Dune: new details and images from Denis Villeneuve's movie

Sci-fi movies don't come bigger, or more star-studded, than Denis Villeneuve's forthcoming adaptation of Dune.

Frank Herbert's formidably complex and multi-stranded novel was first published in 1965. It uses a fantastical, far-off galaxy to explore internecine family feuds and political sabotage, whisking us onto the arid desert planet of Arrakis.

There, we meet young prince Paul, heir apparent to House Atreides, whose family is engaged in a deadly struggle surrounding a valuable substance called spice. Paul has left his watery home planet of Caladan to relocate to Arrakis, and soon finds his life in danger.

Here are some arresting new images from the movie (courtesy of Vanity Fair), which also tease the extraordinary ensemble cast. Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista, Jason Momoa, Zendaya, Charlotte Rampling and Stellan Skarsgard (who isn't pictured) all promise to give heft to the drama.

Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides in Dune

Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck in Dune

Denis Villeneuve directs Javier Bardem in Dune

Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho in Dune

Zendaya as Chani in Dune

Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck in Dune

Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica in Dune

Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides in Dune

Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Dr. Liet Kynes in Dune

More details have emerged about Villeneuve's adaptation, including the reveal that it will be split into two movies. Such is the complexity of Herbert's vision that it's already taken down one filmmaker in the past – David Lynch's misfiring 1984 attempt is widely considered an ambitious disaster that mishandles the story. Even Villeneuve admits that the movie is an intimidating challenge.

"I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie," Villeneuve tells Vanity Fair. "The world is too complex. It’s a world that takes its power in details.

"It’s a book that tackles politics, religion, ecology, spirituality—and with a lot of characters. I think that’s why it’s so difficult. Honestly, it’s by far the most difficult thing I’ve done in my life."

Although part one of the Dune tapestry is scheduled for December 2020, there's no word yet from Warner Bros on when part two of the saga will be released. Nevertheless, the actors are talking up their characters, including Timothee Chalamet, who plays the heroic Paul.

"It was really surreal," Chalamet says about the filming process. "There are these Goliath landscapes, which you may imagine existing on planets in our universe, but not on Earth."

Mission: Impossible and The Greatest Showman star Rebecca Ferguson, meanwhile, lauds Villeneuve's sensitivity towards the female characters in the story. Villeneuve has teamed with Forrest Gump Oscar-winner Eric Roth and Doctor Strange's Jon Spaihts on the screenplay.

Ferguson portrays Lady Jessica, Paul's mother, and says the character has renewed emphasis under Villeneuve's direction: "She’s a mother, she’s a concubine, she’s a soldier. Denis was very respectful of Frank’s work in the book, [but] the quality of the arcs for much of the women have been brought up to a new level. There were some shifts he did, and they are beautifully portrayed now."

For his part, Villeneuve is promising a sweeping and emotional story that speaks to all of us. "No matter what you believe, Earth is changing, and we will have to adapt. That’s why I think that Dune, this book, was written in the 20th century. It was a distant portrait of the reality of the oil and the capitalism and the exploitation—the overexploitation—of Earth. Today, things are just worse. It’s a coming-of-age story, but also a call for action for the youth."

No doubt that's left you with plenty to chew over. Dune is scheduled for release on the 18th of December, so tweet us @Cineworld if you're excited, and keep your eyes peeled on the blog for the first trailer.