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What ‘Dune’ is about and why you should care about the new movie starring Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya

  • The trailer for “Dune” premiered on Wednesday, and fans were quick to express their excitement for the movie on social media. 
  • But for those who weren’t familiar with Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel (or David Lynch’s notorious 1984 adaptation), here’s what makes “Dune” so great. 
  • The storyline is epic and ambitious, and the settings rival those of “Game of Thrones” or “Lord of the Rings.” 
  • At the core of “Dune,” however, is a classic coming-of-age story involving young Paul Atreides as he defends his family from their enemies. 
  • ‘Dune’ isn’t a perfect film, but here’s why you should be excited to see it come December.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Set on far-away planets in the distant future, “Dune” is a sci-fi fantasy epic that rivals “Game of Thrones” or “The Lord of the Rings.” 

Based on the 1965 novel of the same name by Frank Herbert, “Dune” has been made into a movie in 1984 and a miniseries in 2000. Now, another adaptation — starring Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, and more — is set to premiere in December. 

Longtime fans of the “Dune” novels and the (admittedly campy) 1984 adaptation are excited to see how director Denis Villeneuve brings this iconic story to life in his upcoming film. 

And while “Dune” isn’t a perfect story, here’s why you shouldn’t overlook this awe-inspiring and enthralling epic. 

‘Dune’ focuses on the Atreides family as they try to survive on a new hostile planet 

The Atreides family are the rulers of the ocean planet Caladan, and “Dune” begins with patriarch Duke Leto (Isaac) receiving an assignment from the Emperor to relocate to Arrakis — a dangerous desert planet. 

Once on Arrakis, Leto and the rest of his family take over mining of melange, or “spice,” a mysterious substance that prolongs human life and enhances cognitive abilities.

Joining the Atreides on Arrakis are Duncan Idaho (Momoa) and Gurney Hallack (Brolin), two fierce fighters helping to train Leto’s son Paul (Chalamet) in battle. 

But unfortunately for the Atreides family, they’re betrayed by one of their own soon after their arrival on Arrakis, and Paul and his mother, the Bene Gesserit witch Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) are left to fend for themselves. 

Eventually, Paul and Jessica come into contact with the Fremen, a group of people native to Arrakis. Paul learns more about his heritage and psychic abilities, and even meets his love interest, a Fremen woman named Chani (Zendaya.) 

The remaining members of the Atreides family soon join forces with the Fremen to take back Arrakis and avenge their family. 

dune timothee chalamet rebecca ferguson

Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson in “Dune.”

Chiabella James/Warner Bros. Pictures


Understanding the planets, customs, and people of ‘Dune’ can be daunting, but at its core, it’s a coming-of-age story

Bene Genneserits, the Kwisatz Haderach, gom jabbars, and Arrakis — much like any sci-fi story, the names of people and places in “Dune” can take some getting used to.

There are also complicated interplanetary politics at play involving House Atreides, their rivals, the Harkonnens, and the Padishah Emperor Shaddam. 

But at the center of “Dune” is a coming-of-age story involving Paul, the young son of Duke Leto who’s forced to fight for his life and his family after a terrible betrayal on Arrakis. 

Throughout “Dune,” Paul grows from a naive young nobleman into the all-powerful Kwisatz Haderach — the messiah of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood who’s thought to see both the future and the past. Along the way, he also meets his love interest, Chani, and becomes a skilled fighter and soldier, even planning revenge on the Harkonnens. 

Strip away the sci-fi trappings, and “Dune” is just a classic coming-of-age story — albeit one set on a distant planet in the future. 

zendaya chani dune

Zendaya as Chani in “Dune.”

Chiabella James/Warner Bros. Pictures


While the 1984 adaptation was definitely entertaining, this adaptation seems better suited to Herbert’s original vision

There’s a lot to unpack in David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation.

Starring Sting, Kyle MacLachlan (of “Twin Peaks” fame), Patrick Stewart, and Max von Sydow, among others, the movie was a commercial and critical failure that was subsequently disowned by Lynch. 

But for true “Dune” fans, the movie is still worth a watch, if only for the ’80s-appropriate soundtrack by Toto and the inclusion of the Atreides’ pug that’s never explicitly mentioned in the book, yet somehow included in key scenes in the movie. 

Despite the endearing parts of the 1984 version, Villeneuve’s adaptation seems like a much more accurate representation of Herbert’s sprawling, dense novel. 

For starters, the new “Dune” wisely focuses on the first half of the novel, meaning that there will hopefully be more exposition and character development than in Lynch’s jam-packed version. 

There also seems to be a marked shift in tone — while Lynch’s film was (unintentionally) campy and featured a buffoonish villain, Villeneuve’s adaptation seems darker and sleeker, with an antagonist (Stellan Skarsgard as Baron Harkonnen) to match. 

While some fans may always have a soft spot for David Lynch’s fantastical reimagining of Herbert’s novel, if the new trailer is any indication, Villeneuve seems like he’s truly done right by the unforgettable epic. 

jason momoa dune

Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho in “Dune.”

Chiabella James/Warner Bros.


The star-studded cast will also make it worth a watch, too

Chalamet was a brilliant casting decision for the role of Paul. Chalamet’s work in films like “Call Me By Your Name” and “The King” has shown he’s up to the challenge of playing a lonely nobleman. 

Zendaya, too, is sure to be unforgettable as Chani, Paul’s Fremen love interest who will hopefully have more of a role (and more lines) in this adaptation than in Lynch’s. 

And with Momoa, Brolin, Isaac, and others also in the mix, “Dune” is primed to be a serious awards contender once it premieres. 

rebecca ferguson dune

Rebecca Ferguson in “Dune.”

Chiabella James/Warner Bros.


But some have pointed out the problematic nature of the book and movie

After the trailer for the new “Dune” premiered on Wednesday, numerous Twitter users pointed out that the film — which is set and filmed in the Middle East and draws heavily from Middle Eastern culture — doesn’t include a single actor from that region of the world. 

People also pointed out that Herbert based the Fremen people, as well as their beliefs and culture, on people from the Middle East. 

People said they found it disappointing that “Dune” didn’t include more actors from that region of the world, especially given how influential Middle Eastern and Arab culture was to the creation of the story. 

And while filmmakers did make some important changes to Herbert’s original vision, it’s no excuse for the lack of Middle Eastern representation in the cast. 

‘Dune’ isn’t a perfect film, but fans should still be excited to see it come December

With an enthralling yet relatable story, a star-studded cast, and an intricately-built world, “Dune” will definitely be a must-see movie.

While the story itself has some flaws and representation could have been better, the trailer for “Dune” proves it will be a once-in-a-lifetime cinematic experience.



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