Finally, the first official trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune has been released.
It’s a beautiful trailer, and it’s incredible to me that this movie was made.
Villeneuve’s 2017 film Blade Runner 2049 was undoubtedly the best movie of the last decade. Despite being the best movie of the decade, and more likely because it was the best movie of the decade, it was a box office flop. The film was introspective, philosophical, high-concept, esoteric and original. It is by far the best adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s work. This sort of real artwork is simply impossible to market to the masses of people, so if you build it on a budget of a blockbuster film, you’re going to lose money.
Despite the fact that Herbert’s Dune is the best-selling science fiction book of all time, it is an esoteric book. It is wrapped in the trappings of a low-brow adventure story, but that serves only as a medium to communicate something much bigger. Wrapping esoteric high-concepts in a teen adventure story creates a situation where you almost have two different Dunes. The adventure novel is probably the one that sold the most copies of any science fiction book, not the psychedelic analysis of the layers of human existence and the intersectionality of religion, philosophy, sociology, politics, psychology and being and time.
Along with being the best movie of the decade, Blade Runner 2049 was one of the whitest movies of the decade. The only black character was a slave trader. It’s controversial in this day and age to make a film that is clearly by, for and about white people, so Dune has been spiced up with some vibrancy. That doesn’t especially bother me, frankly. A lot of right-wing people will whine about vibrancy in film, and I’m obviously against it on principle, but I don’t think vibrancy defines whether or not a movie is good. There is a difference between pushing a political agenda in the messaging of a film and simply superficially adding a diverse cast. That said, in watching the trailer, it does not appear as though the film is especially colorful.
Furthermore, I will just be frank with you: I think Zendaya is sexy. (She has an “animal-like charm,” as the late, great Richard Nixon would say.)
She’s playing Paul Atreides’ Fremen concubine, Chani. Moreover, I’m not sure that the Fremen being vaguely brown people doesn’t fit with the story, given that they are the natives of a hot desert planet, which would imply darkish skin.
Stilgar, the leader of the Fremen tribe that Paul stays with, is played by Javier Bardem. He’s Spanish, but rather Arabesque.
So perhaps they’re doing a thing where the Fremen are generically darkish, in order to meet the diversity quota.
Josh Brolin looks great as Gurney Halleck.
I wouldn’t have chosen Jason Momoa for Duncan Idaho. There is no narrative excuse for that, and this is absolutely “brown-washing” of a white character.
But, whatever. I’m sure Momoa is a capable action star. (Duncan is the only character from the Dune stories who appears in all six books, so he would effectively be the person carrying the franchise, if this film were to spawn a franchise. But don’t worry – it’s not going to spawn a franchise.)
Paul himself is played by a dopey nerd, Timothee Chalamet. I guess they’re going for an emo sort of thing here.
Overall, I’m not bothered by the castings.
Aside from the aesthetic decision to add a bit of vibrancy, the film is likely to be the best conceivable adaptation of the book, at least in terms of the aesthetics. It’s impossible to fit this story into a two hour film, and the trailer appears to show a part of the battle of Arrakis which takes place at the end of the book, so they are jamming the entire story in that two hours. It is unlikely that the film will make any sense to people who haven’t read the book, because the best they can hope to do is just deliver random bits, effectively making a montage of scenes from the book, which will probably be tied together more thematically than narratively. It will be an acid trip type experience.
The trailer does not even attempt to convince the viewer that this is a standard action film, despite the fact that that would have been the easy way out for the studio. Again, the book has the trappings of a teen adventure novel, and you could absolutely tell that story without attempting to tackle the depth of the book. Or, you could trick them with a trailer that presented a skewed image of the film.
The trailer is a series of extraordinary aesthetic images pulled from only the best concept artists set to a Hans Zimmer arrangement of Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse.” The trailer does not attempt to deliver a plot summary, as trailers tend to do, and instead communicates massive, majestic scale and mystery. It communicates that this is going to be a full-on psychedelic, esoteric take on the story. The visuals are exactly what I pictured in my mind in reading the book as a youth.
If these were normal times, I would predict that this would be the biggest box office failure of all time. Normies simply will not be interested in this film.
Luckily, we are in the age of the coronavirus. The trailer ends with the claim that it will be in theaters.
It is scheduled for release on December 18th.
Movie theaters are almost certainly gone forever.
If they are ever a part of the culture again, it will not be on December 18th.
Presumably, the film will have to be released on some streaming service. It’s distributed by Warner Brothers, which owns HBO, so I suspect that is how they will distribute it. Disney has been releasing theatrical films on their streaming service. They are charging $30 for Mulan, which actually seems insane and I can’t really imagine anyone paying that much money for what amounts to a home video rental.
Streaming services do not release public numbers, so no one will ever know how much money Dune lost.