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An amazing science fiction journey begins when DUNE arrives from Warner Bros. Pictures! The new adaptation of the first in a series of novels by Frank Herbert features the sort of all-star cast filmmakers must dream about, all working under the director who made ARRIVAL and BLADE RUNNER 2049.
DUNE has been filmed once before, yes, and while we're fans of that original film version from 1984, there are many things the '80s version wasn't able to do as well as fans would hope for. Despite the fact that the new DUNE movie is still months away, we're so excited about the epic new adaptation that we want to get all the details down on paper. Here's everything you need to know about DUNE.
The new DUNE movie will be released on October 22, 2021. The film was shot largely in Budapest, Hungary, with production wrapping in July 2019. DUNE also features a lot of exterior footage shot in Jordan, which was done in April of the same year.
The first trailer for DUNE blew us away, and now there's a second trailer that has even more power. Check it out just above! While the first trailer is focused primraily on the perspective of Paul Atreides, this second DUNE trailer puts us inside the head of Chani, a young native of the desert planet Arrakis — aka Dune. Then it explodes into flashes of the action that ensues when the Atredeis family takes control of Dune from House Harkonnen — which, despite initial appearances, isn't actually ready to give it up.
Director Denis Villeneuve, who previously did films like ARRIVAL, BLADE RUNNER 2049, and SICARIO, is making DUNE. He's an amazing choice; Villeneuve has a tremendous gift for making outlandish scenarios feel very real, and for working with actors. Greig Fraser, who shot ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY, is the cinematographer, and Hans Zimmer is composing the music. Villeneuve wrote the script with Jon Spaihts (PASSENGERS, PROMETHEUS) and Eric Roth (FORREST GUMP, MUNICH).
To explain the story in a short form, we've got this official DUNE synopsis, from the official press release announcing the start of production:
A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, “Dune” tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive.
DUNE is both very simple — it's the story of a power struggle over one planet and the major resource it produces, which the universe relies on — and a little bit complicated. Mostly, it seems more complicated than it is because of all the names and unique factions.
In DUNE, humanity has spread to many planets in the universe. Travel between the planets is enabled by a spice — we'll just call it "spice," as most characters do — which helps so-called Navigators plot paths through space. Spice is found only on one planet: Arrakis, commonly called Dune thanks to an ecosystem which is almost exclusively desert. Spice is essential to interstellar travel, which makes spice the most valuable commodity in the universe, which makes Arrakis the most valuable place in the universe.
Planetary systems are ruled by an Emperor, Shaddam V, who has power because he maintains a hold on spice production and distribution. For years, the Emperor has allowed the ruthless Harkonnen bloodline to rule Dune. As the first novel begins, however, Dune is being handed over to a new family, the Atreides, who also happen to be the sworn enemies of the Harkonnens. Duke Leto Atreides, his consort Jessica, and their son Paul travel to Dune to assume the seat of power.
But wait! Is this all part of a behind-the-scenes plot oriented around control of the spice? Probably! Meanwhile, Paul's mother, the Lady Jessica, is part of a society of women called the Bene Gesserit. They do a lot of things, most of which have to do with manipulating power behind the scenes. They believe in the coming of a messiah, the Kiwsatz Haderach, which is basically a male child who can do all the things a Bene Gesserit woman can do, and more. Jessica has begun to wonder if her son Paul is that messiah.
Meanwhile there is a scattered but powerful native population on Dune, called the Fremen. The Fremen have their own interests, and they understand the actual workings of spice production better than anyone.
Oh yeah, there are giant sandworms that roam beneath the deserts of Arrakis. The only people who know much about the worms are the Fremen natives. Fremen eyes are permanently colored blue thanks to long-term exposure to the spice, and they are able to harness worms as steeds — even specimens that are dozens of meters long. The sandworms look really cool on the big screen, too.
With the basics of the story outlined, take a deep breath because there are a lot of great actors in the DUNE cast.
Timothée Chalamet (LADY BIRD, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, above) stars as Paul Atreides, while Rebecca Ferguson (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT, DOCTOR SLEEP) plays Paul's mother, Lady Jessica. They spend a fair amount of time together, especially in the middle of the novel. Oscar Isaac (STAR WARS) appears as Duke Leto Atreides, while Josh Brolin (AVENGERS: ENDGAME) plays the Duke's chief military commander, Gurney Halleck. Chang Chen (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON) plays the Atreides family doctor, Wellington Yueh. Last, but very not least, Jason Momoa (AQUAMAN) plays the Duke's advisor and Paul's friend, Duncan Idaho.
Outside the Atreides household, Charlotte Rampling (45 YEARS) plays the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, a Bene Gesserit sister who was once Jessica's teacher. Stellan Skarsgård ("Chernobyl") plays the grotesque Baron Harkonnen, while Dave Bautista (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) plays the brutal Harkonnen enforcer, "Beast" Rabban. David Dastmalchian (THE DARK KNIGHT RISES) plays Piter De Vries, the "human computer" advisor to the Baron.
Finally, Javier Bardem (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) plays Stilgar, the leader of a band of Fremen, the desert-savvy natives of Arrakis, while Zendaya (SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME) plays Chani, the young Fremen woman who befriends Paul.
If you know DUNE well and don't see a few key character names, don't worry! Casting for some roles hasn't been announced yet. The actors playing Thufir Hawat, Emperor Shaddam IV and his daughter, Princess Irulan, are all yet to be revealed, for example.
[Image Credit: Universal Pictures]
For starters, DUNE is more like "Game of Thrones" than STAR WARS. Sure, it is science fiction, but the real thrust of the book is the string of power games played by many different factions.
But there are a lot of ways Villeneuve's film could go. In the 1970s, super-weird Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowksy wanted to make a film version of DUNE that would be like an acid trip on the big screen. His production never happened, but you can see a look back at his efforts in the documentary JODOROWSKY'S DUNE.
David Lynch did make a film adaptation of Herbert's initial novel in the series; that movie (pictured above) was released in 1984. Lynch's DUNE is notable for amazing production design, and for introducing actor Kyle MacLachlan, with whom the filmmaker went on to collaborate with on BLUE VELVET and "Twin Peaks." Lynch's movie version of DUNE wrestles with cramming all of the book's material into two hours — and yet it is a surprisingly faithful adaptation, with many significant scenes playing out almost exactly as they do in the novel. Even the dialogue is often straight from Herbert's text.
Officially, there's just one DUNE movie being made right now. But the first book could easily be two films, and in 2018, Villeneuve said "The goal is to make two films, maybe more.” Brian Herbert, son of original author Frank Herbert, has also referenced a screenplay that would cover half of the first book. Certainly, trying to cram all the book's details into one movie nearly broke David Lynch, who has said, "That picture cut me off at the knees, maybe even a little higher." And then there's the matter of the five sequel novels also written by Frank Herbert.
The fact that Jason Momoa, a pretty major star, plays Duncan Idaho in this first DUNE movie suggests plans for a sequel. The character doesn't do too much in the first book but becomes very important in the sequels. There's also a DUNE spin-off TV series in the works, about the Bene Gesserit. Screenwriter Jon Spaihts was recently reported to have moved over from that TV series to work on the DUNE sequel, despite the fact that the sequel movie isn't officially announced.
Not exactly. Yes, Denis Villeneuve's DUNE shares source material with David Lynch's film version, but there will probably be a few big differences. For one, Lynch's version invented a sonic weapon system in order to turn some concepts from the novel into literal reality. The new DUNE will probably take a different path — the second trailer does show off some Fremen battle armor that is not explicitly mentioned in the book.
While both versions of DUNE are adapted from the novel, in this case, we expect the new movie to be fairly different from the 1984 version (and from the 2000 Sci-Fi Channel mini-series adaptation, which kept a lot of the book material but didn't have a huge budget to play with.)
All images courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures, unless otherwise indicated.
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