To me, Dune feels like a duty. It is our duty, as movie geeks of a certain age, to go and see this movie. Firstly because it is an adaption of a much loved and well-respected sci-fi touchstone that has a rich continuing story that could be mined. Secondly, because the very survival of adult sci-fi movies could depend on Dune, at least in the medium term.
If Dune is not a success then not only will the sequel not be made, ending the story halfway through, but others will not follow in its footsteps. I am not anti-superhero movies and still hold a fool’s hope that Star Wars can be saved. Beyond those, however, the world needs sci-fi for grown-ups.
Adaptions of the works of Philip K. Dick, Heinlein, Asimov, and beyond right up to today’s sci-fi writers will struggle to get made. A genre that has bought us everything from 2001 to Blade Runner, and Starship Troopers to Total Recall, will be placed in the “too hard, not profitable enough” file at major studios. To me, there is a lot riding on this.
It’s a gamble from the start, as Frank Herbert’s iconic novel can’t really fit into a single movie. It’s a bit of a behemoth. Apparently, director Denis Villeneuve isn’t trying.
Co-writer Eric Roth speaks highly of what has been achieved by Villeneuve for Dune and has seen the full, finished movie. In an interview with Collider, he has spilled some details. He worked on Arrival with Villeneuve got him this gig. He wrote the first drafts before Villeneuve and Jon Spaights added some tweaks:
“I wrote a big, full, overwritten Eric Roth draft that had certain things special to me.
It needed to be, honestly, cut down and sort of harnessed, and Denis did some of that, and they eventually brought in a writer – I was busy, so they brought in a writer named Jon Spaihts, who is a wonderful writer, who I think kept it grounded. And I think he [Villeneuve]…
I don’t want to say Lord of the Rings, but I think it’s really pretty spectacular. He’s a visionary of his own kind, Denis.”
Roth also confirmed the scope of the finished film and that it is round-about, but not quite, half the novel. It goes a little beyond:
“It’s completely the first half. Yeah. I didn’t know when we started, so I think I adapted a little more than the first half and started going into the second half of the book. But I’ve seen the film, it’s pretty much the first half.”
Sequel-wise, the question on everyone’s lips, what is the plan? He confirms Warner Bros. has not green-lit part II yet. He says he:
“…wrote a treatment to show the [Herbert] estate what we could do with the second half…”
Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista and Zendaya star in the film which is due to hit cinemas and, pending finalization of talks, HBO Max this October.