An artist and his canvas are infinite. Sometimes, they explore the depths of the human soul. At times, they travel through the Universe’s limitless possibilities. No matter which way they travel, their art always reflects human emotions and interaction. Frank Herbert’s epic Saga, Dune, creates a vivid imagination of a far-future depicting a galaxy far, far away.
While George Lucas has already gifted his fans with Star Wars, the tales of the legendary Galactic empire, In 2021, Denis Villeneuve, based on Frank Herbert’s novel, unleashes his vision of Dune.
It is an eternal discussion among the elites about who created the best version of Macbeth or Hamlet, or any literary text for that matter. However, what we need to understand is that every period and every director has their own interpretation of the text. Denis Villeneuve’s magnum opus is grand and gargantuan. But it is nothing beyond that.
‘Dune’ Plot Summary
Set in the year 10191 AG, Dune depicts a known universe under the imperial rule of a Padishah Emperor, Shaddam IV of the House Corrino. It narrates the story of three prominent planets, i.e., ocean planet Caladan, desert planet Arrakis (or Dune), and Giedi Prime. At the center of the conflict is the planet Arrakis, where a special hallucinogenic substance known as “spice” or “melange” is found. The psychoactive chemical expands consciousness and helps with faster-than-light interstellar travel.
The general consensus about melange and its geriatric properties is that it bends space and time, but in reality, it works a bit differently. The Holtzman effect turns spice into an intergalactic fuel that stirs the Universe as a whole. For the Imperium, the navigators of the Spacing Guild use spice to find safe paths between the stars. Without it, interstellar travel would be impossible, and thus the drug becomes the most valuable substance in the Universe.
The outsiders, Harkonnens of Giedi Prime, ravage Arrakis and harvest their spices to sell them to the Spacing Guild. By controlling spice production for 80 years, House Harkonnen became richer than the Emperor, and Arrakis warriors failed to free their lands. The war continues when on a fortunate day, on the Emperor’s command, Harkonnens leave the planet.
The story begins on planet Caladan. The young prince, Paul Atreides, gets dreams as messages from deep consciousness. Lady Jessica, a concubine to Paul’s father, Duke Leto, and a sister of Bene Gesserit, teaches her son, Paul, to practice the voice. A special power to control the human mind.
Paul constantly dreams about natives of the planet Arrakis, called Fremen. Through visual films, Paul learns about their planet, the deep desert, and the giant sandworms, which the Fremen call Shai-Hulud. Long exposure to spice has given the Fremen tribe their distinguished blue eyes, also called the Eyes of Ibad.
The Emperor’s herald arrives at Caladan along with members of the Imperial court, representatives of the Spacing Guild, and a sister of Bene Gesserit. At the Emperor’s command, the herald of the change requests Duke Leto to control Arrakis and become its steward immediately. Duke Leto accepts the order and prepares his army to move to the planet Arrakis.
In the Emperor’s new order, Leto smells a ploy. He informs Paul that a political danger hovers over House Atreides. The great houses of the Universe look to Atreides for leadership, and their trust has made the Emperor insecure. By taking Arrakis from Harkonnens and handing it to Atreides, he fuels a feud that will weaken both the houses. But if Atreides can make an alliance with the Fremen, they can overpower the Harkonnens and the Emperor and become the rulers of the known Universe. Leto sends his loyal swordmaster, Duncan Idaho, to Arrakis to arrange a truce that will help them to cultivate desert power.
But as soon as House Atreides reaches Arrakis, they find a deeper conspiracy. Will Paul be able to combat the Emperor’s conspiracy against his people?
Major Spoilers Ahead
Why did the Emperor send House Atreides to the planet Arrakis?
Duke Leto already had an idea that the Emperor was conspiring against them.
Lord Baron Vladimir Harkonnen of House Harkonnen, a sadistic nemesis of Atreides, told his nephew, Glossu Rabban, that the Emperor was a jealous man. He despised the rising voice of Atreides and wanted to crush it into pieces.
When House Atreides arrived on Arrakis, Leto found that all the machines, harvesters, and the refinery were in shambles. The Harkonnens left ruins and pieces for them, and they had been set up to fail. But before Leto could understand the sinister ploy, Harkonnens, with the help of the Emperor’s elite force, Sardaukar, attacked House Atreides on Arrakis.
Baron Vladimir planted a mole, Dr. Wellington Yueh, in Atreides’ army. He kidnapped Yueh’s wife, Wanna, and threatened the physician to betray Atreides. Yueh disabled the critical shield at night that made the Atreides stronghold defenseless against an upcoming Harkonnen attack. Inside the chambers, Yueh poisoned Leto and helped Harkonnens to capture him. However, he had a bit of mortality left and thus helped Lady Jessica and Paul ran away. Yueh even gave Leto a chance to take his revenge on the Baron. He replaced Leto’s peg tooth with a device filled with poisonous air.
In Baron’s private chamber, Baron ruthlessly killed Yueh. When Baron tried to kill Leto, Leto triggered the poisonous gas, killing each and every being in the room except Baron. Leto’s treacherous cousin survived the attack and ordered Rabban to eliminate Atreides’ bloodline.
Why did Bene Gesserit want Paul to survive?
The sisters of Bene Gesserit had physical and mental abilities that seemed magical to human beings. They stirred the politics of the Imperium from the shadows and believed in attaining a brighter future. A holy reincarnation of the Universe.
Bene Gesserit has been carefully crossing bloodlines between different houses for thousands of years to bring forth a messiah, Kwisatz Haderach. Kwisatz Haderach, also known as The One or Lisan al-Gaib (by Fremen), would have a mind powerful enough to breach space and time, past and the future. He would lead the world into a better future.
Mother Helen Mohian, leader of Bene Gesserit, had commanded Lady Jessica to bear only daughters to continue the breeding. But Jessica opposed the command and gave birth to Paul, believing he was the one. Helen Mohian came to Atreides to test Paul, and while she had her doubts, she had a little hope that Paul could be Kwisatz Haderach. It was why Helen made a pact with Baron Vladimir to spare Jessica and Paul’s life during the Harkonnen attack.
Was Paul the one, the Kwisatz Haderach?
When Paul came into contact with the psychoactive chemical, the spice of Arrakis, he heard a voice that called him Kwisatz Haderach. Since then, Paul’s vision intensified, and he consistently heard the voice. He even discovered a blade and Jessica’s pregnancy (who would bear a daughter later in Dune 2).
Paul opened a spice tank in the desert that suddenly gave him visions of an upcoming Holy War spreading across the Universe. The warriors of religion waved banners of House Atreides in Leto’s name and worshipped his skull. In his visions, Paul saw an inevitable future. A holy war fought in his name that would cleanse the Universe of the Imperium rule.
If these visions and voices were true, Paul would probably take revenge on the Emperor for his betrayal. The chosen one, Kwisatz Haderach, Paul Atreides, would make an alliance with the Fremen and wage an imperial war on the Imperium. Paul would change the fate of the Universe.
‘Dune’ Part One – Ending, Explained – Witnessing the Desert Power
After strolling in the eternal desert, Paul and Jessica finally found a Fremen tribe under Stilgar’s command. Stilgar agreed to take the betrayed wanderers to their sanctuary, Sietch Tabr. However, a fellow Fremen, Jamis, opposed Stilgar’s order and refused to believe that Paul was the chosen one, a Lisan al-Gaib. He invoked the Amtal and challenged Paul for a duel.
In his vision, Paul foresaw the duel’s outcome but yet decided to fight as it was their last resort. A voice told Paul that he must die for Kwisatz Haderach to rise. Chani, the woman Paul often saw in his dreams, gave him the crysknife made from the tooth of Shai-Hulud, a sandworm. Paul earlier had a vision that someone would give him a blade. It was Chani who helped him.
In combat against Jamis, Paul died, not literally but symbolically. Paul had a moral consciousness and had never killed a man, but for Kwisatz Haderach to arrive, Paul’s consciousness had to die. Paul shed his birth identity and killed Jamis. He finally became the leader the Universe wanted him to be.
After the victory, Jessica requested Stilgar to smuggle them off to their home planet Caladan, but Paul refused. Paul informed Stilgar that his father came to Arrakis to unite their armies, and Paul would fulfill his father’s wishes. His road led into the desert.
Stilgar accompanied Paul and Jessica towards Sietch Tabr. On their way, Paul saw a Fremen riding Shai-Hulud, the sandworm. Through the psychoactive abilities of the spice, Fremen had special powers, also known as “desert power.”
As Paul and Jessica witnessed the desert power, Chani concluded Dune: Part One, quoting it as only the beginning.
Dune Part Two would follow Paul and Chani on their journey to save the Universe from the Emperor’s rule and unite the people under the Holy War.
Dune (also titled Dune Part One) is a 2021 epic science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve. It is based on Frank Herbert’s novel of the same name.