Denis Villeneuve's new look at Dune offers us excitement and a window into what challenges the filmmaker.
When Frank Herbert sat down to write Dune he imagined worlds and details that filmmakers have struggled to adapt to the big screen for ages. David Lynch tried his hand, Jodorowsky tried his, as well.
But Dune often feels like a movie white whale, and who better to play Captain Ahab than Denis Villeneuve?
He's proven he can make money with big, heady science fiction like Arrival and balance big ideas and mythology like he did in Blade Runner 2049. In a groundbreaking interview with Vanity Fair, Denis Villeneuve opened up about what it's like taking on a Frank Herbert classic.
He said, “I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie,” he says. “The world is too complex. It’s a world that takes its power in details.”
But now we get a first look at Villeneuve's attempt.
Deeper in his talks, Villeneuve adds, “No matter what you believe, Earth is changing, and we will have to adapt. That’s why I think that Dune, this book, was written in the 20th century. It was a distant portrait of the reality of the oil and the capitalism and the exploitation—the overexploitation—of Earth. Today, things are just worse. It’s a coming-of-age story, but also a call for action for the youth.”
Villeneuve continued, “It’s a book that tackles politics, religion, ecology, spirituality—and with a lot of characters,” Villeneuve continues. “I think that’s why it’s so difficult. Honestly, it’s by far the most difficult thing I’ve done in my life.”
Wow...that's a huge bar set to jump.
Villeneuve wrote the script with Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts. Aside from the book, which is super long, a lot of time was spent crafting characters. That included taking a character historically portrayed as a man and changing them into a woman.
Sharon Duncan-Brewster plays Kynes, a peacekeeper. “What Denis had stated to me was there was a lack of female characters in his cast, and he had always been very feminist, pro-women, and wanted to write the role for a woman,” said Duncan-Brewster. “This human being manages to basically keep the peace amongst many people. Women are very good at that, so why can’t Kynes be a woman? Why shouldn’t Kynes be a woman?”
These types of changes are great to see.
Adaptations are about creating the best movie and story, that also feels accessible to wider audiences.
As the film comes together we're going to know a lot more, but these early images give us lots of reasons to be excited.
Shot in Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and on many a soundstage, Dune is set up to be a huge part of Hollywood's bounceback from corona. Only time will tell if this investment in humungous science fiction is a smart bet for the studio.
Warner Brothers is confident in Villeneuve's vision and casting choices. It feels like every image released features another famous face like Jason Momoa, Oscar Isaac, and Josh Brolin.
The movie will debut in 2 parts, with the first coming Christmas of 2020.
As of right now, Dune hits theaters on December 18th, 2020.