Dune Part Two: How The Sci-Fi Epic Challenges The Colonial Narrative

By Maria Bregman

Dune, the sci-fi epic based on the novel by Frank Herbert, has been one of the most anticipated and acclaimed films of 2024. The film, directed by Denis Villeneuve, tells the story of Paul Atreides, a young noble who is destined to lead a rebellion against a tyrannical empire that exploits the desert planet of Arrakis, also known as Dune, for its precious spice. The film, which was released in two parts, has been praised for its stunning visuals, immersive sound, and stellar cast, which includes Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, and Javier Bardem.

However, Dune is not just a spectacle of science fiction. It is also a complex and nuanced exploration of the themes of colonialism, imperialism, and environmentalism, that challenges the conventional narrative of the coloniser and the colonised. Dune Part Two, which was released on February 26, 2024, delves deeper into these themes, as Paul joins the Fremen, the indigenous people of Arrakis, and learns about their culture, religion, and history, while facing the consequences of his actions and his prophecy.

Dune And The Critique Of Colonialism

Dune, both the novel and the film, can be seen as a critique of colonialism, the practice of establishing political and economic domination over another territory and its people, often through violence, exploitation, and oppression. Dune depicts the colonial struggle between the Empire, the powerful intergalactic regime that rules over the known universe, and Arrakis, the harsh and barren planet that is the sole source of the spice, a substance that grants enhanced abilities and is essential for space travel. The Empire, along with the noble houses and the corporations, vie for control over the spice, while disregarding the rights and the needs of the Fremen, the native inhabitants of Arrakis, who have adapted to the harsh environment and have a deep connection with the land and its ecology.

Dune exposes the hypocrisy, the greed, and the brutality of the colonial system, as well as the resistance and the resilience of the colonised people. The film shows how the Empire and its allies exploit Arrakis and its resources, without caring for the environmental and social impact of their actions. The film also shows how the Fremen fight back against the invaders, using their knowledge, their skills, and their faith, to defend their home and their identity. The film also questions the role of Paul, the outsider who is seen as the messiah by the Fremen, and who leads them to a violent and bloody revolution. The film asks whether Paul is a liberator or a conqueror, a saviour or a usurper, a hero or a villain.

Dune And The Challenge Of The Colonial Narrative

Dune, both the novel and the film, also challenges the colonial narrative, the way of telling and interpreting the history and the reality of colonialism, that often favours the perspective and the interests of the coloniser, while marginalising and silencing the voice and the agency of the colonised. Dune subverts and deconstructs the colonial narrative, by offering a different and diverse perspective on the colonial situation, that acknowledges and respects the complexity and the diversity of the colonised people and their culture.

Dune Part Two, in particular, focuses on the Fremen, their way of life, their beliefs, and their aspirations, as well as their relationship with Paul and his followers. The film shows how the Fremen have a rich and sophisticated culture, that is based on a balance between survival and spirituality, between tradition and innovation, between individuality and community. The film shows how the Fremen have a unique and profound understanding of the ecology and the history of Arrakis, that is expressed through their language, their rituals, and their legends. The film shows how the Fremen have a vision and a plan for the future of Arrakis, that involves transforming the desert into a paradise, through a secret and centuries-long project of terraforming.

The film also shows how the Fremen are not a monolithic and homogeneous group, but a diverse and dynamic society, that has different factions, opinions, and interests, that sometimes clash and conflict with each other. The film shows how the Fremen are not passive and submissive victims, but active and assertive agents, who have their own agenda and their own goals, that sometimes align and sometimes diverge from Paul’s. The film shows how the Fremen are not blindly following Paul, but are critically and cautiously engaging with him, testing his loyalty, his wisdom, and his leadership.

Dune Part Two is a remarkable film that not only entertains and amazes, but also educates and enlightens, by presenting a challenging and nuanced perspective on the themes of colonialism, imperialism, and environmentalism, that are relevant and resonant in our contemporary world. The film invites us to rethink and reevaluate our assumptions and our attitudes towards the coloniser and the colonised, and to recognise and respect the diversity and the complexity of the colonised people and their culture. The film also invites us to reflect and act on the impact and the responsibility of our actions and our choices, on ourselves, on others, and on the planet.