalistic exploitation. Whether it be the priceless, hallucinogenic spice known as melange, the vital source of space travel, or water itself, desperation for wealth and survival creates mass profiteering off of the scarcity of materials. The desert planet of Arrakis, caught within this struggle, has its land and native people ravaged by outside powers clashing over the riches in its sands. As is seen in many modern, resource-rich yet less developed nations, corporations mine every last inch of a wasteland, leaving Arrakeens themselves impoverished and living in a world of environmental devastation.

Herbert delves deeply into the native population of this tortured planet: the Fremen. These occultist people have adapted to their devastated planet, clad in stillsuits that preserve every droplet of bodily water and traveling only when the heat is bearable. Manipulated by the religious hand of outside powers, they become a powerful, imperialistically exploited fighting force - a familiar narrative of the tragic worshiping of destructive colonizers. Within the Fremen, yet another recognizable theme is apparent in environmental advocacy. The true people of Arrakis long for a terraformed world, where plantlife, ecosystems, and water replace endless sand - not for themselves, but for their children and their children’s children. Through careful and gradual implementation, they labor and plan, attempting to change their climate for the better and save themselves.

It is within this vast movement that further danger occurs. The appearance of a charismatic, messianic leader guides disciples deeply into ruin. Blind following, much like that of modern politicians and generals, is a lesson of doom. Loss of a population's free, individualistic will power ultimately results in terrible revolution under a cruel ruler.

And so, Herbert's work stands powerful today as far more than a staple of science fiction; self-interested statesmen, exploitation, resource loss, climate concerns, and technological disaster create a world that trails strangely alongside our own. As the author once said, "the function of science fiction is not always to predict the future but sometimes to prevent it". Perhaps that's what calls so many to the pages of another time, for audiences young and old have grown to realize that apathy is deadly. Dune teaches us with its endless relevance: if we understand what changes our society and have people willing to fight for the better, there will be nothing left to fear.

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