Dune Is Almost Entirely Faithful to the Books – Here Are the 9 Key Differences
After a long wait aggravated by the global pandemic, Dune, one of 2021’s most highly anticipated movies, is finally here! Although the beloved eponymous 1965 sci-fi novel by Frank Herbert has seen many screen adaptations to date, none match the meticulousness and creative grandiosity of Denis Villeneuve’s latest Timothée Chalamet-led directorial venture. While the first of the planned two-part adaptation deftly distills the essence of the first half of the source material, some details from the novel are either altered or omitted altogether in this paper-to-screen transformation. Keep reading to find the key differences between the highly revered book and the Villeneuve-helmed movie.
The Introduction to Arrakis
The opening sequence of the movie introduces Arrakis and their subjugation concisely through narration. Here, Chani (played by Zendaya) is the voice behind the narration, whereas we see Princess Irulan (the eldest daughter of the Padishah Emperor, Shaddam Corrino IV) serving as a de facto narrator in the form of epigraphs before each new chapter in the book. With the second part most likely coming down the pipeline, we might see her screen equivalent in the second installation of Dune.
No Mention of a Mentat
The universe of Herbert’s Dune is immensely intricate at times. While there’s a deluge of complex terminology in the novel, not everything makes it into the movie. One notable absence is the mention of a Mentat – a class of Imperial citizens trained for supreme accomplishments, or “Human computers” with evolutionary analytical and computational powers of veritable degree – despite showing two Mentats in the movie (Thufir Hawat of House Atreides and Piter De Vries of House Harkonnen).
Liet Kynes Is Gender Swapped
Readers of the book are well aware the character of Liet Kynes – the ecologist and Judge of the Change appointed by the Imperium to ensure there is a fair transfer of power over Arrakis from the Harkonnen to House Atreides – is a man. However, the 2021 movie retcons Kynes as a woman (portrayed by Sharon Duncan-Brewster). It is one of the refreshing alterations in the new adaptation.
The Rituals of a Crysknife
When the Atreides first arrive on the Arrakis, Lady Jessica decides on Shadout Mapes to be her servant, who presents her with the fabled crysknife of Arrakis. The highly sought-after blade is made from a tooth of Shai-Hulud – or the sandworms – and must not be sheathed unblooded, as per the rituals. In the book, Jessica draws a minor scratch on Mape’s chest before sheathing the blade to keep up with the convention. This tidbit is missing in the movie.
Paul's Near-Death Experience in the Desert
When Paul, Duke, Gurney, and Kynes go on an aerial inspection of the spice mine, they witness a dangerous situation when a carryall fails to rescue a crawler with several workers inside as a sandworm wriggles progressively near underneath the desert surface.
In the adrenaline-filled scene from the movie, Paul has a vivid prescience in the middle of the desert as he’s helping the workers escape, which renders him sitting motionless in the sand as the sandworm approaches. Eventually, Gurney comes and jolts Paul out of his reverie and saves his life by the skin of his teeth. However, in the book, Paul never leaves the ornithopter. Instead, he watches in horror as the wrath of the sandworm unfolds from the safety of their aircraft.
Speculation on the Identity of the Traitor
One of the running subplots of the book is the speculation of the traitor among the House of Atreides. In the book, Hawat sincerely suspects Jessica is the one who sells out the noble clan to the Harkonnens, leading to the ultimate downfall of the Atreides on Arrakis. The movie doesn’t delve too deeply into this plot line, however. Instead, it simply reveals to the viewer Dr. Yueh’s deceit. With Hawat and Gurney missing from the second half of the movie, it’s a possibility they might follow up on the conspirators in Dune: Part 2.
The Death of Liet Kynes
While Liet Kynes serves as an integral aid to Lady Jessica and Paul’s survival in the ruthless climate of the Arrakis deserts by providing them with necessary tools, she herself bites the dust not long after that. While the movie lays out a cinematic scenario for Kynes’s untimely death, the book paints a different picture.
In the movie, while surrounded by Harkonnen warriors poised to kill her, she bravely summons a sandworm by pounding on the ground, which then comes and engulfs her along with the Harkonnens. In the book, however, she’s left to fend for herself in the harsh Arrakis desert without so much as a stillsuit or water for survival. She ultimately dies from exhaustion, dehydration, and delirium while in the throes of a spice blow.
Chani and Paul's Exchange
In the movie, after a Fremen named Jamis challenges Paul to a trial by combat, Chani gives Paul a Crysknife (the one he saw in his prescient visions). Although she fully expects him to lose, the gift is an act of kindness, as wielding it in battle will allow him to die with honour. In the book, however, Chani gives Paul detailed guidance to help him win the faceoff instead. Thus, the nature of their interaction in the movie is more nuanced.
Jamis and Paul's Fight Sequence
The climax of Dune: Part 1 doesn’t quite play out as it does in the book. In the source material, when Stilgar agrees to take Paul and Jessica to the Sietch Tabr following a close call with the sandworm, they all simply return to their settlement. It is a bit later that Jamis challenges Paul to a fight to the death. The movie also leaves out a scene where the Fremen waste no time preserving the water from the corpse of Jamis following the dual.