Mon. Apr 15th, 2024

Photo: “Dune: Part One” Movie Poster via IMDb

Whenever I read reviews for “Dune: Part One” (2021), I see the same sentiments repackaged – the cinematography is brilliant, or “the worldbuilding is some of the most immersive I’ve ever seen.” While this is all true, what I never see from critics (or at least the most popular ones) is the rich, meaty content within this beautifully packaged movie. “Dune: Part One” does what all the great sci-fi movies do: it serves as a warning for the future – a warning about the destruction of our environment and how to prevent it (and really any other social issue).

Before talking about the planet, I want to talk about its people, The Fremen. In the movie, they are the oppressed – but that oppression never defines them. They’re some of the most resourceful people I’ve ever seen in a movie. Instead of becoming victims, they make the absolute best with what they’ve got, even if they don’t even have much of a planet to live on.   

Through the course of the movie, there are more shots of their planet, Arrakis, than any other character. This gives the planet a persona, making it a character in itself for the universe to ravage to bits. Any chance Arrakis ever had of becoming a prosperous place for life to grow is squashed when spice was discovered a millennium before the movie takes place. Just like oil in the real world, spice is used to fuel ships across the universe. The Emperor employs the nation of the Harkkenon people to rule over and mine Arrakis of its spice and resources, making it the desolate desert planet it’s known as. It may be fictional, but the destruction of Arrakis isn’t that far-fetched, even in our own world. If you look up oil mines in Indonesia, the results will shock you. The real ravaged places are similar to images of Mordor from “Lord Of the Rings”. 

But the Emperor is not the only one with plans for Arrakis. The Bene Gesserit is an exclusive sisterhood that, through their influence and the spreading of universe-wide rumors, push their political agenda forward through generations. The way they want to change Arrakis is through the prophecy of the Lisan Al Gahib, an off-world prophet or messiah. The Bene Gesserit are so powerful that they control the sex of their child at birth. They usually only have girls because the potential energy of those kinds of powers in a male is oftentimes too great. It’s theorized that if a male could control this power, he could become the Lisan Al Gahib and the savior for Arrakis and the Fremen. And, at least on Arrakis, this isn’t any kind of secret because the Bene Gesserit have embedded this in the Fremens’ mind and traditions. When they see Paul Atreides, the son of Lady Jessica and Bene Gesserit sister, for the first time on Arrakis, they chant, “Lisan,” as he walks by them. 

My first thought while watching was that this is the common savior trope with the message that the Fremen need a single person to help raise them from the depths. But if the Lisan Al Gahib was enough, why would the Bene Gesserit go through the trouble of spreading the prophecy throughout Arrakis? In fact, Paul has no agency at all throughout the movie – he is simply an idea that the Fremen believe in. The prophecy is not about Paul at all; rather, it’s about belief. The Fremen have to believe that they deserve a spot at the table; that they deserve to live on a prospering planet, not a mine that funds the most powerful men in the universe. Throughout the movie, Paul has visions. In many of those visions, we see the Fremen waging war. Again, if the Lisan Al Gahib is all that was needed, we would just see Paul taking on the armies by himself. But to make a change in their world, the Fremen need to take a stand for themselves. 

This applies to our own world, where I often see individuals on social media posting support for causes or advertisements for nonprofit organizations on their stories. While all of this is  necessary for change, it’s not enough. A single person shouting from the rooftops that the status quo needs to change will only get laughed at and thrown to the side, but thousands of people screaming from the rooftop? Now that’d garner some attention. But that’s still not enough. Every cause needs its Lisan Al Gahib: a voice that represents the whole and is willing to give itself over for that cause. Where true change and true strength lie is in numbers. Sure, having someone who sees the future will go a long way for the Fremen, but to take back their power, they’ll have to fight alongside Paul, not just have faith in him. 

While I’m excited for “Dune: Part Two,” (2024) I’m also a bit worried. I’m worried that they’re going to abandon the strong themes they built on in the first one in favor of huge spectacles. What gives me faith, however, is director Denis Villeneuve. No one is a bigger fan of the “Dune” books than him, and in every interview he’s been in, he has emphasized that his main goal is to honor the legacy of  “Dune” and its author, Frank Herbert. I guess we’ll just have to see when it hits the big screen on March 1.


Nathan Castimore is a third-year Communications major with a minor in History.

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