Dune Reviews Have Arrived, Here's What Critics Have To Say About The Sci-Fi Epic

Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson in Dune

Okay, sci-fi fans, prepare yourself. The highly anticipated epic Dune, a feature film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel, is finally almost here. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive. The sci-fi epic will feature an absolutely legendary cast including Timothée Chalamet as Paul, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem.

Dune will finally debut in theaters on October 22, with a month-long simultaneous release on HBO Max. Critics have started releasing their reviews of the film, so let’s check out what they’re saying.

We’ll start with the home team, as usual. CinemaBlend’s own Eric Eisenberg, a huge fan of Herbert’s book, absolutely loved Dune, rating it 4.5 out of 5 stars. He thought it was spectacular and jaw-dropping and commended many aspects of the epic, one being the extremely talented ensemble. He also praised Villeneuve’s ability to translate the source material without compromise, something that will surely appease fans. Eisenberg did note that the film is defined by being a Part one (it’s an adaptation of only the first part of Herbert’s novel), so it doesn’t exactly provide conclusions. But that just means that this movie demands a part two, and Eisenberg said:

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is a perfect adaptation of one of the great literary sci-fi epics.

Leah Greenblatt from Entertainment Weekly is also singing Dune’s praises, though she echoed Eisenberg’s sentiments that this movie begs for a sequel that you can watch immediately after. Greenblatt commended Villeneuve’s stunning visual storytelling, though she thought that if anything falls flat, it’s the sandworms. She also enjoyed every performance, and noted that this epic is packed to the brim with legendary actors. But Greenblatt also commented that anyone not familiar with Herbert’s book might be a little lost. She said:

Minus the fuller context that Herbert's extended universe and dense mythology provides, the meaning of it all feels both endlessly beguiling and just out of reach: a dazzling high-toned space opera written on sand.

Deadline’s Pete Hammond thought Dune was “spectacular” and a much better adaptation of Herbert’s novel than David Lynch’s 1984 film. He commended Villeneuve’s ability to focus on the “heart and soul” of Herbert’s story, as well as the cinematography and score from Hans Zimmer. Hammond also praised the cast, noting that Chalamet was perfectly cast as Paul. He said:

Villeneuve can safely now add Dune (part one) to his list of impressive deep dives into very distinct sci-fi worlds.

David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter enjoyed the science fiction epic overall, but notes that viewers not caught up on the original source material might totally zone out. He highly commended the spectacle of the cinematography and direction from Villeneuve and the epic cast, along with the costuming by Jacqueline West and Robert Morgan and the production design from Patrice Vermette. But Rooney argued that the film doesn’t make the world-building digestible enough and lacks enough interesting action, saying:

Perhaps the biggest issue with Dune, is that this is only the first part, with the second film in preproduction. That means an awful lot of what we’re watching feels like laborious setup for a hopefully more gripping film to come — the boring homework before the juicy stuff starts happening.

Variety’s Owen Gleiberman thought Dune was spectacular enough… until it wasn’t. He argued that while the epic was mesmerizing in its world-building, it lost steam after a while and ran out of tricks, and became a lot less interesting. Gleiberman noted:

It’s not just that the story loses its pulse. It loses any sense that we’re emotionally invested in it.

Well, that was a pretty mixed bag of reviews. Critics seem to enjoy Dune overall or remain a bit disappointed. But audiences will be able to decide for themselves when the epic release in theaters on October 22.

Be sure to stick around on CinemaBlend to see if a Dune sequel actually gets green-lit (Villeneuve remains optimistic about those chances). In the meantime, you can plan your next movie-going experience with our new movie release guide.

Sydney Skubic