According to Warner Bros., Denis Villeneuve’s big screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune novel will be released in theaters on December 18, 2020. As I’m writing this, there are only a few production photos to give any indication of the look and feel of Villeneuve’s highly-anticipated film.
According to a number of sources, a 1 minute and 37 second teaser trailer will be released on Wednesday, September 9th. The new Dune movie trailer may also be screened ahead of the new Christopher Nolan thriller, Tenet, on August 31st. (Correction: The teaser trailer is being shown in front of Tenet, in select theaters. A full theatrical trailer will be released online on Wednesday, September 9th at 9am PDT.)
A select few have actually seen the trailer and Inside the Film Room’s Johnny Sobczak is one of them. In his recent article he describes the upcoming trailer scene by scene, and it makes me hopeful that we have an authentic and well-crafted Dune movie on our hands. Sobczak describes the trailer as “nothing short of spectacular and a true tease.”
Fear is the Mind Killer
The trailer centers around the iconic Gom Jabbar test. In a large, ornately carved room, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) faces the ominous Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling). Mohiam holds a poison needle, or gom jabbar, at his neck.
Paul is told to place his hand inside a flat box which slowly causes excruciating pain by nerve induction. If he can suppress his fear and the resist the urge to remove his hand, Paul lives. If not, one prick from the needle will kill him instantly.
This is an opening scene from the novel that all Dune fans will recognize. The room is spacious and light streams in from above. The Reverend Mother is dressed in black from head to toe, wrapped in a spiderweb-like fabric. Paul wears a dark military-style jacket.
Mohiam speaks to Paul in a mocking tone as she explains the testing process. This scene is intercut with shots of the deep desert of Arrakis and close-ups of each of the lead actors. Sobczak describes the desert shot as, “dunes as far as the eye can see. It’s exactly how you would imagine it. They’re bright yellow, and you can feel the sun through the screen.”
We see a shot of Atreides armored soldiers standing the open door of an aircraft. Then quick cuts of each of the main cast. Oscar Isaac, sporting a beard, is the noble Duke Leto. Jessica Furgeson, as Lady Jessica, smiles from under a hooded robe.
Chani, played by Zendaya, climbs on desert rocks with a group of native Fremen. We also see Jason Momoa as the weapons-master, Duncan Idaho, wearing a desert stillsuit. Javier Bardem, as the Fremen leader Stilgar, removes his face mask and flashes his blue-within-blue eyes.
Other cast shots include Dave Bautista as a brutal, pale-faced Glossu “Beast” Rabban Harkonnen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Liet-Kynes and Chang Chen as Dr. Wellington Yueh.
We also see a large figure, likely the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen played by Stellan Skarsgård, emerging from a large vat of dark liquid.
Since Dune was first published by Frank Herbert in 1965, fans have speculated about the Atreides aircraft appropriately named ornithopters (ornith, means bird). Unlike modern aircraft, these flying aircraft have adjustable wings that lift with the wing-beat motion of birds or insects.
Herbert described ornithopters as having retractable, adaptable wings and jet boosters for speed. The teaser trailer includes a quick shot of an ornithopter descending to the desert floor, with Paul stepping off.
Denis Villeneuve’s ornithopter design resembles insect wings, with movement much a like dragonfly. I have always imagined the ornithopter wings to be large and sweeping like those of a hawk, but I trust Villeneuve’s instincts and believe his ornithopter wing design will be stunning as well as realistic.
The music seemed to to be that of Hans Zimmer, the renowned film score composer for such epic films as Gladiator, The Dark Knight and Inception. Sobczak described the music underneath the end title shot like “a cross between “Blade Runner” and “The Lion King,” with a good amount of drums mixed in with some ethereal, synth vibes. It perfectly fits “Dune.”
Whether the trailer music was Hans Zimmer’s or not, he is exactly the composer for a sweeping epic like Dune. Director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Dunkirk) originally selected long-time collaborator Zimmer for his new film, Tenet. However, Zimmer said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work on Dune based on his love of Frank Herbert’s classic novel.
The Spice Should Flow
As the trailer intercuts with shots of the cast close-ups, we see Paul’s fear during the Gom Jabbar test build to a fever pitch. The scene climax ends with an epic shot of Paul in the deep desert wearing a stillsuit, surrounded by Fremen.
Sobczak noted that after the title reveal and cast names, the words FILMED IN IMAX flash on the screen. He stated that Dune wasn’t filmed with IMAX cameras, so he speculated that Villeneuve may have had his digital cameras certified by IMAX. This could mean that segments of Dune may have expanded aspect ratios in the way The Dark Knight did when shown on IMAX screens.
Whether seen on an IMAX screen or not, the images appear to be spectacular. Sobczak said, “the images themselves look unbelievably crisp and almost surreal in a way that’s hard to put my finger on.” This is promising because sharp imagery will be critical to display complex scenes of epic warfare and vast landscapes.
The descriptions of this trailer seem to match the images in my mind as I read the book for the first time in 1984. Based on Sobczak’s description of the first new Dune movie trailer, Villeneuve’s adaptation could live up to audience’s expectations. We’ll see it for ourselves on September 9th. As a spice-riddled Dune fan, my hopes are high.