If there’s one film I can’t wrap my mind around, it’s Dune. Based on the legendary novel by Frank Herbert that revitalized science fiction, fans have been waiting for a proper Dune adaptation for years, after David Lynch’s admirable failure and a faithful, yet flawed miniseries at the turn of the millennium. Now, Academy Award-nominated director Denis Villeneuve is releasing his take on the epic, and while he’s a visually sharp director, and the cast is truly impressive, I can’t help but feel this is going to be a major bomb waiting to happen.
In the distant future, Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) is sent to the desert planet of Arrakis in order to mine “the spice,” an all-powerful drug that fuels all aspects of human life. Known as Dune, Arrakis is a dangerous planet due to the enemy tribes of the Fremen and the notorious (and iconic) sand worms. When a coup undermines Leto’s authority and leaves him captured by his archenemy Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård), Leto’s concubine Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and the heir to House Artreides Paul (Timothée Chalamet) must escape into the Arrakis deserts. Now stranded without allies or supplies, Paul and Jessica must ally themselves with a mysterious Fremen named Chani (Zendaya) and plot to retake the throne and rescue their captured patriarch.
I’ll admit up front that this trailer didn’t wholeheartedly move me. There’s nothing here that tells me that this is a “must see” film, or convinces me that Villeneuve has tapped into the emotional core of the books. In fact, I’m a little worried he may be missing the point – the trailer seems to indicate he views Paul as a heroic figure, while Herbert’s novels paint him as an ironic Messiah who becomes convinced of his own heroism and tragically leads to despotism. And I really don’t get is why so many view this as a potential future Oscar-winning blockbuster. Dune’s audience has always been niche, and while I enjoy Villeneuve’s work, he’s only ever had one hit. This is going to be Blade Runner 2049 all over again, and at least that had an interesting core – I’m not sure from this trailer that the filmmakers understand the themes of the book. That said, it’s impossible to deny how gorgeous this film looks in certain places. In fact, nothing I’ve seen all year can compare to that interpretation of the Sand Worm. We’ll find out soon enough what Villeneuve can accomplish, as Dune will “officially” be released (supposedly) on December 18th. You can watch the full trailer below.