Devoted fans have been waiting many years for the first look at one of the most anticipated movies of the year, if not the decade.
Fans waiting years for a glimpse at what is one of the most anticipated movies of the year – if not the decade – have finally got their wish.
We’re not being hyperbolic, that’s how big a project the upcoming cinematic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune is, an iconic sci-fi tome which has not always had an easy time of it when it comes to transitioning to screen.
There have been two previous screen versions – David Lynch’s controversial 1986 film and a panned TV miniseries in 2000 – but there is much more excitement for this one.
After several aborted attempts, French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049, Sicario and Arrival) was announced as taking on the ambitious project.
The extremely stacked cast includes Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista, Stellan Skarsgard and Zendaya.
Due for release on Boxing Day in Australia, Warner Bros has released the first trailer overnight and it is exhilaratingly epic.
The three-minute video is full of big moments such as thrilling fights, characters being tested, and the enormous sandworms Herbert promised – plus the famous line, “fear is the mind killer”.
What’s evident from the trailer is the scale of Dune, which was shot on location in Jordan and Norway in addition to its studio filming.
For a sci-fi epic with fantasy elements, Villeneuve used predominantly practical effects rather than CGI. In an online press panel hosted by Stephen Colbert with Villeneuve and the cast, Chalamet revealed that he only shot two scenes in front of green screens.
Villeneuve said shooting on location in the desert was one of his of conditions for taking on Dune, a book that he recalls as a vivid experience when he read it in his youth.
“I had to shoot the movie in the real desert,” Villeneuve explained. “My argument was they didn’t shoot Jaws in a swimming pool.
“In order to bring Dune to the screen, I needed to be as close to nature as possible and make Dune as close to us as possible so when people see the movie, they will be amazed by the power of the landscape.
“Most importantly, they will feel strangely at home because I think it’s important from a subconscious way to feel that this could be so real because what the movie is about is it’s about us and I want the audience to feel deep inside their soul what I was feeling as I was reading the book.”
The story of Dune is focused on Paul Atreides (Chalamet), the son of Duke Leto (Isaac), a nobleman who is asked to oversee Arrakis, a perilous desert planet with a precious and magical spice.
Paul is the heir to not just the Duke’s throne but also a great destiny, and Dune traffics in grand concepts including fate and power.
Herbert’s novel was published in 1965 and is regarded by many as a foundational sci-fi text which has influenced many genre TV shows and movies since its publication.
Villeneuve said he first discovered the book when he was 15 years old, and the pressure he feels with making this film is that he’s dealing with having to live up to his younger self’s dreams.
If nothing else, Villeneuve has impressed, at the very least, his cast. Every Dune cast member in the virtual panel was so effusive in their praise for Villeneuve and their experience working on the film, it’s almost like they joined the cult of Denis.
Brolin likened the experience to being reminded on how to connect with a “communal bliss”. Chalamet said it was life changing and humbling, while Isaac said it was unlike anything he’d been part of before.
Isaac added. “It was completely thrilling to have been there with Denis, being on the set working with these incredible people, and watching Timothee, who is someone that is clearly so thoughtful, sensitive and well-spoken.
“The enthusiasm we had on set, from the little bits of the film I’ve seen, it is translated onto the screen.”
Momoa went even further, almost throwing under the bus every other director he’s worked with in his fervour for Villeneuve.
“I’ve never worked with a director on this scale,” the star of Aquaman and Game of Thrones said. “Denis is a cinematic genius and generally all the action stuff I’ve done has been nowhere even remotely close to Denis.
“This film has set the bar in how I want to have my career go. Working with Denis and with these actors, I learnt so much every day.
“I don’t ever want to go back to not being treated that way. I felt beautiful on this film, it’s a weird thing to say but I felt very beautiful. I laughed and learnt so so much.”
But it wasn’t all easy, given the arduous conditions of filming in the heat of the desert, and the complicated costumes they had to wear.
Momoa recalled a particularly challenging moment.
“Denis had me run across the desert and the sun was setting and we had to get the shot. I had to run through this windstorm to Timothee and I couldn’t see where I was going.
“I didn’t want to fall on my face and I didn’t want to disappoint Denis but I’m not the best runner but I was like ‘I’m not giving up’.
“The amount of chafing and sweat that built up! But I said, ‘I’m not giving up’ but inside I was crying like a little baby. No way do I want to be the black sheep of this production.”
Villeneuve split Herbert’s book into two parts and the movie being released into cinemas this December will only be the first part of the story – although there is a natural midpoint in the novel and the film will function as a stand-alone story.
Chalamet called Dune a “coming-of-age” tale that will resonate with not just the youth of 2020 but with everyone.
Villeneuve added: “Dune is a call for change but it’s also a movie about the capacity for adaptation.
“The people who survive will be the people who can adapt to change because there are lots of changes that are coming in the world through the next decades with climate change.
“We will need to change our ways of living and dealing with nature and it takes a lot of courage and effort. Dune has all these topics and that’s why I think Dune is more relevant now than ever.”