To help you understand where I'm coming from on this one, I've read Frank Herbert's book something like ten times. Not in several years, but it was a formative part of my life and I know it very, very well. I refused to watch David Lynch's 1984 version of the movie. I have however seen the 2000 made-for-TV mini-series: it had some problems, but I thought it was surprisingly good. And I've even seen "Jodorowsky's Dune:" that was fascinating, but I'm glad his version of the film was never made.
And now we come to Denis Villeneuve. I think of his track record as somewhat choppy. I didn't like "Incendies," and "Enemy" was seriously freaky. I found "Bladerunner 2049" disappointing, but "Arrival" is a fantastic movie. And even with the movies I didn't like ... I couldn't deny the man's talent. He has vision. He's a big fan of monochrome - I don't mean black-and-white, I mean one colour utterly dominating the screen. He uses it a lot - and I can't even say "too much" because I'm not tired of it yet. In this movie, the preferred colours are beige and brown - but then, it's set on a desert planet.
We're introduced to the Harkonnen family, and the Atreides family on planet Caladan. The two families are long-time enemies. The emperor takes the spice world Arrakis from the Harkonnens, and gives it to the Atreides. And "spice," which is an essential drug, is worth an unbelievable amount of money. Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) is our protagonist, plagued by visions of the future which increase when he comes in contact with spice. And then his family is betrayed ...
The choice of staff was excellent, just look at the cast list: Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgård, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem ... And of course Chalamet, and Zendaya - both rising stars. Many scenes are much shorter than in the book - but I'll take it, because they're appearing in order and hold together well. Liet-Kynes has been gender-swapped: it doesn't matter, if anything it's a good thing as Herbert didn't put women in positions of power outside the Bene Gesserit, and this helps a bit with that imbalance. I always thought of Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) as more emotionally controlled than she's presented here (after all, she's Bene Gesserit). She loved Paul and her husband enough to betray her order, yes, but she's excessively emotional and weepy in this version. I think this is because they've compressed her scenes too much: it doesn't give us time to see that most of the time she masters or controls these emotions.
I was frustrated when I learned before viewing this that it's only half the book, and I'm still a bit annoyed about that after seeing it. But on the plus side, the book really does need two long movies to decently contain its plot line. Overall, a very good interpretation of the book. This didn't feel like a full review to me: I guess I'm withholding full judgement until I see the other half.