Denis Villeneuves Dune is primarily about Paul Atreides. While he and most of his friends dance around the fact that he is the long-prophesied chosen man destined to end the war between House Atreides, House Harkonnen, we meet him when he's far from the legend messiah king hell will one day become. Frank Herberts novel, as well as its many adaptations, portrays Paul Atreides initially as a precocious young man whose relationship with his father Leto, planet Arrakis duke, and his mother Lady Jessica is what makes him unique in the eyes those who don't know him.
The only thing that Pauls (Timothe Chamet) immediate family don't know about him is how long it took for the Bene Gesserit to create a powerful political figurea Kwisatz haderach. They were a secretive group of bewitching women who controlled the ability to control time and space. Villeneuve's film is much more reserved than Lynchs Dune which was prone to diving into the more bizarre elements of franchise lore.
Jessica is a loving mother to her son, but she's also a Bene Gesserit member. She has spent most of her life acting out orders of the organization that are designed to keep a close eye on the minds and decisions of key galaxy leaders. Jessica does not follow the Bene Gesserits plan to have a daughter, but she deviates in key moments from her determination and love for Leto. Villeneuve's film reveals how Jessica raised Paul in the Bene Gesserit way. This is a major affront to Bene Gesserit. As impressive as Dunes' battle scenes and large-scale battle scenes may be, the movie is most compelling when it focuses on Jessica and Pauls fundamentally disturbing the Bene Gesserits plans for Jessica to have a daughter that would one day become the Kwisatz Haderach.
The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling), arrives on the planet Caladan in order to meet Paul. Her knowledge of his prophetic dreams makes it easy for her to suspect that the Kwisatz haderach is him and, consequently, what Jessicas has done. Dune wouldn't be complete without a spotlight on Mohaim's use of the Voice to warn Paul. Mohib's way to get a feel for Paul as a person is through the gom jabbar. This is a Bene Gesserit exam that measures a person's self-control. The excruciating pain emanating from the box overwhelms Paul in both the novel as in Villeneuves Dune. This can be seen as Mohaim taking a little revenge on Jessica and Paul.
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Dunes' larger story is about the emotional dynamic between mother and son. Villeneuves film explores this to a great extent. However, Villeneuves film spends far too much time focusing on Paul (often staring off into the distance). Jessica is more than her connections to the Bene Gesserit. However, we meet Jessica at a time when she is facing a defiance of the order in ways she cannot hide from them. As Villeneuves Dune explains, the Kwisatz Haderach was born a generation before the Bene Gesserit knew. This is what Jessica and Paul need to know.
Dunes' underhanded and unintentional reneging on their word is one story turn that is less inspired, but the Bene Gesserits attempts to stop them killing Paul is worth watching because of what it means for the Dune sequel that Warner Bros. has just announced. It is hard to believe that Mohaim and the Bene Gesserit would be so gullible as to trust the Harkonnens, who are master manipulators with mental abilities that sometimes cross over into the supernatural. Mohaims feelings regarding Jessica's duplicity aside, Paul being the Kwisatz Haderach likely gives her reason for joining his orbit in Herberts novels. The Kwisatz Haderach, Dunes' answer to the One, is much like the Kwisatz Haderach. However, there is more to this story than what is obvious. How Mohaim manages to maintain control over Paul and the deeper meaning of why a male Kwisatz Haderach presents such a threat to their group is one of the most promising signs about the future.
Dune is available now on HBO Max and in cinemas.
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