Denis Villeneuve's Dune Movie
Could Be a Cli-Fi Masterpiece
in the Making
... it's considered impossible to adapt into a film.
This year, production is set to begin on the latest film adaptation of Dune, Frank Herbert's beloved fantasy epic. With maestro Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2019) behind the project, his Dune adaptation is one of the most anticipated movies of the decade, given the property's long, complicated history.
So, what is Dune actually about?
Published in 1965, Herbert's Dune is the world's best-selling climate fiction novel of all time. It's also considered one of the best books of all time, along with a seminal work in the genre. The book is set far into the future in an intergalactic feudal society where powerful noble houses fight for control over resources, armies, and planetary power. Paul Atreides is the heir to his powerful house, whose Duke Leto rules the planet of Caladan. House Atreides is ordered to take control of Arrakis, a barren desert planet with a brutal climate, but is the only place to mine Melange—a natural resource that produces a drug called Spice, which allows humanity to unlock their minds to be able to perform highly complex tasks.
On Arrakis, however, Duke Leto is betrayed by the Emperor and their rival House Harkonnen, which sets off a battle over the valuable planet of Arrakis. The planet itself is inhabited with giant sandworms and a native population known as Fremen, who, over generations, have learned to survive with water as their most precious resource and currency. When Paul is targeted as a potential messiah to lead the planet—and galaxy toward a new era—an epic story of war, betrayal, and mysticism unfolds.
Why was it so popular?
Well, upon its release, Dune received a heap of critical praise. It kicked off an entire series that included five sequels. But the book itself was considered groundbreaking for its unique depiction of the future that tackled complex issues of environmentalism and gender dynamics. It also was hailed as the seminal work of a generation fascinated with psychedelics, as the Spice substance resembles a drug that helps the user reach untapped areas of the mind.
If it was such a big deal, has it become a movie?
Well yes, and that's exactly what's so controversial. There have been many attempts to adapt Dune into a movie over the decades, most famously by film genius David Lynch in 1984. That version was a massive failure, both critically and commercially, and is considered one of the biggest flops in movie history. Other attempts have been made by Ridley Scott, Peter Berg, and even Frank Herbert's son, but none ever made it into production.
An underwhelming miniseries version was released in 2004, but there remains no movie adaptation that has done the book justice. Because of its scope—and the complex internal dialogues and depictions of psychedelic visions—many critics have considered the book impossible to adapt into a movie.
So, now we might actually get a good Dune movie?
Well, that this is being directed by Denis Villeneuve—whose fantastic Arrival was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars and Blade Runner 2049 was a visual wonder—is very promising. Villeneuve has proved himself more than capable at adapting time-bending narrative structures into films (like Arrival) and create visual masterpieces (like 2049, which included stunning scenes that would make for a very gripping Dune).
Who is going to be in the new Dune film?
This is also very promising. Timothée Chalamet will play Paul Atreides. Rebecca Ferguson is his mother, Lady Jessica. Oscar Isaac is his father, Duke Leto Atreides. Stellan Skarsgård will be the villain, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. Dave Bautista is the Baron's nephew, Glossu Rabban. Zendaya is Chani, an important woman in her Freman tribe. Javier Bardem is in talks to play Stilgar, the leader of the Fremen tribe. And Josh Brolin has joined the cast as Gurney Halleck, a minstrel warrior.
When is it supposed to be out?
Production is expected to being sometime this year, making the release date sometime in 2025, most likely.