Staff Writer and perennial Dune fan Boluwatife Oshuntolu attempts to explain the monolith of a book without seeming rude.

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past year or so, you should know that Frank Herbert’s legendary 1965 science fiction novel Dune has gotten yet another movie adaptation. I started reading the series in January after constantly seeing trailers for it on YouTube and wondering what on Earth (or Arrakis, if you like) this movie was supposed to be. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had many conversations about Dune, primarily answering questions about its source material and trying to convince people that reading an 800-page book while already swimming in work is a great idea. So, instead of constantly campaigning for people to read the book (which I still think is absolutely fantastic), I decided to ask my very beautiful and very patient girlfriend, Lourdes Russell (CC ‘25), to give me some beginner-friendly questions to answer about Dune:


Why are Dune fans so pretentious?

Dune is known for its incredibly dense, yet rewarding, prose, so its fans have to give themselves a lot of credit for actually understanding it. My excuse is that I’m in SEAS.

What is Dune about?

It’s about worms. And sand. So riveting!

Where is Dune set?

It’s set in our world, but 10,000 years in the future. Pretty optimistic, if you ask me.

Can you explain the main conflict?

Basically, the Emperor of the Universe (Shaddam Corrino IV of House Corrino) thought that the Atreides (our heroes, Paul/Timothée’s family) were getting a little too big for their britches, so he decided to send them to the worst planet ever (Arrakis, also known as Dune) in order to make it easier for their archrivals, the Harkonnens (also known as the really ugly guys) to take them out. Not very nice of him.

At some point in the movie, I believe Duke Leto (Paul’s dad, played by Oscar Isaac) mentions that the Harkonnens had been on Arrakis for 80 years prior: the thing is, they actually had the resources and facilities to survive on Arrakis and mine the “sacred hallucinogen” melange, colloquially known as “spice” to everyone who’s not as invested in this as I am. This change in management leads to the Atreides’ suffering, since the Harkonnens left them faulty equipment that effectively crippled their ability to harvest spice. This made the Atreides very sad.

That’s the main conflict, but its fallout is much more important in the grand scheme of things, which I can’t get to without spoiling the rest of the book. Fortunately, Part Two will fix everything! Trust me. There’s no way sequelitis will ruin it…right?

What’s the message of the film?

There are several messages: the importance of family, the evils of white savior syndrome, the influence of religion, and the dangers of harming our environment, just to name a few. Those are important and all, but the most important point is to walk weirdly so you don’t disturb the worms.

Why did they cast Timothée Chalamet as Paul?

In the book, Paul doesn’t have any particularly defining characteristics appearance-wise, and ‘Paul’ is the most generic name you can think of; there are probably no less than 100 of them on campus. Sorry, but it’s true. I’m no expert on film casting, but personally I feel like they just needed a really well-known dude to play Paul. I think any dude would have done just fine (I definitely could’ve done better, but that’s neither here nor there). 

What happened at the end?

They walked off into the sunset for dramatic effect.

…It’ll all get explained in Part Two, trust me.

Why did Paul Herbert pick a boring title like Dune?

Before doing my research, I assumed it was because it was the most self-explanatory title he could think of, but the real and much more interesting reason was because he wanted it to sound like the word “doom” because of its commentary on environmentalism. Fascinating!

Will they adapt the entire series?

Adapting just Book One is a massive feat on its own, and honestly, I really hope they don’t try to do too much. Trying to bring the other five to the big screen would take decades and countless dollars, and if you think Dune: Part One was complicated, it only gets even more ridiculous from here. It almost gets as ridiculous as the dining hall lines during peak hours.

And most importantly…

Why isn’t Zendaya in this?

I, too, blinked during the movie, so I can definitely understand why you might have been confused about Zendaya’s extremely minor presence in the film after seeing her prominently in every single promotion for the movie. Don’t worry, though: her role in Part Two will be much more exciting to watch.

I hope this was able to answer some of the most pressing questions you had about the movie! I know I said I’d stop pestering people about it, but you really should read the book…

Photo via Boluwatife Oshuntolu