Next year, November 20th 2020, director Denis Villeneuve will release the first of two Dune movies. Dune of course is the magnum opus of author Frank Herbert who released the novel in 1965. Fans of the novel and its sequels have always wanted a film adaptation that would do it justice – the 1984 David Lynch version being particularly epic for failing to do so.
But now we have Denis Villeneuve creating what he says is a faithful adaptation. To properly adapt the source material the book is divided into two movies. Filming for the first has started in February in Budapest and will be followed later on with filming in Jordan.
Dune for the uninitiated
So what is Dune for uninitiated? Dune is set 10.000 years in the future, in a galaxy which after fighting a war with thinking machines turned away from artificial intelligence. None of it is allowed. To travel through galactic space an organization called The Spacing Guild uses their super natural gifts to ‘fold’ space. This gift comes from the us of the spice mélange, a substance found only on the planet Arrakis – also known as Dune. The novel tells the story of how in this feudal society house Atreides replaces their archrivals house Harkonnen for control of Dune by order of the emperor.
Set mostly on the desert planet Dune inspired many authors and film directors. Some call it Star Wars before there was Star Wars. In fact, George Lucas ended up being sued by Frank Herbert over the resembles of Tatooine to Arrakis. Dune contains politics, religion, terraforming and a set of fantastic characters.
Casting of the Dune movie
So what can we expect from the movie? Well, Dune will have a top notch slate of actors. The main character Paul Atreides will be played by Timothee Chalamet, who is unknown to me, but Rebecca Ferguson plays Lady Jessica, Oscar Isaac plays Duke Atreides, Josh Brolin plays Gurney Halleck, Stellan Skarsgard plays Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and Dave Bautista plays Glossu Rabban. That last pick feels out of place, but Glossu Rabban is a very physical role so I see what Denis is doing.
But I am not finished, Dune is a space opera with a large number of characters. Zendaya plays Chani, Paul’s eventual love interest. David Dastmalchian (Baba Yaga-dude from Ant-Man) plays Piter De Vries the twisted henchmen to villain Baron Harkonnen. Charlotte Rampling plays Reverent Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam. Jason Momoa plays Duncan Idaho and Javier Bardem plays Stilgar. This is about as perfect a cast as I have ever seen one.
Where it could fail
For a while I have had misgivings about a Dune adaptation. Don’t get me wrong, I love to see an adaptation, but I would not want to see it flop. And I have to consider that Dune is not Star Wars nor is it The Lord of the Rings. Dune will have difficulty getting masses of people to the cinema. Blade Runner 2049 failed at the box office and the same could happen again.
Yet, there has been a noticeable uptick in Dune related news. More people are aware of the casting news and I also see more coverage about Dune on YouTube. Fans know the original book is slated to receive a faithful adaptation. What I am most curious about is the world-building director Denis Villeneuve will have to accomplish. For all its fault David Lynch’s Dune did at least conceptually look what the novel should look like. Director Alejandro Jodorowsky came up with his bizarre interpretation but that never made past the drawing board. The mini-series from 2000 had its own distinct visual style which was effective, but perhaps not truthful.
In any event, Denis has chosen Greig Fraser to do the cinematography and Hans Zimmer to perform the music. If the latter manages to create a score as epic as the 1984 adaptation we will be in good hands. That said, so far little about the movie’s production has been released. Denis has done some interviews explaining his vision, but so far fans have been left with little detail.
Who will play Princess Irulan and Emperor Shaddam
And then there is the fact we still know very little about the movie. As an example, we don’t know who will play emperor Shaddam or his daughter Princess Irulan. Without a doubt they are amongst my favorite characters, especially Irulan. And then there is count Hasimir Fenring and Thufir Hawat. I suppose it is possible that their characters are not part of the first movie, all of their roles increase as the novel progresses. But I hope that is not the case. Fans can for now only speculate who will occupy those roles. As for Irulan, my opinion runs from Olivia Wilde to Bryce Dallas Howard, but for all I know Emilia Clarke or Evan Rachel Wood could be cast.
It will be a fantastic movie!
So will Dune succeed? It will from a technical point of view, I have no doubt the cast and creative staff will produce a movie series loved by film buffs. Yet, Blade Runner 2049 failed at the box office. Arguably that movie was too long, it became self-indulgent near the end. So I can only hope the director has learned from that experience. the casting of Zendaya would make me think that he does.
Dune: The Sisterhood
Meanwhile we are also getting a series set in the Dune universe. Dune: The Sisterhood will focus on the Bene Gesserit sisterhood who secretly orchestrate major events. Denis will be involved as a producer. I expect the series to air just before the movie does. As the Dune had its fair share of Game of Thrones material (sex and nudity) I expect the series to focus on that. However the series is described as a prequel while the best material involving the Bene Gesserit takes part in Frank Herbert’s sequel novels.