Next big thing?
It seems nowadays that the entertainment industry thrives on sequels, adaptations and reboots; and the soon to be released Dune seems to fit these categories. However, with a stellar cast, visionary director and killer story behind it, I'm not brushing this one aside, instead putting it up there as one of my most anticipated films of this year.
Firstly, what is Dune? Well, that question has a bit of a longer answer than you might expect. Dune was originally a sci-fi novel written in 1965 by Frank Herbert. Since its release, Dune has been smothered with critical acclaim, winning several awards, including the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. It remains one of the world's best selling sci-fi novels and is regarded as the best science fiction book of all time. Much of the books praise is derived from the level of creativity and detail Herbert poured into it, creating a complex universe which has its own ecology, politics, religion and philosophies. One critic even stated that the only thing comparable to Dune, was Lord of the Rings; and that is some high praise indeed. However, to credit Dune as simply a novel would be false, because in actuality, its a franchise. The main story of Dune is a chronical of six books, written by Frank Herbert himself, and in 1999, his son, Brain Herbert, along with Kevin J. Anderson, expanded the Dune universe with a combined total of 14 prequels and sequels to Herbert's original saga. Since then, Dune has served as a foundation of the science fiction genre, influencing many movies, TV shows and games, even to this day. Yet, what is Dune about?
The story of Dune follows the story of young Paul Atreides. Paul belongs to the noble House Atreides, which is one of many noble houses in Dune, all of whom operate within the universe wide empire known as the Imperium. In the story, the emperor Shaddam IV, reassigns House Atreides from their home planet of Caladan, to the barren wastes of the planet of Arrakis, where they are to oversee the harvesting and collection of a substance known as melange. This substance is important in the world of Dune for its capabilities regarding the improvement of the human race, granting humans long lifespans and superhero like abilities in some instances. However, this reassignment is in fact a trap set by the emperor who sees House Atreides as rivals, and conspires with the Atreides' long time rival, House Harkonnen, to kill Paul's father, Leto. Paul's role in the story however, is far grander than that of squabbling nobility. Paul's mother belongs to a secretive and mysterious organisation of sorceresses known as the Bene Gesserit, who for years had tried to create an all powerful super-being they called the Kwisatz Haderach; and it just so turns out, that Paul shows signs of being that powerful being. Following the trap set by the emperor and House Harkonnen, Paul and his mother are forced to flee into the wastes of Arrakis, where they seek to become allies with the local people, the Fremen. Over the course of Dune, Paul must learn to adapt to the hostile, and near inhospitable, world he now lives in, as well as gain the trust and support of the Fremen people. Paul is then set on a journey where the very future of the universe is at stake.
Now that is a lot to digest, but I did say Dune was complex. When I try to simplify it, I often think of it as Game of Thrones meets Star Wars, however even that is an oversimplification. Regardless, the story not only intrigues me, but is one of the many reasons I'm already eagerly anticipating the films release. This won't be the first time we've seen Dune on our screens though.
There has already been a few adaptations of Dune in the past, most notably, the 1984 movie adaptation by David Lynch, and the Syfy channel's 2000 miniseries, Frank Herbert's Dune. The 1984 David lynch movie adaptation was divisive to say the least. Lynch, at the time, had never read the book, been interested in sci-fi or heard of the story for that matter, which if you ask me, raise immediate red flags for a director adapting something as big as Dune. Yet he seemed to pull it off; almost. Frank Herbert himself credited the film as being a fairly good interpretation of his work, saying "They've got it. It begins as Dune does. And I hear my dialogue all the way through. There are some interpretations and liberties, but you're gonna come out knowing you've seen Dune." Though while the story's creator is probably the only critic that matters, reviews for the film weren't as favorable, and the movie was said to be a mediocre representation of the source material, failing to capture what made Dune so special. Syfy's series adaptation, Frank Herbert's Dune, was (to my surprise) regarded somewhat highly among critics and the industry alike. The adaptation was a three-part miniseries, which chronicled the events of the original Dune novel, and even spawned a follow-up series which adapted the second and third novels. The series won two Emmy awards in 2001, both Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie, and Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special. As a whole, the series was popular, and unlike its movie predecessor, was supposedly respectful and true to the original source material. So, if Dune's history of adaptations is anything to go on, for this years Dune to be a success, it really has to capture the essence of what made Dune, Dune, reflecting the complexity of the world and story created by Frank Herbert years ago. However, can it deliver? I definitely think it can.
In 2016, Legendary entertainment acquired the film and TV rights to Dune, and in 2017, started work on producing a new adaptation for the silver screen. Legendary are responsible for a variety of well known movies and TV shows, including, Blakkklansmen, The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, Amazon's Carnival Row and Netflix series Lost in Space.
Since the films announcement, news has been all over the place, and at one point, it seemed as though nearly every actor in Hollywood was going to be on the films roster. However, we now have a definitive cast, and it does not disappoint. The cast is comprised of some of the industries best, including Dave Bautista, Stellan Skarsgard, Jason Mamoa, Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, Zendaya, Josh Brolin, Oscar Issac, and the icing on this already delicious cake, Timothée Chalamet. Chalamet is set to play the lead role of Paul Atreides, with Oscar Issac playing Pauls father, Leto Atreides, and I couldn't be more excited; after all I, like most people, am always up for more Chalamet. The cast is brimming with talent, all of whom I'm sure will deliver fantastic performances, and who I hope, will make this film something special.
Perhaps the most important element of this movie however, is director Denis Villeneuve. Villeneuve is no stranger to the sci-fi genre, with his two previous movies being first encounter thriller Arrival, and the underrated Blade Runner 2049. Both films highlighted Villeneuve's aptness for the sci-fi genre, providing both gripping stories but also, and most importantly, a living, unique and realized setting. This aspect I feel is best reflected in Blade Runner 2049 (a film that was in my opinion, heavily underrated). Villeneuve perfectly captured the world of Blade Runner on-screen, creating a fantastical yet dreary cyberpunk setting that really makes the film unique and captivating to watch. Thus, Villeneuve's attention to detail and world building ability is something I feel makes him the perfect choice to direct this years adaptation of Dune, because if anyone can bring Frank Herbert's original vision to the screen, its him.
Despite my optimism, I can't say for certain whether this will be the great epic it is hyped up to be. All I can say is that the potential is there: from the studios behind it, the frankly unbelievable cast and a fantastic director, it has all the right ingredients to not only be the next big thing, but something truly special; and that is why I believe this is one to watch.