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Dune: Part Two

The new movie based off the series just released, but does it do an honorable job capturing Frank Herbert’s world?

Sitting in the theater watching “Dune: Part Two” with my dad was equivalent to time travel. It felt as though I’d been kidnapped, thrown into an ornithopter (an insect-like helicopter) and swooped away to the dusty planet of Arrakis to watch Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) fight for his life. While I immensely enjoyed this sci-fi recreation of the 1965 book series written by Frank Herbert, I couldn’t help but wonder what the original fans had thought of it. Does this movie, which is a second attempt at capturing the series in a film, paint the book in a more accurate way than the first? Or, is it better to not align the movie with the plot?

In the movie, Paul is attempting to convince the Fremen that he is the Lisan al-Gaib (a messiah-like figure to their culture) in order to overthrow the Emperor in the name of revenge. Chani, who is played by Zendaya, loves Paul but is trying to convince him to make better decisions. Meanwhile, Paul’s mother becomes the Reverend Mother to the Fremen (along with her daughter, Alia, who is in the womb), and we follow two new perspectives including the princess (Florence Pugh) and the heir to the House Harkonnen, Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler).

Ryan Tomlinson, a local nerd, is an avid sci-fi enthusiast and long-time “Dune” fan who has seen the original 1984 adaption of the book along with the most recent movies. After finishing the movie with my dad, Tomlinson cleared up all the things that had been confusing or odd for us. Since he’s read the first three books multiple times, I went to him to ask what the movies changed that were different from the original novels. 

“The major differences come from the major time skip in the movies where two years are compressed into weeks or months,” Tomlinson said. He continued to explain that due to these time leaps, multiple details were cut, such as the son that Paul and Chani were supposed to have, as well as the plotline of Alia’s childhood. Instead, Paul and Chani simply remain lovers, and Alia speaks to her mother and Paul from the womb. 

You may think this would take away from the movie, but Tomlinson seemed to support it. When he originally watched the 1984 “Dune” movie, he greatly disliked these aspects and supports the directors for cutting them in the most recent movies.

“I normally find that movies are severely altered from their counterparts, but with the “Dune” series, the only major difference occurred in the most recent movie,” Kalman DeMeester, a Summit sophomore and exceptional reader, said. “Instead of Chani remaining by Paul’s side after Paul chose the princess as his bride, she fled into the desert.” The princess who he mentions, played by Florence Pugh, is the daughter of the emperor, and has a consistent storyline in the most recent movie. This concept that DeMeester points out is just another thing the directors changed, but he agrees with Tomlinson that the altercation fits the story better anyways.

Not only was the plot changed though–in this second attempt at adapting the book, Australian cinematographer Greig Fraser was brought in to ensure it was better than its predecessor. Taking multiple new approaches to the movie, he made it come to life with new techniques and methods. 

During the scenes on Giedi Prime, the home planet to the hairless yet treacherous House Harkonnen, the atmosphere felt leached of color, yet not entirely black and white. That’s because they didn’t shoot these scenes with a black and white camera. Using the same cameras they shot the film with, they made some modifications and managed to create the uncanny scene we see in the theaters.

“All the shots were taken with an ALEXA camera set to “infrared,” which captures light beyond the spectrum that is visible to the human eye,” Matt Zoller Seitz writes in his piece What’s Real and What’s Not in “Dune”: Part Two’s Biggest Action Scenes.

The movie is spectacular, and from the interviews collected, the books are too. But who should read them, and when? The biggest obstacle when reading the books comes from the fact that Herbert’s world-building, while fantastic, is incredibly dense and can be hard to understand for readers new to epic fantasy.

“The reader may have to wrestle with using these fundamental tools at the same time they are attempting to understand the complicated storyline,” Tomlinson said. “I suspect it will be easier for future readers who have seen these movies because they will understand the broader context.”

Along the same lines, Tomlinson goes on to say he would recommend the physical books over the audiobooks due to the common struggle with speed. With an audiobook, you might have to replay audio due to hard sentences or words you didn’t understand because of the complex plot, world-building, and vocabulary; if you were to read it as a physical book, you could read as slow or fast as you like.

“The two movies are some of the best science fiction works of the last decade,” DeMeester said at the end of our interview. “The plot was exciting, the characters had depth, the world was impressive, and the soundtrack was great.”