Streaming Now: "Dune"

Service: HBO Max

Show Title: "Dune"

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The desert world of Dune is a monotonous, bleak sphere of sand. But hidden underneath the titular landform is a precious substance which grants virtual immortality, god-like prescience and the capability to travel to far-flung locales across the universe. The film, released in both theaters and on HBO Max Oct. 22, is the second adaptation of Frank Herbert's acclaimed 1965 novel, possibly the most popular science fiction book of all time, if sales are any indication. Directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac and Rebecca Ferguson, the movie is undoubtedly the year's highlight for its genre, combining thrilling visual drama with a unique story of political intrigue.

"Dune" is distinctive among a sea of other space epics by its overt rejection of futuristic technologies: set centuries after humanity destroyed all forms of artificial intelligence and banned any use of computers, the film depicts the use of analog machinery not unlike our own alongside psychic powers which resemble magic. If you expect laser crossfires, planet-hopping space travel and deus ex machina technobabble, "Dune" will surprise you instead with swords, human thinking machines and a story confined primarily to two locations. In fact, the most prominently featured technologies are nothing more than the water conservation and recycling systems necessary in an extremely arid climate.

This refreshingly simple backdrop is the perfect foil for familial rivalry: a war between two fiefdoms engineered by an insecure and power-hungry emperor. Once again betraying the sweeping scale typical of its genre, "Dune" focuses much of its runtime on the personal travails of protagonist Paul Atreides, heir to a prosperous dukedom who is forced to flee into the deep uncharted desert. Paul turns to the indigenous population of Dune for help but is forced to contend with their understandable mistrust of outsiders, who historically oppressed and enslaved them.

Near the end of the film, it becomes clear that "Dune" is only the first installment of a new franchise. I for one eagerly anticipate the next! The film is a treat for both committed sci-fi fans and anyone in search of a good action movie, thanks to its clear plot, immaculate special effects and creative repudiation of conventional sci-fi tropes.

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