Frank Herbert’s Dune It is both a difficult novel to adapt to film and a simple one to miss, as evidenced by the reactions to the movie adaptation in 2021. Denis Villeneuve is widely recognized for making a movie that is enjoyable both for casual and serious fans of his bizarre book. It’s a story about a feudal battle over the desert planet.
Political criticism is often raised by genre storytelling. Common, but misplaced, ideological criticism is that the film promotes white saviorism by showing the Atreides clan helping a backward tribe of desert people escape oppressors from abroad.
That critique doesn’t hold water. With a subtle touch, the film shows that the Atreides—while more sympathetic than their duplicitous, physically monstrous Harkonnen rivals—are no unalloyed heroes. Aristocrats also use force and manipulation in order to steal resources from Arrakis.
These messages are reinforced through the films’ visuals. It is clear that the uniforms of foot soldiers are fascist. Leto Atreides, an older man, refers to Arrakis “fief.” He is most transparent in his morally compromised state when he gives some advice to his son Paul. “Here on Caladan we have ruled by sea power and air power.” Arrakis is a place where we must develop desert power. Rule by consent was not an option for either planet. This point isn’t missed by filmmakers or authors.