Dune: Part One Book vs Movie Review

Dune by Frank Herbert (1965)

Dune: Part One directed by Denis Villeneuve (2021)

In today’s video I will only be covering the first half of the book in correlation with the first movie. March 13 is when my Dune: Part Two video will be released and I will get into the rest of the book there. So no need to worry about spoilers for how the book ends/Dune: Part Two in this video!

Book review

Even when splitting the book in half, there is so much to get into! I did want to give a spoiler free book review really quick though because I just loved this book so much! I was a bit hesitant going into it because fantasy is not my preferred genre. I like sci-fi when it is based in reality, but books like this that are not based in our world at all and that have all of this world building the reader needs to learn just aren’t my thing. Like when I open a book and it starts out with a map of a fake place, that’s a bad sign for me lol. And while Dune does have a bit of a learning curve as you get used to the world Herbert has created, I was captivated and drawn in from the start.

If you also have a hard time following fantasy books, I would NOT recommend the audio book with this one. I started with the audio and was getting the basic gist, but there were so many details that I was missing. When I was over halfway through the book, I watched the first movie and watching it was what really made me realize there was so much I wasn’t retaining. So many scenes, I was like, “did it happen that way in the book?? I don’t even know!”  

So I went back and started the book from the beginning and physically read it, that time having a clear understanding of events and details.

The story is engaging and the characters are distinct. We have family drama, political intrigue, blackmail, witches, a spice that combines the power of oil and peyote, strange creatures, and a Messiah story. The characters are aware of the Messiah trope and I liked this self-aware approach Herbert went with this.

Each chapter also begins with a segment from research books by a character within the story, the Princess Irulan who is the daughter of the emperor, and the segment we read relates to the chapter we are about to get into. We don’t even meet the emperor or the princess in the first half and just get these pre-chapter segments into them. I loved these sections and it was a great way to tell us about two characters who the main characters are yet to even meet.

George Lucas was also heavily influenced by Dune when creating Star Wars and it was interesting to catch the various similarities while reading.

I plan on reading at least the next two books in the series, and when I do I will make a video about them!

From here on out I will be getting into the details of the plot, which means there will be spoilers!

Paul Atreides

Paul is our main character, he is the son of Duke Leto and Lady Jessica, Leto’s concubine. Jessica is part of the Bene Gesserit who are basically this group of powerful witches who do selective breeding. One of their many powers is that they can control getting pregnant and can choose the gender. In both, Jessica was told by the Bene Gesserit to bear Leto a daughter, however Jessica falls in love with Leto and wants to give him the son he desires. The Bene Gesserit also believe in the arrival of what they call the Kwisatz Haderach, who will be a male of great power. Jessica also hopes her son could be this person. In the book Paul is talking to the Reverend Mother and we learn, “Yet, there’s a place where no Truthsayer can see. We are repelled by it, terrorized. It is said a man will come one day and find in the gift of the drug his inward eye. He will look where we cannot—into both feminine and masculine pasts.” “Your Kwisatz Haderach?” “Yes, the one who can be many places at once: the Kwisatz Haderach. Many men have tried the drug…so many, but none has succeeded.”

Paul is raised with Bene Gesserit training (knowing when someone is lying and other ways of observing a person and a situation and discerning what it happening, learning “the voice” which is when you say something and a person has no choice by to obey, amoung other things) as well as being trained in fighting by his father’s men, namely Duncan Idaho and Gurney Halleck. At the start of the book, he is put to the test of the gom Jabbar in both book and movie, which is a test to see if he is human or animal and in both he is able to withstand more pain than anyone else. The test is given by the Imperial Reverend Mother which is the title of the highest form of Bene Gesserit basically.

In the book, Paul also finds out that throughout his whole life, he was also being trained to be a Mentat which is a human calculator essentially. I mean, there is a bit more than just that, but in the barest description, that what they are. (This story takes place so far in the future, they are beyond being overly reliant on technology. THere is a convsertaion between the Baron and his mentat which reads,

“I sometimes think the ancients with their thinking machines had the right idea.”

“Theywere toys compared to me,” Piter snarled. “You yourself, Baron, could outperform those machines.”

So while they of course have impressive technology in some ways, in other ways they have gone beyond machines.)

We also learn that he has been having dreams he believes to be visions, and in general he will dream of future events. So very soon in the book and movie, we see that Paul unique and skilled in many different ways and that there are people who have high hopes for him.

In the movie he is talking to his father saying he doesn’t want to be a future leader and Leto is a kind, loving father and says that he will love Paul no matter what and confides that he hadn’t wanted to lead either. This isn’t in the book, but we do see in the book that he loves Paul and is very proud of him.

In the movie, we get a scene later when Leto is upset with Jessica for the way she has raised Paul and says how he hasn’t been the same since the test with the Reverend Mother. This isn’t in the book.

While still on Caladan, Duncan Idaho leaves early in order to gain the trust of the Fremen, a rouge group who live on Arrakis who were disrespected by the previous Arrakis leaders-the Harkonnen’s. In the movie Paul has a vision of Duncan dying and tells him about his worries. This isn’t in the book.

Early on in the movie we see he has a vision which involves him being stabbed, unless I missed something, this vision doesn’t come up in the book until about the halfway point.

Arriving on Arrakis

The Fremen believe they will be led to paradise by the “Lisan al-Gaib” which means voice from the outer world. They believe this man will be the son of a Bene Gesserit, and so when Paul and his family show up, some believe Paul to be this man. Jessica says that the Bene Gesserit planted this superstition though and there isn’t anything to it.

In both book and movie, Jessica also has a Fremen housekeeper person who also believes the prophecy and she tests Jessica’s knowledge of the crysknife which is a sacred knife made from the tooth of a giant sand worm.

In both, someone tries to kill Paul using a hunter seeker but he catches it in his hand. In the book, Jessica is also left a message by another Bene Gesserit, warning her that there is a traitor in her midst. In the book, Hawat, Leto’s mentat, believes Jessica to be this traitor and is conspiring against her own son. They have Idaho watch over Jessica, and one night he gets drunk and calls her a Harkonnen spy. Leto also has to act as if he doesn’t trust Jessica but tells Paul he does not doubt her and is only going along with it to fool others.

In the book, we know the traitor is Dr. Yueh, because we hear the inner thoughts of all of these characters and know that his wife was taken by the Baron Harkonnen and he wants revenge. So he is going to be a traitor to Leto, in order to get the chance to kill the Baron. In the movie, we don’t know that Yueh is the traitor until he knocks out Leto as the Harkonnen are attacking. In the movie, no one suspects Jessica of betraying the Atreides.

Kynes and the spice crawler

In both, we meet Liet Kynes, who is a Fremen who works for the Emperor as the Imperial Planetologist. He logically doesn’t believe in the Fremen superstition of Lisan al Gaib, yet as he meets Paul, he sees various things Paul says and does reflect the prophecy coming true.

This happens n the movie as well, but in the movie, Kynes is a woman not a man. In both book and movie I loved the scenes that have Kynes being taken aback each time Paul unknowingly fulfills a prophecy. There are more examples in book than movie.

Kynes takes them to see the spice being separated from the sand. The work always causes a sandworm to show up, because they are drawn to the noise. Once a worm is spotted in the distant, a carryall is called to come and pick up the machine and take it back. In the book, the carryall isn’t showing up and so Leto has his ornithopter get the men who had been working on the machine. This causes them to lose all of the spice, but it shows that he values human life. Of the Duke, Kynes thinks, “He passed off the loss of a spice crawler with a gesture. The threat to men’s lives had him in a rage. A leader such as that would command fanatic loyalty. He would be difficult to defeat. Against his own will and all previous judgments, Kynes admitted to himself: I like this Duke.”

They then see the gigantic worm eat up the machinery. In the book, Paul can tell that Kynes is telling half-truths and lies, and when Paul sees Fremen down below, Kynes dismisses it. Paul can also tell there is more to the sandworms and their connection to the spice than Kynes is letting on.

In the movie, the carryall shows up, but is broken so Leto has them get all the men to safety. Paul gets out to help tell the men on the spice crawler where to go, and while out amongst all of the spice in the air, he has a vision and isn’t thinking straight. Gurney has to run to save him from being eaten with the equipment. This isn’t in the book.

Attack on Arrakis

In the book, Leto and his group know that they will be set up to fail on Arrakis before even before they arrive. Leto tells Paul in the book, “Knowing where the trap is—that’s the first step in evading it. This is like single combat, Son, only on a larger scale—a feint within a feint within a feint…seemingly without end. The task is to unravel it. ” Princess Irulan also says, “It is said that the Duke Leto blinded himself to the perils of Arrakis, that he walked heedlessly into the pit. Would it not be more likely to suggest he had lived so long in the presence of extreme danger he misjudged a change in its intensity? Or is it possible he deliberately sacrificed himself that his son might find a better life? All evidence indicates the Duke was a man not easily hoodwinked.”

In the movie, this doesn’t seem to the case and he seems surprised when he realizes the bad state the Harkonnen’s left things. The carryall is an example of him realizing the bad state in which Arrakis was left. In the book, even before this event, they are in a meeting and going over the bad state of all of the machinery.

The reason the Emperor took Arrakis away from the Harkonnen’s and gave it to Leto was because he wanted Leto gone. Soon after the Atreides arrive, the Harkonnen attack, with the help of the Sardaukar who are the troops of the Emperor. No one but the head Harkonnen’s are to know that the Emperor assisted them though, so the Sardaukar are dressed as Harkonnen’s.

Yueh knocks out Leto, but places a poison tooth in his mouth and tells him that when the Baron gets close enough, to bite down hard and release the poison so that he can kill the Baron while also killing himself. Yueh knows he won’t get the chance to be that close to the Baron and can’t do it himself. In the movie it seems like Yueh thought his wife was still alive, but when faced with the Baron, learns she had been dead and the Baron then kills Yueh. In the book he knew she was most likely dead. As he dies in the book, he says to the Baron like, “You think you defeated me, you think I did not know what I bought for my wife.” And this really throws the Baron off. We don’t get this in the movie and so Yueh didn’t seem quite as smart or formidable in the movie as he had in the book. But maybe the movie wanted us to be more fearful of the Baron, and seeing him visibly shaken by the words of Yueh would have made him less severe.

In both, Leto uses his poison tooth, but in both the Baron has a protective shield on. In the book he is totally fine but, in the movie, he does require this weird black bath in order to heal from the poison.

Paul and Jessica

In both, Yueh had drugged Jessica and Paul, but also set them up to survive. The Baron doesn’t want them to actually be killed, but just left in the desert to die. They often do this, where they don’t straight up kill someone, because if it is someone considered off limits for one reason or another, they could be faced with a “truthsayer” and in order to pass the test, they need to be able to truthfully say that they didn’t kill the person.

But while in the ornithopterto be dropped in the desert, Paul and Jessica are able to use the voice to get the Harkennen’s to kill themselves. In the book Jessica uses the voice to get them to fight over her, but in the movie she just straight up tells them to kill each other.

In the movie, after the vision at the spice crawler, Paul tells his mom about his vision and what happened. He also can sense that she is pregnant with his sister. This isn’t in the book, and it isn’t until they escape and are in the tent that Paul is overcome with the overwhelming activity in his brain. “Something had happened to his awareness this night—he saw with sharpened clarity every circumstance and occurrence around him. He felt unable to stop the inflow of data or the cold precision with which each new item was added to his knowledge and the computation was centered in his awareness. It was Mentat power and more.”

This is when he tells her he knows she is pregnant. We get this in the movie, with them in the tent and him telling her he knows their future involves in leader a war. In both, he is resentful of Jessica for what she has made him be. In the book, Paul was even more bitter and condescending to his mother than he was in the movie. But as we saw in the spice. crawler scene in the movie, in the book we learn that the spice brings out a power in Paul. In the book we read in this scene,

“You and the spice,” Paul said. “The spice changes anyone who gets this much of it, but thanks to you, I could bring the change to consciousness. I don’t get to leave it in the unconscious where its disturbance can be blanked out. I can see it.”

“Paul, you—”

“I see it!” he repeated. She heard madness in his voice, didn’t know what to do. But he spoke again, and she heard the iron control return to him: “We’re trapped here.” We’re trapped here, she agreed.

In the book he reveals even more, including that they will never leave Arrakis. This in part due to them ingesting the spice which is addictive and since Arrakis is the only place with spice, they can never leave. In the movie, up until the end, Jessica is wanting to find a way back to Caladan, but this isn’t the case in the book.

He also realizes that the Fremen are paying the Spacing Guild with spice in order to keep their privacy by not having satellites over their area. This isn’t talked about in the movie.

Kynes and the spice

In both, they are united with Duncan Idaho who is with Kynes who is helping them.

They are taken to a secret hideout place, and in the book, we get a great scene where Paul earns Kynes loyalty and respect. Kynes starts to have a respect for Paul when Paul sincerly apologizes and this throws Kynes off because admitting when one is wrong is not a common trait. From there, Paul pledges his loyalty to Kynes, and Kynes to Paul. We don’t quite get this scene in the movie, but in both, they are attacked by the Harkonnen’s/Sardaukar and it is implied that Duncan dies defending them. In the movie, the enemy is using lasguns which can cut through anything. In the book, if you use a shield, it sets off an insane bomb when the lasgun comes in contact with it. Duncan used a shield earlier in the story to cause this explosion, so in this moment they aren’t using lasguns anymore, whereas in the movie they are (this is a very minor change, I know).

But in both, Kynes leads them to a ornithopter and tells them to fly into the sandstorm aand if they fly high enough they will be safe and the Fremen will help them. In the movie, Paul is inspired by a vision of the Fremen Jamis while flying in the storm, but this wasn’t in the book.

Kynes is then caught by the Baron’s men in both versions and is called out for betraying his leaders since he had worked for the emperor. In the movie, she says how she only serves shai-hulud which is what the Fremen call the sandworms. She thumps her hand to draw a worm to them and she and the Harkonnen’s with her die.

In the book, he is injured and then dropped in the desert. Rather than be killed by a sandworm, he is killed by some kind of whirlpool caused by the natural making of the spice. “Somewhere beneath him, the pre-spice mass had accumulated enough water and organic matter from the little makers, had reached the critical stage of wild growth. A gigantic bubble of carbon dioxide was forming deep in the sand, heaving upward in an enormous “blow” with a dust whirlpool at its center.”

We learn that the Fremen call the worms Maker, and that they make the spice. The spice, also called mélange, is incredibly valuable because of its ability to heightens a person’s powers and prolong life. It is also used for interstellar travel, while also being an addictive spice that can be infused into anything. People who consume a large amount of spice-such as the Fremen, have totally blue eyes.

The Fremen dream is to turn Dune into a paradise, with plants and water. As it is now, it is harsh and the lack of moisture makes water the sign of wealth. There is a line in the book from Jessica’s thoughts which reads, “The unconscious preoccupation with water here weighed on her mind. No, she corrected herself: it was preoccupation with moisture. And that was a more subtle and profound matter.”

When Kynes his dying he remembers his father saying, “The masses of Arrakis will know that we work to make the land flow with water. Most of them, of course, will have only a semimystical understanding of how we intend to do this. Many, not understanding the prohibitive mass-ratio problem, may even think we’ll bring water from some other planet rich in it. Let them think anything they wish as long as they believe in us.”

The Fremen believe the Lisan al-Gaib will make this dream a reality.

In the book, we learn that Kynes goes by Liet among the Fremen and is their leader. In the movie, it doesn’t seem like Kynes was as high up in the Fremen leadership like he was in the book.

The Fremen

In the end of the movie, Paul and Jessica comes across a Fremen group led by Stilgar. In both, Paul had met Stilgar earlier before the attack. Stilgar is going to keep Paul but is debating killing Jessica for her water when she proves that she is valuable due to her Bene Gesserit training and fighting abilities. He calls it the “weirding way”. In the book, Paul and Jessica are welcomed into the group, but shortly after, one of the men, Jamis, who Paul had bested during the scuffle that happened with Jessica fought Stilgar, is upset by their acceptance into the group. In the book he says,

“It is the amtal rule,” Stilgar said. “Jamis is demanding the right to test your part in the legend.” “She must be championed,” Jamis said. “If her champion wins, that’s the truth in it. But it’s said….” He glanced across the press of people. “…that she’d need no champion from the Fremen—which can mean only that she brings her own champion.”

This makes it seem like he wants to fight and kill Paul, thus disproving that he is Lisan al-Gaib. I could be wrong about that being his motivations, clearly is pride was also hurt by Paul getting the best of him during that first interaction. But that line makes it seem like he is claiming he wants to fight as a way to disprove their belief in who he may be. In the book, Chani gives Paul some pointers on Jamis’ fighting techniques and Paul ends up winning and has to kill Jamis per the Fremen rules. In the book they give him two new names-Usul which is only used in their own group, and Paul-Maud’Dib which is what they will call him in public. Maud’Dib being the name of the desert mouse.

When they have their ceremony for Jamis, it is custom for each member to say, “I was a friend of [the name of the dead person]”, followed by sharing a memory you have of them and then take something that had belonged to the person now gone. In the book when Paul goes up we read, “I was a friend of Jamis,” Paul whispered. He felt tears burning his eyes, forced more volume into his voice. “Jamis taught me…that…when you kill…you pay for it. I wish I’d known Jamis better.” Blindly, he groped his way back to his place in the circle, sank to the rock floor. A voice hissed: “He sheds tears!” It was taken up around the ring: “Usul gives moisture to the dead!”

As said, moisture is the most valuebale thing a person has and so to give the moisture of your body is a huge deal-in both book and movie we saw that when a Fremen spits at you, it is a sign of respect. So Paul crying over Jamis stuns the Fremen and leads them to have a new respect for Paul.

In the movie, Jamis wants to fight Paul right away. In the movie, it seems like he wants to fight Jessica since she bested Stilgar, who is considered the most powerful. This now makes it seem like Jessica is the strongest and according to their rules (in the movie, in the book Stilgar explains why even though Jessica beat him, they still can’t look to her as a leader) but in the movie, Jamis implies that Jessica should now lead. Paul “champions” her and the two are set to fight. In the movie, Chani doesn’t think Paul has a chance and gives him a crysknife because it will be an honor for him to die with one. However, Paul wins and has to kill Jamis. We don’t get the funeral scene with Paul crying, but he does seem upset about having killed someone for the first time.

Chani

I forgot to mention that the Fremen Chani is the woman Paul had been seeing in his visions. In both, he is taken aback when he finally sees her for the first time. In the book we learn that Kynes had been her father. The movie doesn’t yet have Kynes being her mother, but maybe that will be revealed in the second movie.

The Baron’s plans

In both, the Baron has a relative named Rabban that had been in charge of Arrakis. Once the Duke is killed, the Baron puts him in charge yet again. In the book, he orders Rabban to rule harshly with the plan to have another one of his nephews, Feyd Rautha to then later swoop in and be the hero getting rid of Rabban. In the first half of the book we see Feyd a bit, but he isn’t in much. He isn’t in the first movie at all but will be in the second.

The movie ending

The movie ends with Paul saying that they are staying on Arrakis now (remember, in the movie Jessica was still thinking they would try and go back to Caladan). As they walk with the Fremen, they see in the distance that a Fremen is riding a sandworm. This being a sign of what is to come.

In the book they had also seen a Fremen riding a sandworm earlier before the fight with Jamis.

Potential movie two spoilers

Some of these details will be spoilers if they end up happening in the second movie. But in the first half of the book, we see that Gurney ends up with smugglers and that he wants revenge on Rabban for having killed Gurney’s family. We see that Hawat, Leto’s mentat, is now working for the Baron. He still thinks Jessica was the traitor, and he is caught by the Harkonnen’s. The Baron’s mentat had died from Leto’s poison, and so they keep Hawat thinking Jessica is to blame and they poison him and use the antidote as a way to keep him working for them.

A big reveal in the book that the movie has not yet told us-skip ahead if you don’t want a potentially big spoiler! We learn that Jessica is the daughter of the Baron Harkonnen! She hadn’t known her parents, but when Paul has all of those visions in the tent, this is one of the things he reveals to her.

Speaking of the Baron, we also learn in the book that he rapes young teen boys, which adds to how gross he is. “I’ll be in my sleeping chambers,” the Baron said. “Bring me that young fellow we bought on Gamont, the one with the lovely eyes. Drug him well. I don’t feel like wrestling.”

Also in the book, Stilgar tells Jessica that their own Reverend Mother is getting old and is offering her the position in the future.

Book vs Movie

There are so many more details in the book that I didn’t even get into. When there is just so much to the book, I will choose what I focus on based on what the movie focuses on. But like I said, I loved this book and would highly recommend you check it out for yourself!

I saw this movie in theaters and at the time, there were certain things I was pretty confused by, but overall, I loved it. Going into the book and movie this time around, initially I was assuming the movie would be an easy win. A story like this makes for such an incredible visual experience, and with Villeneuve at the helm how could the movie not be an even better experience than the book?? Well, just as Kynes underestimated Paul, I underestimated Frank Herbert because man was this book amazing! The movie does have stunning visuals, and I like the casting, but the story itself and the character details of the book make the book win for this one.

I have high hopes for the second movie though, so who knows, maybe the movie will win when it comes to the second half. Even though I say I prefer the book, I do want to again say I love the movie as well and highly recommend it. But there were some key scenes that I found moving that I missed not seeing in the movie-such as the scene when Paul pledges his loyalty to Kynes and when he cries over Jamis.