Gasp! Wow. Where has this Dune been all my life? I love this trailer! It gives me everything a good trailer is supposed to.
There are shots of every main character doing their thing, whatever that is. Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) looks like a leader (I might be biased. I like this fellow in everything he has ever been in.) Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) looks like a fish out of water, which is what he supposed to look like. He is not the hero, yet — but the shots in this trailer change his appearance as the clip advances and you see what could be steel in his gaze.
The rest of the cast is revealed and each of them is a name to conjure with. Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), Chani (Zendaya), Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa), Stilgar (Javier Bardem), Gurney Halleck (Josh Brolin), Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård), Thufir Hawat (Stephen McKinley Henderson), Dr. Liet Kynes and Shadot Mapes (Golda Rosheuvel).
Okay, some of the actors aren’t going to do anything special. Jason Momoa is going to be himself. He always is. This isn’t a bad thing. I like him. He brings an enthusiasm to his roles which feels real. He has what I think is the perfect role for him.
Josh Brolin, another face who rarely tries to be anything other than himself, is going to be the stolid house war-master, part-time bard, and master death-dealer, Gurney Halleck. Yes, another snug fit. But Brolin singing? Maybe they will skip over that part.
These are the names of the most interesting, standout characters in the first book of the Dune series. If this film is to do the series justice, they need to have chosen actors who can embody these bigger than life roles. Most of the roles are filled by actors I recognize and can see them in the roles they are in. Nothing causes cognitive dissonance like an actor you can’t imagine in a role. No one caused me to experience this.
I was surprised to see Stellan Skarsgård as the Baron Harkonnen. Such a meaty role should have gone to a better actor I though to myself. But it was because the last thing I remember him in was as Erik Selvig in the second Avengers: Age of Ultron film.
I thought of him as a character actor in a throwaway role. I am embarrassed to say that as I researched Skarsgård, I discovered his acting chops are varied and significant. I can admit I was wrong. He will probably bring the evil I feel whenever I have imagined this character. Marvel may have wasted his talents. I think the Baron didn’t have enough boils. I mean can you ever have too many boils on a villain?
I noticed there was a gender-swap in the role of Dr. Liet Kynes. Kynes, is a planetologist who acts as the connective tissue between Duke Atreides, Baron Harkonnen, the Fremen, the planet Arrakis and the future of this highly sought after galactic asset, the only planet in the galaxy where the elusive melange can be found.
I am happy to see such a pivotal character embodied by a Black actor, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, who appeared as Senator Pamlo in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I hope the role gets prominence in the movie.
We get to see everyone at their bestest, brightest, darkest, most scary selves, in an outstanding costume, each has the touch of pomp necessary to denote status without being ostentatious. Though I have to ask, what is with Paul’s hair?Doesn’t it get in his eyes when Gurney Halleck is trying to teach him to fight?
Speaking of costumes, it must be said: I love the still-suit design. Declarative sentence. Pause. New line.
It feels real and functional and the effort to make the suits look sand-weathered, yet incredibly tough and personal is also a great physical touch. I can see entire production teams on the list for multiple Oscars, if the film is well received. The buildings are understated, spartan, using space as a design element.
Let us not forget the star of the show, the Worms of Arrakis. Don’t lie. You are just like I was. You wanted to see the worm. Because if there was ever a thing to terrify me in science fiction, the Worms of Arrakis top that list. Close enough to touch, horrifying to imagine, and then breathtaking to think of wanting to, let along being able to RIDE one. If you read Dune, you came for the worm. Please don’t let him be wimpy. Please don’t let him disappoint me with his scale or piss poor CGI. You thought this. Don’t lie. It’s so ugly.
The final clip showing the worm rising from the sands, in its horrifying majesty, made the entire clip worthwhile. No lazy CGI monster here. They put their backs into it. He is majestic, magnificent and the last place on any planet, I would ever want to be found. Nope. Not going to Arrakis if those live there. Did you see what it did to that spice harvester? Nope. Don’t need spice that bad.
Yes, this is going to be something to behold. The cinematography promises to present vistas worthy of the name Dune. In the book, Arrakis isn’t a place. It is a character and I never felt the earlier films gave the planet any kind of beauty. In this film, you know it’s the same hellscape but it is filmed beautifully. It has already made me fall in love with the waves in the dunes.
I have rarely loved a movie from its trailers. I am so demanding and trailers tend to give away all the best parts. This, and the trailer sequences for this film, leaves me wanting more. I don’t feel like there isn’t more for me to see. It left me wanting to understand why there are so many pieces in the story and how they (and whether they) come together in a way that will make me care.
We don’t dare hope for it to inspire us the way Dune did. Yes, the story didn’t age well and people complain its allegory and structure were less than ideal, but I was one of those people who read Dune and was captivated, for years. I wanted to understand everyone in the story, even the Bene Gesserit. I haven’t said much about these very mysterious ladies, masterminds behind much of what will take place in this series, because they scare me. We don’t get to see much of them here, and perhaps that’s just as well, because their influence is meant to be invisible. And scary.
Speaking of the invisible, Hans Zimmer is producing the music, and I am eager to see what he will do with this new version of Dune. Everything I heard so far feel appropriately subtle, I heard the music but I had to be thinking about it. I’ve heard there are supposed to be special arrangements and new musical instrument used but I haven’t heard anything outside of the trailers to confirm it. If someone can point me at a source, I’d appreciate it.
Dune, as a film, has been attempted before. I can’t say I loved either of them. But if this one does nothing else, it has made me fall in love with the windswept dunes of Arrakis and its wormy alien nightmares. That’s more than either of the first films did. I see a work of intense effort, focus and attention-to-detail. Oh, did I mention this is only Part One? I have no idea where in the story they plan to stop.
Even with that last chestnut, I can’t wait to see it. Dune’s current release in theaters is on October 22, 2021.
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.