Dune (2021), Denis Villeneuve’s latest cinematic masterpiece, is finally here. And I got an exclusive sneak preview weeks before its debut. Of course, this is not the first book-to-film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel, but it is perhaps the one fans have been waiting for.
From the critical and commercial failure of David Lynch’s 1984 film, to Richard P. Rubenstein’s miniseries in 2000, Dune has had a long, troubled journey. Reaching the big screen successfully, let alone remaining faithful to the 794 pages (883 if you include the 3 appendices, terminology section, afterword, and cartography notes) of the epic is no small task. And yet, someone has managed to do just that.
After numerous failed projects, director switches, and changing ownership rights between studios and individuals, Dune (2021) brings the property to the big screen in a way that can potentially rival the likes of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.
For those less familiar with the story of Dune, here are a few things you can expect (no spoilers, I promise!):
It’s a Two-Parter
First off, being an 800 page sci-fi epic, and introducing multiple characters, worlds, and creatures, the story is quite dense; hence the difficulty in getting a proper film adaptation off the ground. As such, the film will be a two parter, in the vein of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, IT, and the last two “Avengers” films. The filmmakers want to tell the story in an honest and genuine fashion while still making it accessible to audiences.
Do not fret, this is not a spoiler! Dune (2021) is the first film in a series that has been confirmed in the media since March of 2018, so do not be alarmed when the film ends on a cliffhanger, as there is more story to tell. Just be wary of that fact going in.
Still a Long Movie; But the More the Merrier!
As beloved as the source material is, the biggest challenge that filmmakers face when adapting Herbert’s novel is in balancing the epic story with a digestible runtime. For example, Alejandro Jodorosky faced this challenge back in the 1970s when he wanted to adapt Dune into a 10-14 hour film. However, at a runtime of 2 hours and 35 minutes, 2021’s Dune is likely to capture that sensibility.
Dune follows Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), son and heir to the Duke, Leto Atreides (Oscar Issac) and Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), Leto’s concubine and member of the Bene Gesserit, as his father acquires ownership of the desert planet Arrakis, nicknamed “Dune”.
Paul’s father, Leto Atreides, is currently at war and brings his family along to Arrakis for protection as he knows the negotiations could be a trap as they acquire the Spice, Melange, which is considered the most valuable asset in the galaxy. As Leto deals with the diplomatic relations of Arrakis and House Atreides, Paul receives visions of a woman (Zendaya), who guides him on a journey into the deep desert trenches of Arrakis.
Same, Yet Different
While Villeneuve’s Dune may be a faithful retelling of Herbert’s novel, there are some changes you will notice if you are well acquainted with the story. Firstly, the role of Dr. Liet Kyes, an ecologist, has been gender swapped from male to female, and will be played by Sharon Duncan-Brewster so as to allow for a more diverse casting process.
Many of the female archetypes in the film are elevated, so as to grant them more compelling arcs within the story. For example, Lady Jessica takes on the role of a soldier. Even the antagonist, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, is developed differently from the books to make his character a bit more complex.
Overall, the film is quite extraordinary. It combines the directing talents of Dennis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Arrival, Blade Runner 2049), and the composer Hans Zimmer (Inception, The Dark Knight, The Lion King), who turned down Christopher Nolan’s Tenet in favor of working on Villeneuve’s Dune as Dune was a dream project of his. The cast includes the likes of Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Issac, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Javier Barden, and many others.
From a cinematic standpoint, Dune is complete with all the elements that make a book-to-film adaptation both legendary and noteworthy. While a sequel is all but certain, unlike other duet film productions it has not yet been made. That largely depends on the success of Dune (2021)’s release. This is in large part a result of the pandemic, specifically its subsequent changes within film distribution and streaming. So be sure to go out and support the movie if you want to see more!
Barring the initial film’s commercial success, there are plans beyond just two Dune movies such as a third film based on Dune Messiah as well as a miniseries called “Dune: The Sisterhood”, which will focus on the group of superpowered women known as the Bene Gesserit.
Dune comes out on Friday, October 22, with early screenings starting at 6pm on Thursday, October 21. It will arrive both in theaters and on HBO Max, where you can stream the film for the first 30 days of its release.