|Directed by||Denis Villeneuve|
by Frank Herbert
|Edited by||Joe Walker|
|Music by||Hans Zimmer|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$351.2 million|
Dune (titled onscreen as Dune: Part One) is a 2021 American epic science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts, and Eric Roth. It is the first of a planned two-part adaptation of the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert, primarily covering the first half of the book. Set in the far future, it follows Paul Atreides as his family, the noble House Atreides, is thrust into a war for the deadly and inhospitable desert planet Arrakis. The ensemble cast includes Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem.
The film is the third adaptation of Dune following David Lynch's 1984 film, which was a critical and commercial failure, and John Harrison's 2000 miniseries. After an unsuccessful attempt by Paramount Pictures to produce a new adaptation, Legendary Entertainment acquired the Dune film and TV rights in 2016, with Villeneuve signing on as director in February 2017. The writers incorporated modern sensibilities that have changed since the time of the novel into the script, including increasing the prominence of female characters. Like the two-part film It (2017), production contracts were only secured for the first film, relying on its success before a second film would be greenlit. Filming took place from March to July 2019 at locations including Budapest, Jordan, Norway, and Abu Dhabi.
Dune was originally scheduled for a late 2020 release, but it was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The film premiered the following year at the 78th Venice International Film Festival on September 3, 2021, ahead of its international release on September 15, 2021. It was then released domestically in theaters and streaming on HBO Max on October 21, 2021. It was generally well received by critics for its visuals, scope, and ambition, and has grossed over $351 million worldwide on a production budget of $165 million, making it the tenth-highest-grossing film of 2021. A week after its domestic release, Dune: Part Two was confirmed with a planned release in October 2023.
In 10191, Duke Leto of House Atreides, ruler of the ocean planet Caladan, is assigned by the Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV to replace House Harkonnen as fief rulers of Arrakis. Arrakis is a harsh desert planet and the only source of "spice", a valuable substance that extends human vitality and is critical for interstellar travel. In reality, Shaddam intends to have House Harkonnen stage a coup to retake the planet with aid of the Emperor's Sardaukar troops, eradicating House Atreides, whose influence threatens Shaddam's control. Leto is apprehensive but sees the political advantages of controlling the spice planet and forming an alliance with its native population, skilled fighters known as the Fremen.
Leto's concubine Lady Jessica is an acolyte of the Bene Gesserit, an exclusive sisterhood whose members possess advanced physical and mental abilities. As part of their breeding program, the Bene Gesserit instructed Jessica to bear a daughter whose son would become the Kwisatz Haderach, a messianic superbeing with prescient abilities; instead she bore a son, Paul. Throughout his life, Paul is trained by Leto's aides, Duncan Idaho, Gurney Halleck and the Mentat Thufir Hawat, while Jessica trains Paul in Bene Gesserit disciplines. Paul confides in Jessica and Duncan that he is troubled by visions of the future. Because of these visions, the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam visits Caladan and subjects Paul to a deadly test to assess his impulse control, which he passes. Mohiam instructs House patriarch Baron Vladimir Harkonnen to spare Paul and Jessica during his coup, which he duplicitously agrees to.
House Atreides arrives at Arrakeen, the fortress stronghold on Arrakis, where Duncan and an advance party have been learning about the planet and the Fremen. Leto negotiates with the Fremen's chieftain Stilgar and meets planetologist and imperial judge Dr. Liet-Kynes. Kynes informs Leto, Paul, and Halleck of the dangers of spice harvesting, including giant sandworms which travel under the desert. During a flight, they spot a sandworm approaching an active spice harvester with a stranded crew. Leto and his team rescue the workers moments before the sandworm swallows it. Paul's exposure to spice-laden air triggers intense premonitions.
After an attempt on Paul's life by a Harkonnen agent, Leto places his soldiers on high alert. Suk doctor Wellington Yueh disables Arrakeen's shields and allows Harkonnen and Sardaukar troops to overwhelm the Atreides forces. Yueh incapacitates Leto and tells him he made a deal to deliver him to the Baron in exchange for freeing his captive wife. Yueh replaces one of Leto's teeth with a poison gas capsule and is killed after delivering the Duke. Leto releases the poison gas, killing himself and members of the Baron's court, but the Baron survives. Duncan escapes and steals an ornithopter. Harkonnens capture Paul and Jessica and take them into the desert to die. Paul and Jessica overpower and kill their captors using a Bene Gesserit skill known as "the Voice", a means of controlling others verbally. Finding a survival kit left for them by Yueh, Paul and Jessica spend the night in a tent. Paul experiences visions of a "holy war" spreading across the universe in his name.
The Baron hands over command of Arrakis to his brutish nephew Rabban and orders him to sell spice reserves and restart production to recover the cost of the coup. Paul and Jessica are found by Duncan and Kynes and head to an old research station but are quickly tracked down by Sardaukar. Duncan and various Fremen sacrifice themselves to allow Jessica, Paul, and Kynes to escape the facility. Kynes, ambushed by Sardaukar troops, lures a sandworm that devours them along with her. Paul and Jessica reach the deep desert and meet the Fremen, among them Stilgar and Chani, the girl in Paul's visions. Fremen warrior Jamis protests their admission and is killed by Paul in a ritual duel to the death. Against Jessica's wishes, Paul insists on joining the Fremen to fulfill his father's goal of bringing peace to Arrakis.
Joelle Amery cameos as a servant to Baron Harkonnen, while Marianne Faithfull, Jean Gilpin, and Ellen Dubin voice the ancestral Bene Gesserit whose voices are heard by Paul in his visions. The film's editor Joe Walker provides the narration for Paul's filmbooks.
Shortly after publication in 1965, Dune was identified for potential film prospects, and the rights to adapt the novel to film have been held by several producers since 1971. Multiple attempts to make such a film have been made, and it was considered to be "unfilmable" owing to its breadth of content. Further, because of the book's status among passionate fans, any deviations from the original material without strong justification have the potential to harm the film's reputation.
Filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky had acquired the rights in the 1970s to make an extravagant fourteen-hour adaptation of the book, but the project fell apart. This effort became the subject of the documentary film Jodorowsky's Dune released in 2013. David Lynch's Dune, produced by Raffaella De Laurentiis in 1984, was intended as a three-hour film, but was cut to 137 minutes; it was poorly received. In 1996, producer Richard P. Rubinstein acquired the rights to the novel. A live-action miniseries produced by Rubinstein, Frank Herbert's Dune, aired on the Sci Fi Channel in 2000; it was a ratings hit, and was generally better received than Lynch's film. However, some reviewers criticized the miniseries for lacking the spectacle afforded to a feature film production, and for staying too faithful to the book and thus getting dragged down by exposition. Prospects to make a successful adaptation of Dune improved after the critical and commercial success of the film series adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, both which maintained most of the works' key characters and plots while managing the limited running time.
In 2008, Paramount Pictures was developing a new feature film adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune, with Peter Berg set to direct. Berg left the project in October 2009, with director Pierre Morel brought on to direct in January 2010. However, Paramount dropped the project in March 2011, as they could not come to key agreements, with their rights reverting to Rubinstein.
Legendary Entertainment acquired the film and TV rights for Dune on November 21, 2016.Variety reported in December 2016 that director Denis Villeneuve was in talks with the studio to direct the film. Villeneuve expressed his interest in the project in September 2016, saying that "a longstanding dream of mine is to adapt Dune, but it's a long process to get the rights, and I don't think I will succeed". Villeneuve said that he felt he was not ready to direct a Dune movie until he had completed projects like Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, and that with his background in science fiction films, "Dune is my world." Brian Herbert, son of Frank and author of later books in the Dune series, confirmed that Villeneuve would be directing the project in February 2017.
Some of Villeneuve's previous collaborators on the films Arrival and/or Blade Runner 2049 returned for Dune, including film editor Joe Walker, production designer Patrice Vermette, visual effects supervisor Paul Lambert, sound designer and editor Theo Green, sound editor Mark Mangini, and special effects supervisor Gerd Nefzer. Other previous collaborators dropped out before production began, including visual effects supervisor John Nelson and cinematographer Roger Deakins, who was replaced in December 2018 with Greig Fraser.
Dune was produced by Villeneuve, Mary Parent and Cale Boyter, with Tanya Lapointe, Brian Herbert, Byron Merritt, Kim Herbert, Thomas Tull, Jon Spaihts, Richard P. Rubinstein, John Harrison, and Herbert W. Gain serving as executive producers and Kevin J. Anderson as creative consultant. Game of Thrones language creator David Peterson was confirmed to be developing languages for the film in April 2019.
In March 2018, Villeneuve stated that his goal was to adapt the novel into a two-part film series. Villeneuve ultimately secured a two-movie deal with Warner Bros. Pictures, in the same style as the two-part adaptation of Stephen King's It in 2017 and in 2019. He stated that "I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie" as Dune was "too complex" with "power in details" that a single film would fail to capture. However, all subsequent dealings were to secure the production of the first film and new production deals will need to be made to start production for the second film.
Eric Roth was hired to co-write the screenplay in April, and Jon Spaihts was later confirmed to be co-writing the script alongside Roth and Villeneuve. Villeneuve said in May 2018 that the first draft of the script had been finished. Brian Herbert confirmed by July 2018 that the latest draft of the screenplay covered "approximately half of the novel Dune". Legendary CEO Joshua Grode confirmed in April 2019 that they plan to make a sequel, adding that "there's a logical place to stop the [first] movie before the book is over". In November 2019, Spaihts stepped down as showrunner on the Dune: The Sisterhood TV prequel series to focus on the second film.
While Villeneuve had seen Lynch's adaptation of Dune and he respected both Lynch and the film, he did not build upon any elements from that, saying that "I'm going back to the book, and going to the images that came out when I read it". Villeneuve said of when he had first seen Lynch's adaptation that "there are parts that I love and other elements that I am less comfortable with. So it's like, I remember being half-satisfied", and that there was "still a movie that needs to be made about that book, just a different sensibility". Further, Villeneuve did not wish to incorporate concepts that Jodorowsky had laid out for his attempt for a Dune film in the mid-1970s, as Villeneuve stated that "Jodorowsky is a very unique visionary. He has a very strong, unique vision. I am a total different human being. It would be very presumptuous and arrogant for me to try."
In adapting the book written in the 1960s for the contemporary period, Villeneuve wanted to reflect on realities that have happened related to over-exploitation of the Earth and considered his screenplay "a coming-of-age story, but also a call for action for the youth". Villeneuve looked to streamline many parts of the novel in adapting it for film, stating "My goal was really to make sure that the hardcore fans will find the atmosphere and poetry of the book intact". Villeneuve avoided much of the internal monologues and epigraphs used in the book and which were considered a problem within Lynch's film adaptation. Instead, he focused the story around Paul and Jessica, giving them a secret hand gesture language they could use to communicate silently to each other. The film minimises many of the aspects around the Emperor and the politics surrounding the Empire, as Villeneuve believed he could still keep the sense of scope that the novel presented while still focusing the story around Paul's coming-of-age story. Other characters were given less predominance, such as Baron Harkkonnen and members of his court and the mentats Thufir Hawat and Piter De Vries, establishing them enough that they can be used within the potential second film. Villeneuve also wanted to move the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen from being a caricature as he was presented in the novel to a more complex antagonist.
Another major change was altering some of the arcs of the female characters in the book to give them more respect and prominence. Villeneuve stated, "Femininity is there in the book, but I thought it should be up front." According to Rebecca Ferguson, who was cast as Lady Jessica, "Denis was very respectful of Frank's work in the book, [but] the quality of the arcs for [many] of the women have been brought up to a new level. There were some shifts he did, and they are beautifully portrayed now." Lady Jessica was given an expanded role as both a soldier and member of the Bene Gesserit. The studio labeled this role a "warrior priestess", in contrast to the joking label of "space nun" that Villeneuve felt was implied by the book. The leading role of Fremen ecologist Dr. Liet-Kynes, a male character in the novel, was also given to actress Sharon Duncan-Brewster to help expand the cast diversity.
It was reported that Timothée Chalamet had entered final negotiations to play the lead in the film, Paul Atreides, in July 2018. Rebecca Ferguson entered negotiations to play Atreides' mother, Lady Jessica, in September 2018. She confirmed her casting in January 2019.
Dave Bautista, Stellan Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling, Oscar Isaac, and Zendaya joined the cast in January 2019. Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, and David Dastmalchian were cast in February 2019. Stephen McKinley Henderson joined in March, with Chang Chen entering negotiations.
TheMix.net reported in July 2019 that the film would "gender swap" the character Liet-Kynes by casting Sharon Duncan-Brewster in the role. Duncan-Brewster's casting was confirmed in April 2020. According to Duncan-Brewster, Villeneuve felt it was necessary to capture the essence of the character from the book, but was not necessary to remain consistent with all other facets, and thus opted for this change.
Principal photography began on March 18, 2019, at Origo Film Studios in Budapest, Hungary, and also took place in Wadi Rum in Jordan. The planet Caladan, one of the settings of the film, was filmed in Stadlandet in Norway. Filming also took place in Liwa Oasis in the United Arab Emirates, which formed a key backdrop of the planet Arrakis. Primary filming was completed in July 2019, with Brian Herbert confirming that filming had wrapped on July 26, 2019. Additional filming took place in Budapest in August 2020 but was not expected to alter the film's previous December 2020 release date. The film was shot for the IMAX format with an IMAX-certified Arri Alexa LF camera and an IMAX-certified Alexa Mini LF prototype, equipped with Panavision's large-format lenses in the Ultra Vista and H-series lineup, with select scenes seeing the aspect ratio opened up to 1.90:1 on all IMAX screens, and to 1.43:1 on select IMAX screens outfitted with IMAX's dual-laser projection system.
More than two thousand visual effect shots were created for the film. These shots used a chroma key process that visual effects supervisor Paul Lambert called "sandscreen"; instead of using green-based backgrounds, the visual effects team used brown-colored ones that matched the establishing desert shots intended for backgrounds. The resulting shots appear more natural than with other chroma keys. The sandworms were created through computer-generated imagery, with an original design considered "prehistoric" by Lambert, inspired by whales with a mouth filled with baleen and following the underwater movements of whales. While they had considered using rigged explosives to capture the motion of the sandworms breaking the surface in the desert, this would have been impractical in the Middle East, and instead used Houdini software to have sand mimic the motion of water. Villeneuve did not want the sound associated with these special effects to sound as a studio production, and sound designers Mark Mangini and Theo Green used a "fake documentary realism" approach to capture natural sounds and manipulate them for use in the film, such as recording the sounds of shifting sands in Death Valley using hydrophones.
Hans Zimmer affirmed he would be scoring Dune near the start of the film's production in March 2019. Zimmer had previously worked with Villeneuve on Blade Runner 2049. At the time, Zimmer had been approached by Christopher Nolan for composing on his then-upcoming film Tenet, but Zimmer opted for Dune, citing his personal love for the book as the reason. Zimmer did not want the soundtrack to sound like his previous works and used instruments atypical of a Western orchestra, an approach he called "anti-groove". He avoided watching Lynch's Dune so as not to be influenced by Toto's music, instead spending a week in a desert in Utah to incorporate its sounds into the score. The music was performed using an eclectic set of instruments, including some that were created specifically for the soundtrack. Performers for the score include guitarist Guthrie Govan and vocalist Loire Cotler. Additional music was composed by David Fleming, who worked in collaboration with Zimmer to keep his pieces on theme. Among the soundtrack pieces include bagpipes for the House Atreides theme. Zimmer said the idea of the House using bagpipes was Villeneuve's idea of something "ancient and organic". Zimmer was able to find thirty bagpipe players around Edinburgh amid the COVID-19 pandemic and recorded them playing in a church.
For the first Dune trailer, Zimmer supervised a 32-person choir via FaceTime (necessitated by pandemic restrictions) for the recording of a cover of Pink Floyd's song "Eclipse". Choir members gathered in groups of four over eight separate sessions in Santa Monica at Zimmer's Remote Control studio while Zimmer conducted from home.
Three soundtrack albums were released for the film, including The Dune Sketchbook (Music from the Soundtrack), Dune (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), and The Art and Soul of Dune on September 3, September 17, and October 22, 2021, respectively. Villeneuve said Zimmer spent "months and months creating new instruments, defining, creating, and seeking new sounds, pushing the envelope" and praised his work on the film. Two singles were released on July 22, titled "Paul's Dream" and "Ripples in the Sand".
Vanity Fair published an extensive first-look report on Dune on April 13, 2020. Empire's October 2020 issue's cover story included an in-depth look at the film and interviews with cast and crew, providing additional first looks ahead of the film's trailer release. The first 10 minutes of the film were screened in select IMAX theaters worldwide on July 21 and 22, 2021, in an event that also included a behind-the-scenes look at the film, and the debut of the film's first full trailer.
A teaser trailer was released on September 9, 2020. IndieWire gave the trailer a positive review, and wrote "It's full of eye-popping set design, breathtaking action, and one jaw-dropping last-minute look at Frank Herbert's infamous sandworms", in addition to stating, "The two [Denis Villeneuve and Greig Fraser] have brought a tangibility to Frank Herbert's world that should make Dune a visceral experience for moviegoers." The theatrical trailer for the film was released on July 22, 2021. Wired stated that the trailer "is begging you to see it in theaters". Variety praised the cast and visuals. Vanity Fair also gave the trailer a positive review and stated, "It will seem more mysterious to those unfamiliar with the story, but like Chani does herself in those dream missives to Paul, it hints at big, impressive things to come."
On February 26, 2019, Funcom entered into an exclusive partnership with Legendary Entertainment to develop games related to the upcoming Dune films.
Other Dune franchise works, unrelated to the film, are planned to be released near the same time as the film. The original Dune board game, produced by Avalon Hill in 1979 but out of print for many years, has been republished by Gale Force Nine to tie in with the film, along with the development of new board games based on the Dune franchise. A three-part graphic novel adaption of the books is being written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson with illustrations by Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín, with plans to be published by Abrams Books starting in October 2020 to tie into the film's release. In May 2020, Boom! Studios acquired the comic and graphic novel rights to the 1999 prequel novel Dune: House Atreides, with the intent of doing a 12-issue comic adaptation written by the original authors Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. In March 2020, Modiphius Entertainment helmed a new role-playing game based on the franchise, Dune: Adventures in the Imperium.
A new board game, Dune Imperium, was released by Dire Wolf Digital in December 2020, blending deck building and worker placement.
In September 2020, McFarlane Toys started a line of 7-inch figures modeled after characters from the film. A 12-inch figure of Baron Harkonnen was introduced at the same time. As of September 2020, the line was slated for release later in 2020.
An artbook, The Art and Soul of Dune, was released alongside the film on October 22, 2021. The book will be written by the film's executive producer Tanya Lapointe, and will include a soundtrack album of the same name composed by Zimmer. The book will be available in both a standard and a limited edition.
Dune was originally scheduled to be released on November 20, 2020, but was pushed back to December 18, 2020. The film was then delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, this time to October 1, 2021, taking over the release date slot of The Batman, where it will be theatrically released in 3D. In late June 2021, Warner Bros. delayed the film's American release date again by three weeks to October 22, 2021, to avoid competition with No Time to Die. Over a month before the domestic North American release date, the film had a staggered theatrical release schedule in most international markets that do not have HBO Max, beginning on September 15, including France, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland. A week ahead of the United States release, Warner Bros. announced that the film's availability on HBO Max would start on the evening of October 21, 2021, correlating with typical early Thursday theatrical showings for films released on Fridays (although the studio had not been doing early Thursday previews for most of the rest of their hybrid theatrical/HBO Max releases. The other exceptions were In the Heights and The Suicide Squad, which had the same strategy for its early Thursday previews/HBO Max release).
Like all 2021 Warner Bros. films, Dune will be streamed simultaneously on HBO Max for a period of one month. The film will then be removed from the service and follow the normal home media release schedule, similar to the process Warner Bros. used for Wonder Woman 1984. Villeneuve was one of several directors, alongside movie theater chains and production companies (including Legendary Entertainment, which produced and financed the film), who expressed disappointment and displeasure over the move. In a column published in Variety, he wrote, "Streaming can produce great content, but not movies of Dune's scope and scale. Warner Bros.' decision means Dune won't have the chance to perform financially in order to be viable and piracy will ultimately triumph... My team and I devoted more than three years of our lives to make it a unique big screen experience. Our movie's image and sound were meticulously designed to be seen in theaters." At the end of his appearance on Saturday Night Live that same month, Chalamet wore a hoodie with the Legendary Pictures logo on it, which was interpreted in the media as support for Legendary and disapproval of the streaming deal.
Dune had its world premiere on September 3, 2021, at the 78th Venice International Film Festival. It also screened at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, with an IMAX premiere screening at the Cinesphere. Jason Momoa tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the film's London premiere on October 15, 2021. On October 17, the film was leaked online ahead of its planned United States and HBO Max release.
As of November 14, 2021[update], Dune has grossed $93.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $258.1 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $351.2 million. Deadline Hollywood reported that a total box office gross of $300 million, the combined cost of production and marketing, "will make many happy from an image-standpoint, even if breakeven is far north of that."
The film was released in 14 markets outside the United States or Canada on September 15, 2021. It grossed $37.9 million, with the largest markets being Russia ($8.9 million), France ($7.2 million), Germany ($4.4 million), Taiwan ($3.4 million), Italy ($2.5 million) and Spain ($2.4 million). After adding an additional $26.3 million from 32 countries in its second weekend, the film had a 10-day running total of $76.5 million.
In China, Dune opened to a $21.6 million weekend according to estimates by Warner Brothers, ranking second on the country's box office behind The Battle at Lake Changjin. In its fourth week of release outside the United States and Canada, the film made $21.4 million in 75 countries, a drop of 54% from the previous weekend. It also fell by 78% to about $5 million in China, falling to the third rank. The film crossed the $300 million global mark on November 2, with the largest running-total countries outside the United States being China ($34 million), France ($29.3 million), Russia ($21 million), Germany ($20.2 million), and the UK ($18.8 million). It earned $11.1 million in countries outside United States and Canada in its fifth weekend, a drop of 52%. This included $2.1 million in China where it dropped to the fifth rank.
In the United States and Canada, the film made $41 million on its opening weekend from 4,125 theaters, surpassing its projected opening weekend estimates of $30–35 million and besting the debut of Godzilla vs. Kong ($31.6 million) for the highest opening weekend for Warner Bros. during the pandemic era. Of that opening weekend take, $17.5 million came from its first day ticket sales, including $5.1 million from Thursday night previews. Dune had the best opening for a 2021 Warner Bros. title and for Villeneuve's career. The film fell 62% in its second weekend to $15.5 million, though it remained atop the domestic box office. It fell by 51% in its third weekend to earn $7.6 million and was displaced by Eternals from the top rank.
The film was streamed by an estimated 1.9 million households on HBO Max in the United States during its debut weekend, according to Samba TV. According to TV Time, it was the most-watched film overall in the United States during the first, second and third week of its release.
On the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 82% with an average rating of 7.60/10 based on 411 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Dune occasionally struggles with its unwieldy source material, but those issues are largely overshadowed by the scope and ambition of this visually thrilling adaptation." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 74 out of 100 based on 66 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an 84% positive score (with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars) and 66% saying they would definitely recommend it.
Following its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, early reception was generally positive but did not resonate with some critics. These early reviews praised the film for its scope and ambition, while others found it boring. Summarizing early reviews, Stephen M. Colbert of Screen Rant noted that its complex story and Villeneuve's directorial style were bound to have selective appeal, and that this is reflected in negative reviews thus far.
After its wider release, the film drew praise for its writing and sense of scale, while others had criticized the film for being drawn out and for only covering half of the novel. Ben Travis of Empire magazine gave the film five out of five stars and stated, "An absorbing, awe-inspiringly huge adaptation of (half of) Frank Herbert's novel that will wow existing acolytes, and get newcomers hooked on its Spice-fuelled visions. If Part Two never happens, it'll be a travesty." Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph also gave the film a five-star rating, calling it "majestic, unsettling and enveloping". Xan Brooks of The Guardian referred to the film in his five-star review as "dense, moody and quite often sublime – the missing link bridging the multiplex and the arthouse". In a positive review, Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Villeneuve draws you into an astonishingly vivid, sometimes plausibly unnerving vision of the future." Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly, who graded the film a B, wrote that Dune "is exactly the kind of lush, lofty filmmaking wide screens were made for; a sensory experience so opulent and overwhelming it begs to be seen big, or not at all" and added, "The sheer awesomeness of Villeneuve's execution ... often obscures the fact that the plot is mostly prologue: a sprawling origin story with no fixed beginning or end."
Other critics commented on issues related to pacing and handling of the source material. Critic Owen Gleiberman of Variety wrote: "It's an act of world-building that runs out of storytelling steam ... Dune is out to wow us, and sometimes succeeds, but it also wants to get under your skin like a hypnotically toxic mosquito ... as the movie begins to run out of tricks, it turns woozy and amorphous." Kevin Maher of The Times gave two out of five stars, stating that while "every frame ... is spectacular", "Dune is also kind of boring". Reviewing the film for TheWrap, Steve Pond called the film "both dazzling and frustrating, often spectacular and often slow" and said, "This version of Dune sometimes feels as if it aims to impress you more than entertain you; it's grim on a staggering level, ditching most of the fun of sci-fi yarns in favor of a worldview that feels more like Villeneuve's Sicario or Prisoners than his Arrival."
Some reviewers criticized the film for pulling back from the Arabic and Islamic influences that Herbert had used within the novel but still appropriating these elements, as well as the lack of casting of Middle Eastern or North African (MENA) actors. Spaihts stated that they had to pull back on their use of Arabic culture embedded in the novel for the film; "The Arab world was much more exotic in the 1960s than it is today. Today the Arab world is with us, they're our fellow Americans, they're everywhere … If you were to build a kind of Arab future on Arrakis in a novel starting today, you would need to invent more and borrow less." Despite this shift, the film was still found by critics to be heavily influenced by Middle Eastern culture and were troubled by its lack of MENA casting. Serena Rasoul, the founder of the Muslim American Casting, called the lack of MENA actors an "erasure", and "You don't cast MENA or Muslim actors, yet you profit off their culture. That’s where it’s painful for us as creatives. ... It means that we are not good enough to be part of the film." The resulting film was seen as more orientalist as a result. Additionally, while the original novel was considered by some to have elements of the white savior narrative, the lack of MENA representation in addition to the actors of African descent in roles of characters that were killed off to protect Paul and Jessica were seen to propagate this white savior narrative further within Villeneuve's film, according to Ali Karjoo-Ravary, assistant professor in Islamic studies of Bucknell University. When asked about the white savior narrative, Villeneuve stated what his intent with the film was. "It's a critique of that. It's not a celebration of a savior. It's a criticism of the idea of a savior, of someone that will come and tell another population how to be, what to believe. It's not a condemnation, but a criticism. So that's the way I feel it's relevant, and that can be seen as contemporary."
Before Dune: Part Two was officially greenlit by Legendary, Villeneuve stated that the 2021 film would roughly cover the first half of the novel, with a follow-up covering the remaining half. In November 2019, Jon Spaihts left his position as showrunner of the Dune: The Sisterhood prequel TV series to focus more on writing the sequel film. In June 2020, cinematographer Greig Fraser said, "It's a fully formed story in itself with places to go. It's a fully standalone epic film that people will get a lot out of when they see it".
Warner Bros.' decision in December 2020 to feature many of its upcoming films in 2021, including Dune, with simultaneous day-and-date release through streaming on HBO Max alongside theatrical release because of the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, appeared to put the potential for the Dune sequel at risk. Villeneuve stated that the day-and-date streaming release could result in the film's underperforming financially, which could lead to cancellation of the planned sequel. Legendary Pictures was also reported to be potentially seeking legal remedies against Warner Bros. for the day-and-date streaming release.
In February 2021, Eric Roth stated that he has written a full treatment for the potential sequel. In August 2021, Villeneuve was optimistic about the sequel happening, and confirmed that Chani will have a bigger role in it. That same month, he also confirmed writing on the sequel had begun. Villeneuve said at the Venice Film Festival before the film's debut that he is planning a trilogy, with two films being based on the first novel and the third film being based on Dune Messiah. The film itself was titled Dune: Part One during the introductory credits, lending credence to plans for further parts.
Warner Bros. assured Villeneuve a sequel would be greenlit as long as the film performed well on HBO Max. Just days prior to the film's release in the United States, Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff stated, "Will we have a sequel to Dune? If you watch the movie you see how it ends. I think you pretty much know the answer to that." Sarnoff further said, "The story in itself sets up for a sequel. The production is so amazing and the storytelling is so compelling that it's not going to be judged on box office alone."
Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures officially greenlit Dune: Part Two on October 26, 2021, with a scheduled release date of October 20, 2023. A spokesperson for Legendary said on the announcement, "We would not have gotten to this point without the extraordinary vision of Denis and the amazing work of his talented crew, the writers, our stellar cast, our partners at Warner Bros., and of course the fans! Here's to more Dune." A key point of negotiation prior to greenlighting the sequel was assuring that the sequel would have an exclusive window where it would only be shown theatrically, with Legendary and Warner Bros. agreeing to give Dune: Part Two a 45-day window before it would be available through other channels. Villeneuve said this theatrical exclusivity was a "non-negotiable condition", and that "the theatrical experience is at the very heart of the cinematic language for me."
With Dune: Part Two greenlit, Villeneuve said that his primary concern was to complete the filming as soon as possible, however, he did say the production of the second film benefited from all the work already established on the first and can help expedite production. Producer Mary Parent stated that filming is scheduled to start on July 18, 2022. Hans Zimmer will return to compose the score for the film, and near the time the second part was greenlit, he had already completed an hour and a half of new music to help inspire Villeneuve in preparing the film.
As revealed in June 2019, Legendary Television is also producing a spin-off series, Dune: The Sisterhood, for WarnerMedia's streaming service, HBO Max. The series will center on the Bene Gesserit and serve as a prequel to the film. At one point, it was going to have Villeneuve directing the series' pilot, with Spaihts writing the screenplay and Dana Calvo as showrunner for the series. However, in November 2019, Spaihts left the series as writer to focus on the sequel film, though will remain on as an executive producer. Spaihts, along with Villeneuve, will still serve as executive producers with Brian Herbert, Byron Merritt, and Kim Herbert. Diane Ademu-John was hired as the new showrunner by July 2021.
The director of Blade Runner 2049 has also revealed that a first version of the screenplay of Dune ... is now ready.
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