Director Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 movie adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune has undoubtedly achieved a level of success well beyond the original 1984 version by David Lynch or the Children of Dune 2003 miniseries signed by Greg Yaitanes. A monumental, incredibly immersive experience, close attention to the details in the book, excellent casting choices and a sense of love for Herbert’s work characterize the entire film. Villeneuve also managed to achieve something far greater with Dune: resurrecting what previously appeared to be a dead francize and transforming it into a blockbuster for the general public, while still keeping the diehard fans happy.
Who is in the cast of the new Dune?
It’s doubtful that the film could have achieved this level of success without the stellar performance of the superb lineup. Just take a look at the main cast:
- Paul Atreides: Timothée Chalamet;
- Lady Jessica: Rebecca Ferguson;
- Duke Leto Atreides: Oscar Isaac;
- Gurney Halleck: Josh Brolin;
- Baron Vladimir Harkonnen: Stellan Skarsgård;
- Glossu Rabban: Dave Bautista;
- Chani: Zendaya;
- Thufir Hawat: Stephen McKinley Henderson;
- Dr. Liet Kynes: Sharon Duncan-Brewster;
- Dr. Wellington Yueh: Chang Chen;
- Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam: Charlotte Rampling;
- Duncan Idaho: Jason Momoa;
- Stilgar: Javier Bardem.
Before we go into the events of the movie, let’s find out a bit more about the Dune novels and the universe in which the story is set.
What is the story in the Dune saga?
Herbert’s novels tell the story of a distant future where noble houses of all shapes and sizes cling to a fragile peace within the interstellar imperium. The fuel that powers this universe – or more accurately that enables space travel – is ‘spice’ or ‘melange’, a drug with multiple uses that’s only found on the inhospitable desert planet of Arrakis. Spice also gives the user foresight, extends life and improves mental capabilities.
Dune is a complex and multifaceted story about religion, politics, technology and, last but not least, the human spirit. Over the course of many millennia, you’ll witness the rise and fall of great rulers and houses, follow the exploits of daring individuals whose actions will shape all history – with or without their consent –, feel the hand of fate curbing free will, and learn the dangers of prophecy and messiahs firsthand.
Just how many Dune books are there?
There are 6 original novels written by Frank Herbert himself. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1986 before he was able to complete the series. The torch was taken up by his son, Brian Herbert, who co-wrote the next 9 books with Kevin J. Anderson. Brian and Kevin authored sequels to the original series as well as prequels, expanding on story arcs that were just hinted in Frank’s books, like the Butlerian Jihad and the Machine Crusade. The new novels also cover the origin stories of popular houses and characters in the ‘Duniverse’. We created this handy Dune reading order timeline to clarify the chronology of the books.
Dune books timeline
That’s a lot to unpack, isn’t it? The Dune universe is complex and, as you can see, it spans over 15,000 years, if we’re also counting the books by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. We placed the Frank Herbert’s originals above the timeline so you can distinguish them easily, while also keeping track of how they fit into the overall chronology. Let’s backtrack a bit to the part of this world that you can see in Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 Dune.
How far into the first Dune book does the new movie go?
Frank Herbert’s Dune was published as two ‘Analog’ magazine serials, which eventually comprised the two volumes of the 1965 novel. Denis Villeneuve’s movie covers the first part of this novel, which ends with a bit of a cliffhanger. On a side note, this is perhaps the main reason why the film’s critics labeled it ‘unfinished’. Don’t worry though, the second installment has been confirmed and its estimated release date is 2023.
Even by restricting the events to volume one, the movie is still a whooping 2 hours and 35 minutes long and sadly, some important scenes didn’t make the final cut. For instance, we won’t get to hear Josh Brolin playing the baliset, a fictional musical instrument with 9 chords, somewhat akin to the zither.
What events are covered in the Dune 2021 movie?
Our story begins with the Atreides noble family, Duke Leto Atreides, his concubine Jessica and their son Paul. We learn that Emperor Shaddam IV has assigned House Atreides to the fiefdom of Arrakis, displacing the original rulers and long-time nemeses of the protagonists, House Harkonnen. The assignment smells an awful lot like a trap and the duke knows it, but it’s an ‘offer you can’t refuse’ type deal. The alternative is exile and forfeiture of Atreides assets.
It’s about the same time that Paul Atreides begins to have strange recurrent dreams about a girl on Arrakis. Before they depart, his mother introduces him to a member of her ‘cult’ – the Bene Gesserit – who puts Paul through his first test: stick your hand in the pain box and keep it there, remove it and die instantly. Fortunately, the training of his mother proves fruitful and Paul survives unscathed. It’s around this time that the term Kwisatz Haderach starts to be thrown around.
Upon reaching the planet of Arrakis, the Atreides are received with both hope and weariness by the locals, who are called Fremen. The family slowly work on building trust, but a sudden and unexpected betrayal on the part of their Suk doctor – Wellington Yueh – cuts their reign short. Dr. Yueh lowers the shields and allows a combined Imperial Sardaukar and Harkonnen assault to penetrate the Atreides defenses. The Atreides forces are decimated in the onslaught.
While Yueh and Leto are killed along with numerous other Atreides, Paul and Jessica manage to escape into the desert. The Harkonnen control Arrakis once more and proceed to hunt them down, but lose them in a sandstorm. In the desert, Paul and Jessica come across a tribe of fremen and their leader Stilgar, whom they had previously met. After proving their mettle, the two lost Atreides join up with the tribe and make their way to Sietch Tabr, one of the hidden desert communities unknown to the Harkonnen. But, not before Paul finally discovers the mysterious ‘girl of his dreams’, learns the meaning of Kwisatz Haderach and kills a man in knife combat for the first time!
This is an oversimplified high level overview of the film, of course, there’s so much more happening on screen, and in the book. To map out the events more easily, we created this handy Dune 2021 movie timeline. However, before you walk the ‘Golden Path’ without rhythm (so you don’t attract the worm) we strongly recommend watching the movie first.
Dune movie timeline
About the Dune timelines
The Dune timelines were created with the help of Office Timeline, a powerful project management tool that helps you create amazing visuals within minutes. Try out the free version to get a sense of what’s under the hood, or give the Pro+ edition a look if you’re aiming to create complex Gantt charts, timelines and roadmaps with just a few clicks.