Alternative Character Interpretation: In this version, the Harkonnen guards noticeably end up trapping the Baron in the room with the Duke by instantly closing the door when the poison gas is released. Is this just the standard procedure in the event of a poison gas attack? Did they just assume he was already done for given how close he was to the Duke, shielded or not? Or was it attempt to kill off the Baron while preserving a degree of plausible deniability?
And You Thought It Would Fail: Many feared that various factors would potentially leave Denis Villeneuve's planned two-part adaptation of the original story doomed to be only half-finished, given the fact that Dune is a slow-paced, complicated narrative, the Acclaimed Flop status of his previous sci-fi blockbuster Blade Runner 2049, and the day-and-date streaming status provided by HBO Max (which opened the movie up to piracy due to HD copies of the film being easier to distribute) due to the issues with the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic (which was still depressing box office turnout around the world). The fact that the US release date was boxed in the middle of other expected blockbusters like Venom: Let There Be Carnage, No Time to Die and Eternals also led to concerns about the movie being crowded out of the spotlight (a fate which befell The Last Duel just a week before Dune). Yet the movie consistently overperformed to expectations around the world (with the exception of China, where it was crushed by local super-blockbuster The Battle at Lake Changjin), thanks in part due to a staggered international release strategy that helped build up good word-of-mouth ahead of its arrival in several key markets, and it managed to defy expectations to become Warner Bros.'s most successful day-and-date movie since the likes of Godzilla vs. Kong. It then got a whopping ten Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, which rarely happens for sci-fi films, and won six of them, making it the most-decorated movie of the 2022 Oscars. As such, Legendary quickly greenlit the sequel mere days after it opened in the United States.
Award Snub: Despite the movie gaining ten Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Denis Villeneuve wasn't nominated for Best Director which is strange given that he was nominated in many critics' association awards including the Director's Guild. As Josh Brolin puts it, "I don't know how you get 10 nominations and then the guy who has done the impossible with that book doesn't get nominated. It makes you realize that it's all amazing and then it's all fucking totally dumb!" It then lost both its non-technical awards to CODA, which some considered to reflect the Academy's longtime Sci Fi Ghetto. It did win plenty of technical awards elsewhere though.
Some who enjoy the prerelease title card have praised it for spelling out "DUNE" with one character in different positions.
The movie overall is just beautiful looking, with fantastic set design and cinematography managing to bring the alien setting of Dune to life.
"Common Knowledge": Many early impressions made mention of the movie "missing" various elements that were never in the original book and were, in fact, complete fabrications by David Lynch for the 1984 version. Ironically, the opposite is also true, as the film incorporates a lot of elements and aesthetic choices that hail from the 1984 film and aren't in the book either.
The Sardaukar. In Lynch's adaptation and in the 2000 miniseries they were barely acknowledged and for the most part looked goofy (wearing black hazmat suits in 1984, then black armor offset by large puffy hats in 2000) disappointing many readers. In this adaptation however, they are depicted as a warrior cult who make human sacrifices, look like Vikings when unmasked, talk in Black Speech, and wear white bodysuits which make them like Stormtroopers on steroids. Their introduction scene in Salusa Secundus with throat-singing and their weird rituals cemented them as fan-favorites and made them popular in the old and new fanbase.
The Sardaukar muezzin especially has received a lot of memes and fan art for a character who is literally in the movie for less than 30 seconds.
Epileptic Trees: The Harkonnens have a weird dog-sized insect creature with human-like hands wandering around which Piter de Vries calls a pet. It's original to the film and never has any effect on the story, so its anyones guess what the purpose is. Many assume that it is just a small Shout-Out to the random weirdness for the sake of being weird that tend to be part and parcel of Dune adaptations, but were purposely understated in this one. It's become a Wild Mass Guessing theory that the spider pet is what's become of Wanna, Dr. Yueh's wife (although other possible explanation is Villeneuve wanting to foreshadow the Bene Tleilax in case the films do well enough to warrant a Dune Messiah adaptation).
The Sardaukar were already a Badass Army in the novel, but the film reimagines them as a psychotically devoted Proud Warrior Race who speak in Black Speech and practice human sacrifice rituals accompanied by Mongolian-style throat singing. From their introductory scene they immediately come off as more badass and intimidating than the Harkonnens themselves.
The Bene Gesserit are more morally ambiguous than outright evil, but they have a wonderfully intimidating aesthetic, with most of their representatives being covered head to toe in flowing black robes and Reverend Mother Mohiam herself coming across as almost a Wicked Witch with how she's able to push Paul around with the Voice.
Despite his lack of screen time, the Baron has quite a few fans thanks to his genuinely unsettling appearance, as well as Stellan Skarsgård's performance perfectly portraying the ruthless and cunning schemer that he was in the novel. Skarsgård also achieved the not small feat of making fans accept a stark Adaptation Personality Change, as his portrayal of the Baron gives the character a gravitas and dignity than his novel version lacked.
The film is jokingly referred to as "Dunc" because a fan recreation leak of the official logo - approximated in Unicode as ᑐ ᑌ ᑎ ᕮ — missed the dot and lens flare that formed the middle line of the "E", making it look like ᑐ ᑌ ᑎ ᑕ instead. Amusingly, there is actually a character in the film called Duncan.
Some have also jokingly read ᑐ ᑌ ᑎ ᕮ as "June".
Fandom Rivalry: With Marvel'sEternals. Both movies are sci-fi fantasy Epic Movies with complex worlds and long runtimes and released at similar times. Villeneuve also criticized superhero movies for "turning people into zombies" and former MCU actor Josh Brolin commented that he preferred the practical sets of Dune over the MCU's CGI. This combined with "Marvel fatigue" led to a Flame War between Dune and Eternals fans. On the other hand, Chloé Zhao praised Dune as she was shown the movie before the release personally by Villeneuve and even stated that the imagery of Villeneuve's work had been it was an inspiration for Eternals. In return, Villeneuve also commended Zhao and her filmmaking style, expressing hope that it would bring something new to the MCU.
Fashion-Victim Villain: The Baron's robe fits nicely his grandiose image, but when he turns on his suspenders and floats over to make a point, the cloth turns out to be so long that its lower edge is still touching the ground when its wearer is around six feet high. This odd attire choice, aside from being an amusingly impractical attire, gives the impression the Baron is doing a street performer trick rather than using real anti-gravity.
Fight-Scene Failure: The movie follows the original novel's rule that personal shields stop high-speed attacks while being easy to penetrate by slower hits, but the choreography gets quite inconsistent with this through the film. Paul, Gurney and occasionally Duncan are forced to grapple in order to slash slowly (there are even pellet bullets that slow down by themselves so they can pierce shields), yet Duncan and the Sardaukar are generally able to smash through shields with regular-speed strikes, to the point it's possible to forget how shields are supposed to work altogether by the point the Harkonnen attack happens. Most egregiously, the blow that mortally wounds Duncan himself is a full run stab.From the books... Paul mentions at one point that "shields did not count when a body's momentum could be used against it," but 1. This still doesn't justify the full-run stab, which is literally the opposite of "You can stab a body that's running at you"; 2. This rule is never actually stated in the film and therefore might not apply to it. We also can't turn to the fight in which the quote was used, because that fight — against Jamis — once again does not involve getting your opponent to run into your knife.
After Dr. Yueh finishes examining Paul for possible adverse effects from exposure to spice after Paul's participation in the mining survey turned on-the-fly rescue mission and before leaving him with Jessica, he and Paul having a brief conversation in Mandarin Chinese where the former warns the latter that the Bene Gesserit's grand project of "the greater good" should be taken with a sceptical view. Yueh presumably does this because even though Jessica in a previous scene confidently warns a female Freman that she knows many things, Mandarin Chinese probably is not one of them.
The Sardaukar combine both Nordic and Catholic imagery, which, if intentional, reminds of the fact that many historical vikings eventually converted to Christianity and became paladins to Christian kingdoms, just like Sardaukar are portrayed here as barbarians that serve fanatically the Padishah Emperor.
The film opened the same day as The French Dispatch, in which Timothée Chalamets character keeps referring to his alleged new muscles. Which just makes Duncan Idahos crack about Pauls lack of new muscles in Dune even funnier.
Hype Backlash: After the film's great success, many many wound up saying that though it was impressive on a technical level, the story and characters don't feel as fresh and exciting now as they were when the novel released decades ago.
Incest Yay Shipping: There's been more than one such thought born from the scene where Paul takes his shirt off to put on the stillsuit with his mother Jessica watching maybe a second too long and looking a little disturbed after turning to look away. It doesn't help either that the age gap between Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson isn't that big (12 years).
And then there is the nearly literal Godzilla: some viewers are just there for the sandworms.
Memetic Bystander: A decent amount of jokes have been made about Chani barely being in the film despite Zendaya's notable presence in the advertising.
Misaimed Fandom: While hardly a rare phenom in pop culture, nor an unforgivable case due to the Dune franchise's definitely notBlack-and-White Morality, it's amusing that both fans and casual viewers have found the evil, brutal Sardaukar as the coolest thing in the film, while the Fremen, which Frank Herbert held in comparison as a race representing pragmatism, tough virtue and closeness to nature (even if just as fanatic and manipulable at the end), have gone relatively unnoticed, despite having the starpower of multiple actors on their side. A lot of it comes from Villeneuve's captivating portrayal of the Sardaukar, which is universally described as a highlight of the film; also from the Sardaukar' distinctly western culture compared with the more Arabic Fremen, which helps many viewers to relate with them at a personal level; and of course, from Warhammer 40,000 having taken enough inspiration from Dune for the latter to be able to recall easily the former's memories.
Leto's, and later Paul's, emphasis on harnessing the power of Arrakis's resources and people to make House Atreides stronger than ever before makes complete sense, but calling it "desert power" is an awkward way of phrasing it (after the initial comparison to sea and air power). The movie emphasizes that phrase a couple of times during otherwise serious scenes, which leads to a bit of unintentional hilarity, though this is straight from the book.
Shadout Mapes is a powerfully acted character, but it's hard not to find it funny when she suddenly breaks wailing at the top of her lungs, shaken by Jessica's reveal, and then immediately composes herself and continues talking in the intense manner she was using right before (in the novel, there is an intermediate question by Jessica that justifies the Mood Whiplash, and the scream itself is described as closer to a Squee, not to the terrified lament Mapes gives out in the film). Her explanation about the "shock of the moment" doesn't exactly help. (Interestingly, much the same could be said of David Lynch's rendition of the scene, which was left out of its theatrical cut).
Zendaya continues to squint the whole way through the movie. Especially since the Fremen's shining blue eyes are such a famous part of their culture.
The Baron's strange physique adds to his unsettling aura, but some shots of him floating around become less threatening due to how disproportionately tiny his head is compared to his balloon-like body, not helped by the fact that in a number of scenes, he wears what appears to be a large black dress.
Chani's declaration to Paul that "This is just the beginning" at the end of the movie struck some as too out of place and on the nose of a conclusion to Part 1.
Let's not kid ourselves, the sandworm design looks like an anus. Jokes about it are everywhere, even between fans, and that's not even going into the phallic imageries the sandworms would always have. But lots of animals and especially worms do look like that, so the circular mouth brings to mind a real insect. Between this and the "fangs", the design looks like a leech's mouth, while also having the symbolism of an eye, combining the alien and the believably biological. Jokes or not, many do believe the sandworms look majestic and intimidating.
The Bagpipes at the arrival scene was considered by some watchers to be kind of narmy ("10,000 in the future and they pull out the bagpipes?!") but there's no denying it sounds awesome.
The Sardaukar priest is onscreen for approximately 10 seconds, but makes such an impression with his loud, intimidating chanting that he pretty much immediately became this film's equivalent of the Doof Warrior. Part of his chant is also heard at the very start of the movie even before the company Vanity Plates, booming out from an all-black screen and subtitled "Dreams are messages from the deep", basically jolting the audience into paying attention.
Reverend Mother Mohiam only shows up during the gom jabbar scene and a brief conference with the Baron, but Charlotte Rampling absolutely kills the role, perfectly conveying the character's ominous grandeur.
Signature Scene: Despite only lasting around a minute and a half, the scene with the Sardaukar in Salusa Secundus is probably the most talked about in the entire movie, due to both its creepily badass overtone singing and the not any less imposing scenery. A fine cinematic display of Evil Is Cool.
One of Paul's visions is of a battle in the middle of the desert between many armored soldiers, and one of those soldiers is revealed to be himself. It's very obvious that it's Timothée Chalamet's face superimposed over a stuntman's in the reveal shot.
The shot of a carryall inflating its balloons is an unconvincing use of CGI.
Since the movie's release, many Warhammer 40,000 fans have remarked that this is probably the closest thing to a blockbuster adaptation of the Warhammer franchise that will ever be made, given that it drew a lot of inspiration for its setting from Dune and its sequels.
Code Geass was considered as the best anime adaptation of Dune. In turn, this would make the closest thing for live-action adaptation of Code Geass. It helps the fact that when the film's leading actor Timothée Chalamet was many fans' favorite casting choice for Lelouch due to his resemblance and similar premise and character arc.
Squick: At one point we see some Fremen making coffee with their own spittle.
Rabban is a character with a great deal of potential, given that he's a sadistic despot who nevertheless has moments of surprising intelligence and competence. But the movie, largely like previous adaptations of the book, omits these moments, with Rabban thus reading as a generic villainous brute—which is especially unfortunate given how Dave Bautista's previous collaboration with Denis Villeneuve demonstrated that he has the acting abilities to sell how Rabban is more than a "muscle-minded tank brain".
The Baron himself doesn't have too much to do here either, with just a few scenes, almost all of which are rather brief and with very few lines. Which is a shame since Stellan Skarsgård is agreed to have done a great job with what he has. Luckily he should have more material coming his way in the sequel.
While he never was a huge character in the book nor the previous film adaptations, a lot of people were disappointed at how small Piter de Vries' role was in this film, being shrunk down to near Advertised Extra levels. The fact that he's killed off midway through the film also means that unlike the Baron, we won't be seeing any more of him. It's especially regrettable given how good an actor David Dastmalchian is, and the Cold Ham demeanor he brought to Piter was enjoyed by many.
That the Fenrings are not even mentioned in the film has also been a bit of a dissappointment for some, considering they are both interesting characters (especially the Count, for spolieriffic reasons) who get often left completely out by adaptations.
Overall the movie was a very faithful adaptation to the spirit of the book, but unfortunately it did not include Idaho's Offscreen Moment of Awesome when he fooled the Harkonnens into shooting a shield with a lasgun, resulting in a small nuclear explosion that wiped out much of their forces. Notably due to the fact that the "never shoot shields with a laser" rule is never mentioned in the film. Instead, Duncan steals a thopter and uses it to lay waste to the Harkonnen forces at the spaceport.
There's also no sign of the Baron's plan to frame Jessica as the traitor, despite also making Gurney much more gruff and humorless, which could work great in seeing him finally loosen up upon realizing his mistake in trying to kill her.
There's also zero mention or hint of Doctor Kynes being Chani's parent, as in the book, even though the casting of both seemed like this was purposely being emphasized, making it unclear whether this was Adapted Out or will be resolved in the sequel, since the legacy of Kynes' authority among the Fremen as "Liet" goes a long way to help Paul establish his own hold upon them, not least through shacking up with Liet's daughter.
Unintentional Uncanny Valley: We never get a good look of the creature in the Baron's throne room, but its spider-like appearance does not make it particularly creepy. The fact that each limb looks far too human however, does. The servants in the Harkonnen court, who all have glossy, hairless and stark white skin and solid black eyes, also look like mannequins come to life.
In one of the subtlest occurrences of this, this film finally gets the Eyes of Ibad right, after the David Lynch version had to use a post-production effect that made the eyes appear to glow blue, the first installment of the miniseries embraced the glowing blue (so the glow was drowned out in direct light), and the second installment of the miniseries just use blue iris contact lenses. Here, the eyes do look just fully and entirely blue.
Also, the film's take on the Shai-Hulud manages to be equal parts terrifying and breathtaking, thanks to the use of magnificent CGI. Especially, it should be noted that the filmmakers spent an entire year perfecting the design of these creatures to make them look as intimidating and prehistoric as possible. And holy shit, it definitely shows!