"I read Dune almost four years ago, and yet the story of Paul's adventures on the desert planet "Arrakis" has never left my memory"TWITTER/@DUNEMOVIE

Dune – both book and film – follow the story of Paul Atreides and his noble family as they move from their luscious home planet "Caladan" to the desert planet "Arrakis". Their apparent mission is to harvest "spice" – an incredibly rare substance that only occurs on "Arrakis". Part mind-altering drug, part fuel for interstellar travel, "spice" is the reason anyone would choose to move to the near-inhospitable desert planet. The Harkonens, the Atreides' great rivals, inhabit the planet as the film begins. They would continue mining "spice" were it not for a decree from the "Emperor" that they leave. Upon arrival, House Atreides must navigate multifarious political threats and learn to survive on a planet which characters keep reminding them "will kill" them.

"I can’t very easily imagine a better adaptation of Dune than the one that Villeneuve has given to us"

Paul's immediate family includes his mother, Jessica, a member of the “Bene Gesserit” (a religious organisation made up entirely of women whose main purpose is to find a chosen one). Paul also has a noble father, Duke Leto, who is in charge of managing all of the political rumblings of House Atreides. These two potential paths – one of the cult, one of the politician-warrior – pull at Paul's interests throughout much of the plot.

I read Dune almost four years ago, and yet the story of Paul's adventures on the desert planet "Arrakis" has never left my memory. That's not to say that Denis Villeneuve's Dune wasn't a fresh experience for me, but rather that early in the runtime I realised and remembered just how evocative Frank Herbert's 1965 source material really is. I can’t very easily imagine a better adaptation of Dune than the one that Villeneuve has given to us. That’s because I can’t imagine another adaptation where all of the apparent problems do only superficial damage. If the film looks astonishing and feels duly epic, I’m willing to let things like a slightly bloated runtime slide.

I maintain that the book is evocative, but it is also a product of its time. Villeneuve has improved the gender balance of what is a very male-centric story by switching one character from male to female, but he's taken a step back when it comes to depictions of women with Rebecca Ferguson's "Lady Jessica". As memory serves me, her character in the book was so much based upon interior struggles, but also upon being an intellectual and emotional foil to the occasionally cocksure Paul. In the novel, she was a mother who, flung into extreme situations, never lost her faith in her sect or her son, but also knew when to question both. In the film, she is still a powerful presence, and Ferguson is undeniably brilliant casting. However, with her role reduced mostly to mentorship, and as she is now identifiable primarily through her motherhood, Jessica has perhaps lost the most in terms of characterisation from Herbert's book. Perhaps Paul himself loses some depth of character too, as Timothée Chalamet’s performance begins rather too understated – even whispery, yet by the end I was convinced of his ability to capture the intensity of Paul's journey. The casting on the whole was excellent. The film didn’t feel star-studded in a distracting way, but some of the finest blockbuster actors brought their best work to the table.

"it tells the story – essentially a story of greed, inequality, and geopolitics – with a deft hand and in a way that still feels relevant"

Most reviews of this length won’t mention music, but there are people as excited for a new Hans Zimmer score as they are for the film in general. The best thing I can say about Dune's score is that it had occasional moments which matched Interstellar's sound. Yet, even when the score is pulsating and loud, it really recedes behind the sound design. In fact, for all its texturing, the music is partly indistinguishable from the layers upon layers of audio effects. I wasn't exactly disappointed, but I also think it's clear that Zimmer was going for a non-invasive score this time. This is well suited to the film, but also lacks some of the grandiosity that family space dramas are renowned for. Perhaps Dune would be improved by a more capacious score, and therefore perhaps Villeneuve’s film isn’t the perfect adaptation we were hoping for. However, I was rarely conscious of the music as distracting, and it certainly doesn’t draw attention to itself in a bad way.

I have been rather effusive about this film, and – though I have more reservations – I will let them fade into obscurity and out of my memory, because there are two things I especially like about this Dune adaptation. Firstly, it tells the story – essentially a story of greed, inequality, and geopolitics – with a deft hand and in a way that still feels relevant. Secondly, it depicts an essentially good family, fronted by an essentially good Duke, but it does not reduce the moral undercurrents to childish simplicity in the way the first Star Wars film occasionally does. Undeniably, as a piece of pseudo-post-colonial filmmaking, it is perhaps not ground-breaking, but then again, it is far more subtle and complex in its depiction of colonisers and colonised than something like James Cameron's Avatar, which is getting an unwished-for sequel next year.