Watch the First Trailer for Dune, Denis Villeneuve’s Adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Classic Sci-Fi Novel

It takes a fear­less film­mak­er indeed to adapt Dune. Atop its rich lin­guis­tic, polit­i­cal, philo­soph­i­cal, reli­gious, and eco­log­i­cal foun­da­tions, Frank Her­bert’s saga-launch­ing 1965 nov­el also hap­pens to have a plot “con­vo­lut­ed to the point of pain.” So writes David Fos­ter Wal­lace in his essay on David Lynch, who direct­ed the first cin­e­mat­ic ver­sion of Dune in 1984. That the result is remem­bered as a “huge, pre­ten­tious, inco­her­ent flop” (with an accom­pa­ny­ing glos­sary hand­out) owes to a vari­ety of fac­tors, not least stu­dio med­dling and the unsur­pris­ing incom­pat­i­bil­i­ty of the man who made Eraser­head with large-scale Hol­ly­wood sci-fi. The ques­tion lin­gered: could Dune be suc­cess­ful­ly adapt­ed at all?

Well before Lynch took his crack, El Topo and The Holy Moun­tain direc­tor Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky put togeth­er his own Dune adap­ta­tion. If all had gone well it would have come out as a ten-hour film fea­tur­ing the art of H.R. Giger and Moe­bius as well as the per­for­mances of Orson Welles, Glo­ria Swan­son, David Car­ra­dine, Alain Delon, Mick Jag­ger, and Sal­vador Dalí.

But all did not go well, and cin­e­ma was deprived of what would have been a sin­gu­lar spec­ta­cle no mat­ter how it turned out. At least one ele­ment of Jodor­owsky’s Dune has sur­vived, how­ev­er, in the lat­est attempt to bring Her­bert’s com­plex best­seller to the screen: the music of Pink Floyd, heard in the just-released trail­er for Denis Vil­leneu­ve’s Dune, star­ring Tim­o­th­ée Chalemet as the young hero Paul Atrei­des (as well as Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, and a host of oth­er cur­rent­ly big names), sched­uled for release in Decem­ber.

If a cred­i­ble Dune movie is pos­si­ble, Vil­leneuve is the man to direct it. His pre­vi­ous two pic­tures, Blade Run­ner 2049 and the alien-vis­i­ta­tion dra­ma Arrival, demon­strate not just his capa­bil­i­ties with sci­ence fic­tion but his sense of the sub­lime. Begin­ning with its set­ting, the desert-waste­land plan­et of Arrakis, Dune demands to be envi­sioned with the kind of beau­ty that inspires some­thing close to dread and fear. (The first direc­tor asked to adapt Dune was David Lean, per­haps due to his track record with majes­tic views of sand.) Vil­leneuve has also made the wise choice of refus­ing to com­press the entire book into a sin­gle fea­ture, pre­sent­ing this as the first of a two-part adap­ta­tion. And as a life­long Dune fan, he under­stands the atti­tude nec­es­sary to approach­ing this chal­lenge: “Fear is the mind-killer,” as Paul famous­ly puts it — so famous­ly that the trail­er could­n’t pos­si­bly exclude Cha­la­met’s deliv­ery of the line.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Why You Should Read Dune: An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to Frank Herbert’s Eco­log­i­cal, Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci-Fi Epic

The 14-Hour Epic Film, Dune, That Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky, Pink Floyd, Sal­vador Dalí, Moe­bius, Orson Welles & Mick Jag­ger Nev­er Made

Moe­bius’ Sto­ry­boards & Con­cept Art for Jodorowsky’s Dune

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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  • Navin says:

    I won­der why direc­tor Rid­ley Scott stay away from direct­ing this movie even George Miller could have been the one if cre­at­ing the mas­ter piece , Denis Vil­leneuve. Flop with Blade Run­ner and I pre­dict with this one too , I hope I’m wrong.

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