Denis Villeneuve’s DUNE – what I’ve learned of the 2020 adaptation so far

Happy um-what-day-is-it? The days have become such a blur lately… and honestly, it’s tough to keep motivated during the lockdown, and the not-knowing when this whole thing would actually end is the toughest part. Summer’s practically been canceled, which if you’ve lived in places like Minnesota, that’s so devastating given how fleeting Summer is and ‘Spring’ is an on-and-off affair (I mean we just got a blizzard in some parts of MN on Easter weekend!).

Ok, venting over. I’d rather focus on the positive and look to the future! Well, since this is a film blog, one of the films that [hopefully] won’t get canceled is DUNE. Its release date is December 18.

Of course, an astute person already saw the glaring similarities of DUNE’s logo to an NBC sci-fi series that aired in 2006, ha! I actually like the look of the original one they posted a few months ago, it looked far more modern w/ an aerial image of sand dunes in the background.

In any case… the photos posted by Vanity Fair yesterday look stunning, they’re mostly the star-studded cast in costumes, but certainly made me even more anxious to see it! You can see them in video form thanks to MovieGasm, and I also posted the photos below.

Honestly, I’m not that familiar about DUNE, which is based on Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novels. I haven’t seen the David Lynch 1984 version (I’ve watched the trailer a couple of times but haven’t mustered enough interest to actually watch it), nor the two-part series on Sci-Fi channel. But once Denis Villeneuve‘s attached to direct a two-part films, I’m immediately intrigued. So I’ve been reading a ton of stuff about this adaptation and how this version is supposed to be different.

Consider this a summary of what I’ve read so far, that some of you might find helpful.

Thanks to this comprehensive Reddit post, here’s the official synopsis:

A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, “Dune” tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive.

Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

Timothée Chalamet is definitely Hollywood’s boy du jour right now, and I think he’d be good as the young protagonist. I like the idea of Rebecca Ferguson and Oscar Isaac as Chalamet’s parents!

The amazing ensemble cast!

Here’s the full cast list (thanks to that Reddit post):

Character Actor Films Actors’ Known For
Paul Atreides Timothée Chalamet Ladybird, Call Me By Your Name
Lady Jessica Rebecca Ferguson Mission Impossible, The Greatest Showman
Duke Leto Atreides Oscar Isaac Ex Machina, Star Wars
Gurney Halleck Josh Brolin No Country for Old Men, The Avengers
Duncan Idaho Jason Momoa Game of Thrones, Aquaman
Dr. Liet-Kynes Sharon Duncan-Brewster Rogue One, Sex Education series
Reverend Mother Mohiam Charlotte Rampling Broadchurch, The Verdict, 45 Days
Baron Harkonnen Stellan Skarsgård Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Good Will Hunting
Feyd-Rautha Tye Sheridan Ready Player One, Dark Phoenix, Mud
Piter De Vries David Dastmalchian Prisoners, Ant-man
Count Glossu Rabban Dave Bautista Guardians of the Galaxy, Blade Runner 2049
Dr. Wellington Yueh Chang Chen Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Assassin
Stilgar Javier Bardem No Country for Old Men, Skyfall
Chani Zendaya Spiderman, The Greatest Showman
Jamis Babs Olusanmokun Black Mirror, The Night Of, The Defenders
TBA Stephen Henderson Fences, Ladybird, Lincoln
Harah Gloria Obiano High Life, Good Omens
The House of Atreides - Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair
The House of Atreides
Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac
Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac – Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

What is the story about exactly?

Per Vanity Fair article… Villeneuve sees this story of a planet being mined to death as something prophetic “No matter what you believe, Earth is changing, and we will have to adapt,” It’s hard to argue that our earth has been overexploited no matter which spectrum you are in the climate change debate. Villeneuve, who’s producing his own film for the first time, sees the story as a ‘call to action for the youth.’ I can see Greta Thunberg liking this movie a lot!

Villeneuve on set with Javier Bardem as Stilgar, leader of the Fremen tribe – Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

Since the French Canadian filmmaker is set on ‘going back to [Herbert’s] book and going to the images that came out when I read it’ (per Yahoo article), here’s a brief summary of the novel per SparkNotes:

Dune is based on a complex imagined society set roughly 20,000 years in the future. The setting is the year 10,191, and human beings have spread out and colonized planets throughout the universe. On the planet Caladan, Duke Leto of the House of Atreides is preparing to leave for his new position as the governor of Arrakis, a desert planet with valuable resources of melange, a spice drug that is extremely popular with wealthy people. Leto and his family, including his concubine, Jessica, and his son, Paul, suspect a trap by their rivals, the Harkonnens, led by Baron Harkonnen. Leto decides to settle on Arrakis because of its rich supplies of melange, despite warnings from his men, including his adviser, Thufir Hawat, and his master-of-arms, Gurney Halleck.

The Atreides arrive on Arrakis and the duke quickly moves to secure the planet from a Harkonnen attack. His main plan is to enlist the Fremen, the tough natives of the Arrakeen desert, as soldiers and advisers. Meanwhile, Paul’s and Jessica’s special abilities intrigue the Fremen. Jessica is a member of the Bene Gesserit, a school of quasi-mystical witches with strange powers. The Fremen believe that Jessica and her son are saviors who have come to lead them toward creating a lush paradise on the dry Arrakis.

Some interesting trivia about DUNE 2020

(thanks to Reddit, Vanity Fair, Nerdist, THR, Inverse.com

  • Denis Villeneuve confirmed that his adaptation of Dune will be split into at least two films, in order to ensure that the original story would be “preserved and not cut into a million pieces.”
  • Budapest is one the primary shooting location for the film. Denis will once again be working with Origo Film Studios who provided many of the stages and facilities used in the shooting of Blade Runner 2049. The other location for the sand dune landscape is remote regions outside Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates where temperatures can reach 100 degrees.
  • Zendaya is playing Chani, seen here wearing the signature Fremen stillsuit. The suit’s designed to recapture the maximum amount of moisture and the nose tube is to reclaim vapor from every breath. As for those piercing blue eyes, it’s a condition caused by consuming melange (a.k.a. spice), a drug produced in Arrakis’ sands.

    Zendaya as Chani – photo courtsey of Vanity Fair
  • Charlotte Rampling, who will star in this upcoming adaptation of the 1965 novel, originally wanted to play Lady Jessica in Alejandro Jodorowsky‘s failed Dune project, but declined the offer due to a scene that involved 2,000 extras defecating at once.
  • Rampling will play the Reverend Mother Mohiam, the emperor’s truthsayer, a person who can divine intentions, suss out lies and manipulate people’s emotional states.
  • In an intriguing change to the source material, Villeneuve has also updated Dr. Liet Kynes, the leading ecologist on Arrakis and an independent power broker amid the various warring factions. Although always depicted as a white man, the character is now played by a black British actress Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Rogue One).

    Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Dr. Liet Kynes – photo courtesy of Vanity Fair
  • Hans Zimmer is set to score the film, having worked with Villeneuve previously on Blade Runner 2049.
  • In June 2019, a TV spinoff titled Dune: The Sisterhood was announced, which would be overseen by Villeneuve and focused on the mysterious Bene Gesserit, a key social, religious, and political force in the fictional Dune universe.

Splitting Dune into two films

Now, about the part that the film will be a two-part series. We’ve seen that in major finales of lucrative franchises like Harry Potter, Hunger Games and The Avengers are split into two movies. Honestly, I’m not too fond of that idea as it’s really a money-making scheme. But with this one, I feel like there is merit.

Per the VF article, Villeneuve said “I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie…The world is too complex. It’s a world that takes its power in details.” I haven’t read the book but I can see how such a dense, multi-layered story would be challenging to adapt. The director has said this project has been the most difficult thing he’s ever done… “It’s a book that tackles politics, religion, ecology, spirituality—and with a lot of characters,”

I’d even think making it as a miniseries might be the best format, but then again, the grand visuals would be something amazing to see on the big screen. Oh man, to actually be able to experience movies with fellow film fans again in a movie theater… those are simple joys we’ve all taken for granted!


Ok that’s all I’ve got on Dune so far… but speaking of power in the details, let me just end this post with this um, epic photo…

Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

I bow to thee Duke Atreides… yowza! 😍😍😍😍😍😍😍😍

Sorry, just got to get that out of the way… man, can’t wait to see the trailer for this!!


Are you excited about this new DUNE adaptation? Let me know your thoughts!

11 thoughts on “Denis Villeneuve’s DUNE – what I’ve learned of the 2020 adaptation so far

  1. I’m excited for this. I like the idea for the film to be split into 2 parts. It’s not a story condensed into one film. I have seen David Lynch’s version and it has its moments but it was a total mess. I would totally recommend watching Jodorowsky’s Dune into the idea that Jodorowsky had for the film as his ideas were insane.

    1. Hey Steven! Yeah I think it’s wise to split the two films because of the complexity of the plot. My friend has recommended Jodorowsky’s Dune for a while, maybe I should check that out, not sure if it’s available for streaming though.

  2. I tried to read Herbert’s book but couldn’t get into it but I do have a strange affection for Lynch’s 1984 film version. It’s strange and messy but never boring. I would recommend you watch it if you have a chance, visually it’s quite stunning for its time. I believe it’s the most expensive film ever made in the 80s. It might have turned out better had Ridley Scott directed it. Scott was set to direct it after Alien but then one of his brothers died and he was in such a bad shape emotionally that he decided to back out of the job.

    After seeing these photos of the new film, I’m surprised how close the look of the production is to the 1984 film. Maybe once the trailer launch, it will look different. I’m still in shock that this film even got made after Blade Runner 2049 bomb at the box office but I’m glad it’s coming to the big screen, hopefully anyway. I didn’t know who’s playing Feyd-Rautha until I saw your list of actors here. Very interested to see how they’re going to make Tye Sheridan look for this villain role, Sting was pretty memorable in the 1984 film version. Let’s hope the mano-a-mano fight scene between Feyd-Rautha and Paul Atreides will be more exciting than in Lynch’s version.

    The only thing I’m concerned about making it into two films is what if this first part bombs at the box office? Then we won’t get to see the second part! Let’s hope people go see this film on the big screen where it belongs.

    1. Hey Ted! I probably should give Lynch’s DUNE a try… ‘It’s strange and messy but never boring’ well that sounds interesting! Maybe you could do a retro review of it one of these days, or for later in the year ahead of this new DUNE release?

      I read that about Ridley Scott bailing out of the project because of his older brother’s death. Wow poor guy, he later also lost another brother Tony Scott 😦

      Yeah, too bad Blade Runner 2049 bombed, but I think Hollywood studios still have faith in Villeneuve and I’m optimistic he can do a good job. WOW, so Tye Sheridan is playing Sting’s role? Well I guess he’s closer in age to Chalamet, and both are good actors.

      I hear ya about the two films issue, I sure hope that the first part will be moderately successful, man that would be tragic if we can’t see the 2nd part!

      1. Oh yeah, I’ll for sure watch Lynch’s version again before the new one comes out, assuming it’s still opening this December. I’ll send you a review of it. I think Lynch was in over his head when he decided to take on as a director and writer of a huge production. He pretty much disowned it even thought the studio offered him several times to come back and do a director’s cut version. He has such a bad experience making the film that he swore to never work on big budget film again and he never has. All of his films after DUNE were indie or very low budget.

    1. Hi Chris! Yeah, I just found out about the two movies split when I was researching this. It’s a pretty bold move on the part of the studio, but hopefully it works!

  3. I read the books about twenty years ago and remembered LOVING them but not much else about them. I have never seen the film or series though. Maybe time to return to the books. If only I had time to read…

    1. Hi Abbi! I haven’t read the books but I’m a slow reader so probably just gonna watch this movie when it comes out. Sounds like Villeneuve is going to stay close to the novel.

  4. Great job, Ruth! I’m excited. That cast! Wow. I remember when the 84 version came out how excited everyone was to see it. I barely remember anything other than Sting and David Lynch directing it. I’m in!

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