Dune (2021) and Dune (2024) Movie Review: Which one is worse?

Dune (2021) and Dune (2024) Movie Review: Which one is worse?

The TLDR on Dune movies from 1984, 2000, 2021, and 2024 is that they were all bad movies with Dune part two in 2024 being a little better but still below average. So there you go. No need to read more, unless you want to get to the bottom of things.

The Early Dune Movies

Just before the 2021 release of Dune, I revisited the 1984 adaptation of the award-winning Frank Herbert novel. The film proved to be disappointing with its erratic pacing and a narrative that seemed to be somewhat incoherent. It looked like they had put a large portion of the film’s budget into the first part, and then left next to nothing for the rest. This left the latter parts of the film feeling neglected and dull. At least the 1984 version had Patrick Stewart, just before he made it huge as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Soon after, I gave the 2000 adaptation a chance. It was a slight improvement over its 1984 predecessor. But to be sure, the bar had been set low although it didn’t take much to beat it. It was a mess. One particularly jarring moment featured royalty-turned-rebel Paul Atreides suddenly riding a giant worm, an addition that felt random and poorly integrated. I suppose this summed up the film’s chaotic approach, with poor pacing, lots of jumping around, and an expectation that the audience knew what the heck was going on! As if!

My interest in the story waned after these initial versions. I just got tired of the story, as I pieced it together across these two movies. It’s like watching the origin of Superman. Yes, he’s an alien from a far away dying planet who was sent to our planet to survive and thrive. Got it. How many times do I need to be told and shown that?! Batman’s parents were killed. Got it. Now tell us the story. I guess that’s why I liked the recent Spider-man series with Tom Holland. They didn’t rehash the “bitten by spider” narrative and instead got down to business. Great!

Unfortunately, the first two attempts at transforming Dune from a novel into a movie were failures. The lackluster presentations left the plot feeling overly simplistic and unengaging, despite the creative premise of interstellar conflict over the valuable ‘spice.’ This element was intriguing, mirroring real-world conflicts over scarce resources, yet the executions fell flat. I think I got tired of the story based on watching the first two versions of the movie. It just wasn’t compelling to me. It seemed simple, although creative. It was creative because the spice was an interesting idea and our future human descendants fighting over it seemed apropos.

I know that the novel goes into deep explanations about how things like artificial intelligence and computers were banned in favour of people learning to use mental capacities. But none of the movies discuss that. We are just thrust into this world. And that’s ok, to be sure. It’s just that the novel, which I haven’t had a chance to read, sounds so much better than these movies. Sure there wasn’t time in the movies to explain all of that but, wait, maybe there was! Frank Herbert’s son Brian Herbert and some others actually worked on continuing to expand the universe with more books. I wonder if this could have been a TV series but then, the first few episodes would be too boring I think. But maybe not! If they got good writers to adapt it well.

In 2021, the new Dune movie came out and I was reluctant to watch it. In 2024 when Dune 2 was released, I finally decided to watch both.

Dune (2021) – Part One

My experience with Dune in 2021 was decidedly underwhelming, particularly when considering the anticipatory buzz that surrounded its release. The film’s opening hour and a half could best be described as the cure for insomnia. It was immensely boring. I think time slowed down. To catch up, I set the speed to the final hour of the film to 1.25x and didn’t notice a difference. The movie ended more quickly and nothing looked out of place even though it was sped up a bit. That’s how sluggishly the movie progressed. Actually, it’s slower than sluggish.

Confusing Plot

The plot of Dune is lacking and confusing. There is little dialog or build up to why things are the way they are aside. Unless you’re into clichés. Then it’s cliché galore surrounding ideas such as wealth from spice mining being important for galactic power and domination. This essential element can be likened to significant mythical objects in other epic sagas, such as the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings or The Force in Star Wars. Yet, it failed to even come close to carrying the same narrative weight or intrigue. As far as viewers knew, the spice is some shiny sand. I think. Like, who knows?! This was never made clear! There isn’t much dialog, and it’s a very slow movie where I can imagine a lot of viewers not even knowing fully what’s going on. The last hour or so picks up the pace a little but there’s not much there.

Regarding the main character, Paul has a vision here and there but then suddenly in the last minute, he announces that he belongs with an entirely different group of people. Like what? Where is this even coming from?! There is so little meaningful dialog or dialog at all that it makes no sense. Then the movie ends. Like what?!

You’re watching this movie and you don’t even know what it’s about. If you didn’t read the books (or dare I say watch the other movies), you’d have little idea what was going on.


The cinematography is the only thing going for this movie. It is set with clear tones such as the dessert feeling and machines in the dessert, which work well. But while the visual effects were a significant improvement over its predecessors, they couldn’t mask the narrative voids. Let’s face it, by 1984, we had three Star Wars movies, so you’d think they knew how to make a quality movie set. By 2000, well there’s no excuse. So at least in 2021, they got that right.

Masterpiece? No.

The 2021 Dune movie is not a masterpiece by any measure, no matter what other some reviewers are saying. This movie lacks remarkable and unforgettable scenes, which on their own would signal “masterpiece caliber.” There is also no connection with the characters. Like, none. I hardly care about any of these people. There is a lack of any quotable scenes (see also above regarding little dialog!). There is nothing empowering about the movie, or at least nothing that makes you think about life when you leave the theatre kind of thing. Those are aspects of a true masterpiece. Dune 2021 is not one, in any capacity, aside from maybe the visuals and even then it’s more “good enough” than superior or breaking new ground. I do love the dragonfly helicopters though. That’s probably my favourite part, tech-wise. The limited tech that they do have is useless. Like personal shields that don’t really do much in combat. Maybe the people who give this movie five star ratings are the same ones who think Logan is a great movie. Actually, Logan makes no sense and is an insult to the X-men franchise. I don’t know how these movies get such a high ratings on IMDB.

Local Guy

I was especially hopeful since Denis Villeneuve is from just outside of Montreal and so there was a certain local pride for having a “local boy” get to direct such a huge blockbuster movie. Third time was not the charm here. It was the third time I watched this novel-turned-movie and the third time it was a waste of time. When I watched the very first Avengers movie, it was novel and a breath of fresh air and excitement. I literally had a thought that I was excited to rewatch the movie, an hour into the movie. That’s right, an hour into the movie, I was literally so excited that I already knew I would rewatch it. But watching the first hour of Dune was akin to being stuck in a tunnel during rush hour, with non-moving traffic, where I couldn’t wait to get out.

Poor Casting

Even the performances by popular Hollywood celebrities couldn’t save this bore-fest. In some cases, I think they were chosen for their big name, even if they didn’t quite fit the role. Zendaya, Stellan Skarsgard, and the list goes on… are all accomplished actors but the roles didn’t quite fit. I’ll put it to you this way: Had this been the first role of their careers, their careers wouldn’t have gone far. Even Dave Bautista, known for Guardians of the Galaxy, was decently cast but they didn’t make the best of him. Stellan Skarsgard will always be the professor in Good Will Hunting to me, but I give him leeway for roles like this. Still didn’t impress. Rebecca Fergusson is the star of Silo and it’s more where she belongs. She is ok at best in being cast here but nothing special for the role.

Watching this movie was like staring a the dessert for two and half hours, and nothing really moving, then you go back to the real world. Just so forgettable.

Dune (2024) – Part Two

Now Dune 2, that’s a whole other story. Just kidding! It was a better movie but also not even close to a masterpiece. I don’t know why people keep saying it’s an instant classic. Like, who is paid to say this?! Not only do I not care to watch the first Dune movie in any incarnation ever again, Dune 2 is basically in the same boat. Now, it is a much better movie. But I’m comparing one of the most boring sci-fi movies ever made to a “normal” sci-fi movie. And I use “normal” with a grain of salt. So this is a slightly less than average sci-fi movie with a large budget. The trailer features those giant worms coming at you and it looks epic but this movie isn’t “it.”

Casting Issues, Part Two

Christopher Walken as The Emperor? Hahahaha! <Ahem>. That took me right out of the movie. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great actor and dancer (see Fatboy Slim video Weapon of Choice for reference). But seriously, he is so distinct in the way he talks, and even looks, that this was not where he belonged. Just terrible casting.

Plot and Character Failures Are Intertwined

Plot-wise, it’s a standard revenge movie where the underdog gets some followers and they fightback and win. At least they win the first part of their plans. The third movie will take it to the next level of winning in the sense that they will win over all the “houses” and Paul will likely become the emporer. At least that’s the direction it’s going.

It’s just that the jump from being an outsider to being worshipped to being the leader who fights back is so simplified that it’s barely believable. Like what did Paul Atreides do to make the followers really believe in him? Ride the biggest worm they had ever seen? And how does he survive when the worm goes under the sand? Ok, that’s a suspension of disbelief issue and since there is so much wrong with this movie, I’ll let that one go.

This movie, like all of its predecessors, just jumps around and expects you to know made up languages and what they are referring to. With this movie, it’s more interesting because things actually happen and it’s not a complete borefest like Dune 2021. The hero’s journey is lame. Paul drinks a poisonous liquid and suddenly he wants to take over everything? And everyone just follows him? What obstacles did he overcome to transform him from a royal youth to a leader of dessert people? Nothing! He drank something, killed someone in hand to hand combat, and rode a worm.

Zendaya’s character Chani reminds me more of her role in Euphoria as a brooding youth than anything else.

Regarding the “advanced tech” of this movie, where did the Fremen people suddenly get these incredible lasers? From the ambush when they stole some tech from the soldiers? Why didn’t they use that for other things like attacking the bases or something more creative, I don’t know. And who are the villains of these movies? The emperor and house Harkonnen and their relatives? They aren’t even scary or threatening in either of these movies. They build up Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen as this vicious killer who then dies pretty easily at the hands of Paul, who isn’t even close to being on his level of fighter. If this is an interstallar political drama, it barely touches on that as well. They discuss it a bit which does give some context, thankfully, but it’s fairly limited.

Final Verdicts

Sure, some of the above seems a little random but it’s because I could go on and on about how these movies are failures. At the very best, Dune (2024) is a 2/5 film. The first one is a 1/5 and that’s just for the cinematography. Neither are worth your time. I’m sorry to say that but it’s true. I really wanted to like and love these movies. But they aren’t even good, and there are so many better movies that are more worthy of your time.

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