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Dune (2021 film)

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Dune
Dune (2021 film).jpg
Release poster
Directed byDenis Villeneuve
Screenplay by
Based onDune
by Frank Herbert
Produced by
  • Denis Villeneuve
  • Mary Parent
  • Cale Boyter
  • Joe Caracciolo Jr.
Starring
CinematographyGreig Fraser
Edited byJoe Walker
Music byHans Zimmer
Production
company
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • September 3, 2021 (2021-09-03) (Venice)
  • October 22, 2021 (2021-10-22) (United States)
Running time
155 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$165 million[2]
Box office$8.4 million[3]

Dune (titled onscreen as Dune: Part One)[4] is a 2021 American epic science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve with a screenplay by Jon Spaihts, Villeneuve, and Eric Roth. It is the first of a planned two-part adaptation of the 1965 novel of the same name by Frank Herbert, which covers roughly the first half of the book. The film stars an ensemble cast including Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem.

Dune premiered at the 78th Venice International Film Festival on September 3, 2021. Warner Bros. Pictures theatrically released the film internationally on September 15, 2021,[5] and then in the United States on October 22, where it will have a simultaneous release on the HBO Max streaming service for 31 days.[6]

Premise

In the far future of humanity, Duke Leto Atreides accepts the stewardship of the dangerous desert planet Arrakis, also known as Dune, the only source of the most valuable substance in the universe, "melange" (also called "spice"), a drug that extends human life, provides superhuman levels of thought, and makes faster-than-light travel practical. Though Leto knows the opportunity is an intricate trap set by his enemies, he takes his Bene Gesserit concubine Lady Jessica, young son and heir Paul, and most trusted advisors to Arrakis. Leto takes control of the spice mining operation, which is made perilous by the presence of giant sandworms. A bitter betrayal leads Paul and Jessica to the Fremen, natives of Arrakis who live in the deep desert.

Cast

Production

Background

Shortly after publication in 1965, Dune was identified for potential film prospects, and the rights to adapt the novel to film have been held by several producers since 1971. Multiple attempts to make such a film have been made, and it is considered to be a difficult work to adapt to the screen owing to its breadth of content.[7][8] Famously, filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky had acquired the rights in the 1970s to make an extravagant fourteen-hour adaptation of the book, but the project fell apart. The effort to make the film was later documented in the documentary film Jodorowsky's Dune released in 2013.[9] There have been two separate live-action adaptations released prior to this film: 1984's Dune produced by Raffaella De Laurentiis and directed by David Lynch,[10][11] and a 2000 miniseries on the Sci Fi Channel, which was produced by Richard P. Rubinstein, who held the Dune film rights since 1996.[12]

In 2008, Paramount Pictures announced that they had a new feature film adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune in development with Peter Berg set to direct.[13] Berg left the project in October 2009,[14] with director Pierre Morel brought on to direct in January 2010,[15] before Paramount dropped the project in March 2011 as they could not come to key agreements with their rights expiring back to Rubinstein.[16]

Development

Denis Villeneuve has stated in interviews that making a new Dune adaptation had been a life-long ambition of his. He was hired to direct in February 2017.

On November 21, 2016, it was announced that Legendary Pictures had acquired the film and TV rights for Dune.[17][18] In December 2016, Variety reported that director Denis Villeneuve was in talks with the studio to direct the film.[19] In September 2016, Villeneuve expressed his interest in the project, saying that "a longstanding dream of mine is to adapt Dune, but it's a long process to get the rights, and I don't think I will succeed."[20] Villeneuve said that he felt he was not ready to direct a Dune movie until he had completed projects like Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, and that with his background in science fiction films, "Dune is my world."[21] By February 2017, Brian Herbert, son of Frank and author of later books in the Dune series, confirmed that Villeneuve would be directing the project.[22]

Many heads of department from Villeneuve's previous film, Blade Runner 2049 returned for Dune, or were attached at one time: John Nelson was hired as the visual effects supervisor for the film in July 2018, but has since left the project.[23] It was announced in December 2018 that cinematographer Roger Deakins, who was anticipated to reunite with Villeneuve on the film, was not working on Dune and that Greig Fraser was coming onto the project as director of photography.[24] In January 2019, Joe Walker was confirmed to be serving as the film's editor.[25] Other crew include: Brad Riker as supervising art director; Patrice Vermette as production designer; Paul Lambert as visual effects supervisor; sound designer Theo Green is also supervising sound editor with Mark Mangini;[26] Gerd Nefzer as special effects supervisor; and Thomas Struthers as stunt coordinator.[27] Dune will be produced by Villeneuve, Mary Parent, and Cale Boyter, with Tanya Lapointe, Brian Herbert, Byron Merritt, Kim Herbert, Thomas Tull, Jon Spaihts, Richard P. Rubinstein, John Harrison and Herbert W. Gain serving as executive producers and Kevin J. Anderson as creative consultant.[28][29] Game of Thrones language creator David Peterson was confirmed to be developing languages for the film in April 2019.[30]

Writing

In March 2018, Villeneuve stated that his goal was to adapt the novel into a two-part film series.[31] Villeneuve ultimately secured a two-movie deal with Warner Bros. Pictures, in the same style as the two-part adaptation of Stephen King's It in 2017 and in 2019. He stated that "I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie" as Dune was "too complex" with "power in details" that a single film would fail to capture.[32] However, all subsequent dealings were to secure the production of the first film, and new production deals will need to be made to start production for the second film.[33]

Eric Roth was hired to co-write the screenplay in April,[34] and Jon Spaihts was later confirmed to be co-writing the script alongside Roth and Villeneuve.[35] Villeneuve said in May 2018 that the first draft of the script had been finished.[36][37] Brian Herbert confirmed by July 2018 that the latest draft of the screenplay covered "approximately half of the novel Dune."[38] Legendary CEO Joshua Grode confirmed in April 2019 that they plan to make a sequel, adding that "there's a logical place to stop the [first] movie before the book is over."[39] In November 2019, Spaihts stepped down as showrunner on the Dune: The Sisterhood TV prequel series to focus on the second film.[40]

While Villeneuve had seen Lynch's adaptation of Dune and he respected both Lynch and the film, he does not expect to build upon any elements from that, saying that "I'm going back to the book, and going to the images that came out when I read it" when he was a teenager.[41] Villeneuve said of when he had first seen Lynch's adaption that "there are parts that I love and other elements that I am less comfortable with. So it's like, I remember being half-satisfied", and that there was "still a movie that needs to be made about that book, just a different sensibility."[42] Further, Villeneuve does not plan to incorporate concepts that Jodorowsky had laid out for his attempt for a Dune film in the mid-1970s, as Villeneuve stated that "Jodorowsky is a very unique visionary. He has a very strong, unique vision. I am a total different human being. It would be very presumptuous and arrogant for me to try".[43]

In adapting the book written in the 1960s for the 21st century, Villeneuve wanted to reflect on realities that have happened related to overexploitation of the Earth, and considered his screenplay "a coming-of-age story, but also a call for action for the youth".[32] Other changes included altering some of the arcs of the female characters in the book. According to Rebecca Ferguson, who was cast as Lady Jessica, "Denis was very respectful of Frank's work in the book, [but] the quality of the arcs for [many] of the women have been brought up to a new level. There were some shifts he did, and they are beautifully portrayed now."[32] Lady Jessica was given an expanded role as a soldier as well as being part of the Bene Gesserit, which the studio labeled as a "warrior priestess", comparing to the joking label of "space nun" that Villeneuve felt the book gave across.[32] Dr. Liet Kynes, the ecologist on Arrakis who is male in the novel, was also given to a female lead Sharon Duncan-Brewster to help expand the cast diversity.[32] Villeneuve also wanted to move the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen from being a caricature as he was presented in the novel to a more complex antagonist.[32]

Casting

Top row: Timothée Chalamet (left), Rebecca Ferguson and Oscar Isaac respectively play the roles of Paul Atreides, Lady Jessica, and Leto Atreides.
Bottom row: Zendaya (left), Javier Bardem and Stellan Skarsgård respectively play the roles of Chani, Stilgar, and Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.

In July 2018, it was reported that Timothée Chalamet had entered final negotiations to play the lead in the film, Paul Atreides.[44] In September 2018, Rebecca Ferguson entered negotiations to join the film to play Atreides' mother, Lady Jessica.[35] She confirmed her casting in January 2019.[45]

In January 2019, Dave Bautista,[46] Stellan Skarsgård,[47] Charlotte Rampling,[48] Oscar Isaac,[49] and Zendaya joined the cast.[50] In February 2019, Javier Bardem,[51] Josh Brolin,[52] Jason Momoa,[53] and David Dastmalchian were cast.[54] Stephen McKinley Henderson joined in March,[29] with Chang Chen entering negotiations.[29][55]

In July 2019, TheMix.net reported that the film would "gender swap" the character Liet-Kynes by casting Sharon Duncan-Brewster in the role.[56] Duncan-Brewster's casting was confirmed in April 2020.[32] According to Duncan-Brewster, Villeneuve felt it was necessary to capture the essence of the character from the book, but was not necessary to remain consistent with all other facets, and thus opted for this change.[33]

Filming

Principal photography began on March 18, 2019, at the Origo Film Studios in Budapest, Hungary,[25][29][57] and also took place in Wadi Rum in Jordan.[29][58][59] The planet Caladan, one of the settings of the film, was filmed in Stadlandet in Norway.[60] The movie was also filmed in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, which formed a key backdrop of the planet Arrakis.[61] Primary filming was completed in July 2019.[62][63] Additional filming took place in Budapest in August 2020 but was not expected to alter the release date of the film.[64][65] The film was shot for the IMAX format with an IMAX-certified Arri Alexa LF camera and an IMAX-certified Alexa Mini LF prototype, equipped with Panavision's large-format lenses in the Ultra Vista and H-series lineup, with select scenes seeing the aspect ratio opened up to 1.90:1 on all IMAX screens, and to 1.43:1 on select IMAX screens outfitted with IMAX's dual-laser projection system.[66][67] Brian Herbert confirmed filming wrapped on July 26, 2019.[68]

Music

Hans Zimmer affirmed he would be scoring Dune near the start of the film's production in March 2019.[29] Zimmer had previously worked with Villeneuve on Blade Runner 2049. At the time, Zimmer had been approached by Christopher Nolan for composing on his then-upcoming film Tenet, but Zimmer opted for Dune—citing his personal love for the book as the reason.[69]

For the first Dune trailer, Zimmer supervised a 32-person choir via FaceTime (necessitated by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions) for the recording of a cover of Pink Floyd's song "Eclipse". Choir members gathered in groups of four over eight separate sessions in Santa Monica at Zimmer's Remote Control studio while Zimmer conducted from home.[70]

Three soundtrack albums will be released for the film, including The Dune Sketchbook (Music from the Soundtrack), Dune (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), and The Art and Soul of Dune on September 3, September 17, and October 22, 2021, respectively. Villenueve said Zimmer spent "months and months creating new instruments, defining, creating, and seeking new sounds, pushing the envelope" and praised his work on the film. Two singles were released on July 22, titled "Paul's Dream" and "Ripples in the Sand."[71]

Marketing

Promotion

Vanity Fair published an extensive first-look report on Dune on April 13, 2020.[32] Empire's October 2020 issue's cover story included an in-depth look at the film and interviews with cast and crew, providing additional first looks ahead of the film's trailer release.[72] The first 10 minutes of the film were screened in select IMAX theaters worldwide on July 21 and 22, 2021, in an event that also included a behind-the-scenes look at the film, and the debut of the film's first full trailer.[73][74]

A teaser trailer was released on September 9, 2020. IndieWire gave the trailer a positive review, and wrote "It's full of eye-popping set design, breathtaking action, and one jaw-dropping last-minute look at Frank Herbert's infamous sandworms", in addition to stating "The two [Denis Villeneuve and Greig Fraser] have brought a tangibility to Frank Herbert's world that should make Dune a visceral experience for moviegoers."[75] The theatrical trailer for the film was released on July 22, 2021. Wired stated that the trailer "is begging you to see it in theaters".[76] Variety valorized the cast and stunning visuals.[77] Vanity Fair also gave the trailer a positive review and stated, "It will seem more mysterious to those unfamiliar with the story, but like Chani does herself in those dream missives to Paul, it hints at big, impressive things to come."[78]

Merchandising

On February 26, 2019, Funcom announced that it was entering into an exclusive partnership with Legendary Entertainment to develop games related to the upcoming Dune films.[79]

Other Dune franchise works, unrelated to the film, are planned to be released near the same time as the film. The original Dune board game, produced by Avalon Hill in 1979 but out of print for many years, has been republished by Gale Force Nine to tie in with the film, along with the development of new board games based on the Dune franchise.[80] A three-part graphic novel adaption of the books is being written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson with illustrations by Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín, with plans to be published by Abrams Books starting in October 2020 to tie into the film's release.[81] In May 2020, Boom! Studios was announced to have acquired the comic and graphic novel rights to the 1999 prequel novel Dune: House Atreides, with the intent of doing a 12-issue comic adaptation written by the original authors Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.[82] In March 2020, Modiphius Entertainment announced it was helming a new role-playing game based on the franchise, Dune: Adventures in the Imperium.[83]

A new board game, Dune Imperium, was released by Dire Wolf Digital in December 2020.[84] The game blends deck building and worker placement for up to four players. The game also features an automated opponent that can be used for solo play or in games of fewer than four players.

In September 2020, McFarlane Toys announced a line of 7-inch figures modeled after characters from the film.[85] A 12-inch figure of Baron Harkonnen was announced at the same time.[85] As of September 2020, the line was slated for release later in 2020.[85]

An artbook, The Art and Soul of Dune, is set to be released alongside the film on October 22, 2021. The book will be written by the film's executive producer Tanya Lapointe, and will include a soundtrack album of the same name composed by Zimmer. The book will be available in both a standard and a limited edition.[86]

Release

Dune was originally scheduled to be released on November 20, 2020, but was pushed back to December 18, 2020.[87][28][88] The film was then delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this time to October 1, 2021, taking over the release date slot of The Batman, where it will be theatrically released in 3D.[89] In late June 2021, Warner Bros. announced that it was delaying the film again by three weeks to October 22, 2021, to avoid competition with No Time to Die.[6] Over a month before the domestic North American release date, the film will have a staggered theatrical release schedule in most international markets that do not have HBO Max, beginning on September 15, including France, Sweden and Switzerland.[5]

Warner Bros. announced in December 2020 that, like all of its other planned 2021 films, Dune will be streamed simultaneously on the HBO Max service for a period of one month, after which the film will be removed until the normal home media release schedule period,[90] following a similar release pattern that Warner Bros. used for Wonder Woman 1984.[91] Villeneuve was one of several directors, alongside movie theater chains and production companies (including Legendary Entertainment, which produced and financed the film), who expressed disappointment and displeasure over the move.[92] In a column published in Variety, he wrote, "Streaming can produce great content, but not movies of Dune's scope and scale. Warner Bros.' decision means Dune won't have the chance to perform financially in order to be viable and piracy will ultimately triumph," and that, "My team and I devoted more than three years of our lives to make it a unique big screen experience. Our movie's image and sound were meticulously designed to be seen in theaters."[93] At the end of his appearance on Saturday Night Live that same month, Chalamet wore a hoodie with the Legendary Pictures logo on it, which was interpreted in the media as support for Legendary and disapproval of the streaming deal.[94]

Dune had its world premiere on September 3, 2021, at the 78th Venice International Film Festival.[95][96] It also screened at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, with an IMAX premiere screening at the Cinesphere.[97]

Reception

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 89% based on 61 reviews, with an average rating of 7.9/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Dune occasionally struggles with its unwieldy source material, but those issues are largely overshadowed by the scope and ambition of this visually thrilling adaptation."[98] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 75 out of 100, based on 24 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[99]

Following its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, Dune received generally positive reception from reviewers, but did divide some critics.[100][101] Complaints and negative reviews were considered expected given Villenueve's directorial history and the source material.[102]

Many reviewers praised the film for its scope and ambition.[100][101] Ben Travis of Empire magazine gave the film five out of five stars and stated, "An absorbing, awe-inspiringly huge adaptation of (half of) Frank Herbert's novel that will wow existing acolytes, and get newcomers hooked on its Spice-fuelled visions. If Part Two never happens, it'll be a travesty."[103] Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph gave the film five out of five stars and called the film "majestic, unsettling and enveloping".[104] Xan Brooks of The Guardian also gave the film five out of five stars and termed it a "Hollywood blockbuster".[105] Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a positive review and stated, "Villeneuve draws you into an astonishingly vivid, sometimes plausibly unnerving vision of the future."[106]

Other critics commented on issues related to the film's pacing and handling of the source material.[100][101] Critic Owen Gleiberman of Variety wrote: "It's an act of world-building that runs out of storytelling steam... Dune is out to wow us, and sometimes succeeds, but it also wants to get under your skin like a hypnotically toxic mosquito... It's not just that the story loses its pulse. It loses any sense that we're emotionally invested in it... the movie begins to run out of tricks, it turns woozy and amorphous. Will Part II really be coming? It will if Part I is successful enough, and that isn't foregone. It's hard to build a cliffhanger on shifting sands."[107] Kevin Maher of The Times gave the film two out of five stars, stating that while "every frame ... is spectacular", "Dune is also kind of boring".[108] Reviewing the film for TheWrap, Steve Pond called the film "both dazzling and frustrating, often spectacular and often slow" and said: "This version of Dune sometimes feels as if it aims to impress you more than entertain you; it's grim on a staggering level, ditching most of the fun of sci-fi yarns in favor of a worldview that feels more like Villeneuve's Sicario or Prisoners than his Arrival."[109]

Future

Possible sequels

Although the sequel has not yet been officially green-lit by Legendary, Villeneuve has stated that the 2021 film will roughly cover the first half of the novel, with a follow-up covering the remaining half.[110] He explained, "I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie", says Villeneuve. "The world is too complex. It's a world that takes its power in details."[110] In November 2019, Jon Spaihts left his position as showrunner of the Dune: The Sisterhood prequel TV series to focus more on writing the sequel film.[40] In June 2020, cinematographer Greig Fraser said, "It's a fully formed story in itself with places to go. It's a fully standalone epic film that people will get a lot out of when they see it".[111] However, in December 2020, Villeneuve stated that due to Warner Bros.' plan to simultaneously release the film in theaters and on HBO Max could result in the film underperforming financially, which could lead to cancellation of the planned sequel.[93] In February 2021, Eric Roth stated that he has written a full treatment for the potential sequel.[112] In an IMAX screening of the film's first ten minutes, the title read as Dune: Part One, lending credence to plans for further parts.[4] In August 2021, Villeneuve was optimistic about the sequel happening,[113] and confirmed that Chani will have a bigger role in it.[114] That same month, Villeneuve also confirmed writing on it began.[115] Villeneuve confirmed at the Venice Film Festival before the film's debut that he is still planning the two films based on the first novel and a third film based on Dune Messiah.[116]

Dune: The Sisterhood

In June 2019, it was announced that Legendary Television will be producing a spin-off television series, Dune: The Sisterhood, for WarnerMedia's streaming service, HBO Max. The series will focus on the Bene Gesserit and serve as a prequel to the film. Villeneuve will direct the series' pilot, with Spaihts writing the screenplay and Dana Calvo as showrunner for the series.[117][118] Villeneuve and Spaihts will also serve as executive producers alongside Brian Herbert, Byron Merritt, and Kim Herbert.[119] However, in November 2019, Spaihts left the series as writer to focus on the sequel film, though will remain on as an executive producer.[40] As of May 2020, the series was set to begin filming in Budapest and Jordan on November 2, 2020.[120] Diane Ademu-John had been hired as the new showrunner by July 2021.[121]

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