One of the most anticipated films of the year has sent the internet into a spin, with the trailer for Denis Villeneuve's Dune racking up millions of views and wild reactions. Since the project was announced there has been hope that Villeneuve's expertise in the genre will succeed where so many other attempts have either stalled or disappointed – though we do have a soft spot for David Lynch's troubled and maligned 1984 effort.
Showing off its all-star cast headed by Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, the first of two planned films to cover the beloved sci-fi story by Frank Herbert looks every bit as brooding and opulent as we'd expect from Villeneuve, with plenty of other highlights we can't wait to see when it opens in cinemas in December.
1. It looks spectacular
Whether on film or TV, many have tried and failed to do justice to Frank Herbert's 1965 masterpiece, which has often been described as the sci-fi equivalent of JRR Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings. And as Peter Jackson managed with the 'unfilmable' fantasy epic over an unforgettable trilogy in the early 2000s, visionary director Denis Villeneuve is hoping to buck the trend with his vision of Herbert's universe. While the complex story and themes will undoubtedly be analysed when it hits screens on 18th December, the trailer shows that at least visually, Villeneuve has captured the look and scale of the book.
Set on the desolate, desert planet Arrakis, known as Dune – which nonetheless possesses extraordinary riches – the story sees old foes pitted against each other on an extraordinary scale, with the costumes, special effects and all-star ensemble cast looking set to live up to the goosebumps the trailer has given us from multiple viewings.
2. It looks like Game Of Thrones, in space...
Well, sort of. Hopefully there won't be much in the way of sex, swearing and gore, but the grandiose setting and power struggles between rival families that were central to the epic TV series are also on show in Dune. Beginning with the ominous lesson from Charlotte Rampling's Gaius Helen Mohiam to Paul: “You have proven you can rule yourself, now you must learn to rule others. Something nothing your ancestors never learned.” While Paul contends that his father, Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), is to be given control of the affluent Arrakis, she warns that he'll lose it.
This is due to the jealousy of House Atreides' enemy, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, surely one of the nastiest characters in science fiction. Played by Stellan Skarsgård, the Baron's revenge on his rival House can be seen in the fights and flames erupting on the desert planet. The gripping struggle is merely touched on in the trailer but is enough to whet our appetites.
3. The Rocky training montages with a difference
Given the battle for the planet between the two families, the trailer is packed with fight scenes, including Paul training with Josh Brolin's master-at-arms Gurney Halleck, and Jason Momoa taking on a host of soldiers in his role as swordmaster Duncan Idaho. But Paul needs to be more than a fearsome fighter, which is where his terrifying encounter with the veiled Gaius Helen Mohiam comes in.
Gaius is the Reverend Mother of the Bene Gesserit, an order of messianic-obsessed women with mystical powers who add Dune its unique flavour. As an advisor to the Padishah Emperor she exerts enormous influence, but has a special interest in Paul, who she trains with brutal methods. His utterance of “I must not fear, fear is the mind-killer” is the novel's most famous line and a chief incantation of the Bene Gesserit, showing the struggle to train Paul bear fruit.
The role of the Bene Gesserit is integral to the Dune story and probably best explored over the two films Villeneuve is planning.
4. The soundtrack is in good Hans
Having turned down Tenet with his usual colleague Christopher Nolan to tackle the daunting task of Dune, there seems no composer more suited to complement Villeneuve's grand visuals than Hans Zimmer. From our first glimpse of their collaboration we're over the (dark side of the) moon with the results.
A desolate, haunting cover of Pink Floyd's Eclipse backs the trailer culminating in a bright crescendo, with washes of electronics bolstering the barren landscapes and nightmarish scenes, while the melodies of the prog rock kings make the hairs stand up as it culminates in a massive appearance at the trailer's finale...
5. Oh hi, Shai-Hulud
Just has Tolkien had his dragons, trolls and orcs, Herbert's epic has its own fantastical creature. The sandworms are colossal worms that live below the sands of Arrakis. When the sand rumbles and one emerges at the end of the trailer, you get to see why the worms, called Shai-Hulud by the desert-dwelling Fremen, are worshipped by them. It's the sandworms' larvae that produce the spice 'melange', which makes Arrakis such a rich, prized territory and when Paul encounters one, towering over him with its gaping mouth full of teeth, you realise why living on Dune and farming its expensive resource is so dangerous.
While the sandworms in the 1984 film looked impressive for the time, the special effects have somewhat dated them, putting the heat on 2020's incarnation to bring back the awe of such a presence. Luckily, Denis Villeneuve's attention to detail has meant a meticulous process to perfect the creature's design, resulting in the ominous behemoth we see emerging from the sand.
Expect them to play a vital role in both Dune films, making for a seismic spectacle.
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