BAXTER — A lot can happen in the middle of nowhere.

A futuristic feudal struggle for control of a desert-like planet rich in a natural resource is at the heart of “Dune,” the second feature film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel.

Denis Villeneuve directed and co-wrote the epic drama with political intrigue that sets up a sequel covering the other half of the book in Herbert’s literary franchise.

RELATED: Now showing at Lakes 12 Theatre

Moviegoers may remember acclaimed director David Lynch’s failed motion picture attempt in 1984 to adapt Herbert’s unwieldy and expansive novel. Lynch’s film starred Kyle MacLachlan of “Twin Peaks” fame in his film debut, but it was widely panned and bombed at the box office.

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Villeneuve gained notoriety for tackling subject matters expansive in scope, and the visionary filmmaker was praised for his past sci-fi projects such as “Arrival” with Amy Adams in 2016 and “Blade Runner 2049,” the long-awaited and much-anticipated sequel starring Harrison Ford.

Villeneuve’s “Dune” is in the same vein with its undeniably impressive visuals and large-scale battle scenes, but it is also a coming-of-age story for rising star Timothée Chalamet, who plays the conflicted young scion of the House of Atreides, one of many galactic royal families.

The unseen emperor has suddenly and inexplicably tasked Duke Leto, played by Oscar Isaac in the large, talented and ethnically diverse ensemble cast, with the challenging directive to control the native and resentful indigenous population of the inhospitable, desert-like planet Arrakis.

“The Emperor asks us to bring peace to Arrakis. House of Atreides accepts,” Leto says in response to the emperor’s decree.

Arrakis is valued for its granular natural resource found in the sand dunes simply referred to as “spice,” a valuable commodity that enhances human vitality and is critical for interstellar travel.


“Dreams make good stories, but everything important happens when we're awake.”

— Duncan Idaho


The prized substance — like any resource that is limited in quantity and difficult to come by — was not unsurprisingly fought over, much to the dismay of the desert-dwelling inhabitants of the planet who are called Fremen, resentful of previous occupational forces of the planet.

Chalamet’s character, Paul Atreides, has been haunted by visions of the future involving the Fremen; his mother belongs to a secretive sisterhood with Jedi-like mind-controlling powers.

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“Dreams make good stories, but everything important happens when we're awake,” Duncan Idaho, a House of Atreides warrior, tells the young man who idolizes Idaho like a big brother.

“Dune” is rated PG-13 and has been compared by some critics to the “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” film franchises because of the storytelling, plotlines and ensemble cast.

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Audiences will see the Middle Eastern influences in the costumes, scenery and music in the slow-building movie and similarities to the real-world struggle for control of oil in that region in the two-hour-plus film that will leave those who like the motion picture wanting more.

The movie studio greenlighted a planned sequel by Villeneuve based on the commercial success of the movie at the box office, and it will be released in October 2023.

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Rounding out the ensemble cast are Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Zendaya, Jason Momoa and Javier Bardem, some of whom only briefly appeared in “Dune” but will play a larger role in the sequel.

“Dune” was produced by Legendary Pictures and was distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures after a theatrical release that was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. The feature film is playing at the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter.

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“Dune” currently holds an 82% approval rating among critics and a 90% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.

The RottenTomatoes.com audience consensus reads: “Denis Villeneuve's ‘Dune’ looks and sounds amazing — and once the (admittedly slow-building) story gets you hooked, you'll be on the edge of your seat for the sequel.”

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bdfilmforum.