Dune: Should You Watch Frank Herbert’s Novel Before Watching the Film? – CBR – Comic Book Resources

Dune newcomers have asked if the film is a worthy introduction to the franchise or if they should read Frank Herbert’s novel before hitting theaters.
Dune: Part One, Denis Villeneuve’s visual take on Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, is currently in theaters and streaming on HBO Max. Naturally, since its theater release, a lot of attention has been directed toward the already acclaimed book series. After an incredible opening weekend that elicited mixed reviews of the film, there’s one question on everyone’s minds: What’s the best way to experience Dune for the first time?
The easy answer is to read the books first. Live-action adaptations have a well-earned reputation for not living up to their literary predecessors. Books and film are vastly different media forms, and attempting to adapt one medium to suit the other is sure to have some information slip through the cracks. The standard runtime for movies isn’t nearly enough to incorporate every facet of the fantastical worlds of sci-fi novels, and that forces directors to make changes to the story they’re adapting; changes that more often than not upset die-hard fans. But the Dune film might be the rare occurrence where watching it first night be the better choice. Here’s why.
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Dune: Part One liberally adapted about half of the novel that kicked off the Dune saga. Like its source material, it had the monumental task of setting up the expansive Dune universe but within the constraints of cinema. To achieve this, many of the elements that characterize a satisfying story are sacrificed. There is little character development, and, even at the end, there’s little emotional connection between the audience and the characters.
The glimpse of the Dune universe Villeneuve brought to life is more than enough to whet a newcomer’s appetite. The films’ almost documentary-like style doesn’t afford a deeper dive into any of the rich cultures it brushes upon, but it sets the stage for an incredibly diverse universe and hints at a great story begging to be told within it. A concrete narrative may not have been established yet, but the movie’s cliffhanger ending all but confirmed a second part. Some more time to explore the universe and characters at length might assuage most of the first movie’s critics.
Dune is undoubtedly a great movie, largely because of its stellar cinematography. It’s not a bright, colorful movie, but Greig Fraser makes magic with a limited color palette. Most of the movie takes place on the planet Arrakis, a giant desert that allows for some truly breathtaking backgrounds. The non-desert sets are also each memorable in their own right. Dune is beautifully shot, with not a single frame wasted.
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Another Dune highlight is Paul Atreides, the main character. From the beginning of the movie, he is touted as an heir to great powers, both metaphysical and political. This unique combination of abilities/responsibilities, along with his enigmatic personality and dire circumstances, make Paul the movie’s most compelling character. Audiences might not care for him, but they still find themselves invested in Paul’s journey and anticipating his next steps.
As such, newcomers should definitely watch the film first. Watching Dune first has the added benefit of making the books more immersive; Denis Villeneuve and Greig Freiser show readers what the world looks like. Therefore, imagining the characters within it will be that much easier.
One who’s read the book already will find Dune‘s lack of action and info-dumping repetitive. Reliving the experience just for the movie to regurgitate the same information might make for an underwhelming viewing experience, especially as the movie ends right as the action peaks. However, a newcomer to the series will likely be eager for more Dune content, which is very easily found in the books. With Dune such a phenomenal work of art, it might be better appreciated if viewers go in without prior knowledge of Herbert’s book.
To see the film’s gorgeous cinematography, Dune is now in theaters and on HBO Max.
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Kelvin doesn’t do much except watch/read animanga. He’d love to talk about it too but people are scary so he writes about it here! When he’s not watching or writing about anime, he’s trying his darndest to bag that Political Science degree while navigating the novel idea of adulting AND keeping his sanity at the same time. (spoiler alert: that’s actually going pretty well!) You can find him on Twitter(though he’d rather you didn’t) @keIvin__k, where he talks about little else except all the untold wonder of Taylor Swift, My Hero Academia and Doja Cat. He really hopes you’re having a good day.