Sonofabitch, Denis Villenueve’s adaptation of DUNE has been pushed back once again and folks, I simply cannot cope with this news.
Variety reports that the long-gestating adaptation of Frank Herbert’s landmark science fiction novel will now be released on October 22, 2021. So, ya know, it’s only three weeks…so…not so bad…I guess I’ll live. But damnit, we’ve been waiting for this sure-fire magnum opus for years, and it’s already 7 months overdue!
Villenueve’s film was set to be released in December 2020 but was pushed back when, ya know, the Global Pandemic was happening. After arguing with his studio about a potential release on HBO Max a la WW84, we learned earlier this year that DUNE would, in fact, get its theatrical release on October 1, 2021. Then, we learned that the film would make its world premier at the Venice Film Festival on opening night. This was generally considered good news for three reasons:
- It means the film is complete
- It means the studio and the filmmaker are confident in the film and it’s ability to garner praise
- It means the buzz from the festival might buoy box office numbers
Buoyed box office numbers may be the key to understanding why there has now been another delay.
Denis Villenueve’s DUNE was always planned as a two-part film in which the first movie covered approximately the first 2/3 of the novel, and the second film covering the final portion. That second film hasn’t been shot yet, or even greenlit by Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures. So, in order to see the second film, DUNE 2021 needs to do well at the box office.
DUNE‘s potential financial success has always been a dubious prospect: despite legendary source material, an out-of-this-world cast (pun intended), and being helmed by the best director on the planet, DUNE was never a guaranteed success. Previous adaptations of DUNE have been weird flops (Lynch’s infamous 1984, namely), okay-ish videogames, or fallen into made-for-TV obscurity. Despite influencing countless other IP in the sci-fi genre, DUNE is no legacy property with a built-in audience, and that’s troubling.
Perhaps by being pushed back even just a few weeks, the studio is placing the film firmly in Academy Awards territory. If the film is as good as some of the initial reports suggest it is, there may be more than a few Oscar nominations in the future. Such accolades wouldn’t be new for the cast and crew of the film; by my count, there are 38 Oscar noms and 5 wins by the members of the DUNE team, and I may have missed some! If DUNE wins lots of awards early next year, the film will enjoy long legs at the box office and at home.
So what is DUNE anyway? I’ll use that question as an excuse to post (and watch) the trailer again:
Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel DUNE positions young Paul Atreides as the scion of his house as it’s thrust into a feudal war over the desert planet Arrakis. Arrakis, also known as Dune, is the only place in the universe that produces the Spice Melange, a sought-after resource that grants its users unnatural long life, prescience, and rad blue-on-blue eyes. There are various houses and factions that are all interested in the control of Arrakis, and the novel serves as a commentary on imperialism, environmentalism, political machinations, and what it means to be a hero.
I am currently obsessed with the DUNE franchise; I first read novel when I was in High School, and after picking it back up last year to get ready for the Villenueuve adaptation, I continued on with the series – I’m now halfway through GOD EMPORER OF DUNE and man it is weird and cool. While I don’t think the film series will ever make it past the events of the first book, we can toss back some spice beer and dream, right?
DUNE starring Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem (holy shit what a cast!) will now hit American theaters on (WE HOPE!) October 22, 2021.