Venice Movie Pageant: ‘Dune’ Leaves Us With three Large Questions

The spice should circulate. However will audiences go?

Denis Villeneuve’s extremely anticipated “Dune” premiered Friday on the Venice Movie Pageant, an uncommon place to debut a sci-fi franchise-starter that price upward of $160 million. Then once more, “Dune” will not be your typical tentpole.

It’s one thing dreamier and weirder, a film that straddles the road between auteurist art-film and studio blockbuster so provocatively that even after watching it, I can’t fairly predict how “Dune” will fare when it comes out in theaters (and on HBO Max) on Oct. 22. After I left my screening, the primary critic I spoke to was completely besotted. The second fled the theater as if Villeneuve had planted a bomb there.

Nonetheless, after a decade of Marvel films made with high-level craftsmanship however few formal dangers, it’s bracing to get a film of this scale that takes such large inventive swings. Listed here are three questions that saved swimming round in my head after watching it.

Although “Dune” is predicated on a basic sci-fi novel by Frank Herbert, variations of it have hardly set the world on hearth. David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation was a well-known catastrophe that the director disavowed, whereas two mini-series variations had been extra notable for stuffing wonky blue contact lenses into the eyes of a younger James McAvoy than for uplifting any vital pop-cultural response.

However “Dune” has sturdy bones, they usually’ve been picked over significantly since Herbert’s novel was revealed in 1965. So many movies had been impressed by “Dune” that the contours of the story may really feel acquainted now: A younger man (Timothée Chalamet) is shipped to an unique planet that’s being mined for a precious pure useful resource — on this case, the hallucinogenic “spice” — however he ultimately decides to throw in his lot with the Indigenous folks and battle again in opposition to their well-militarized oppressors.

Sure, that’s principally the identical plot as “Avatar” … and hey, possibly that’s a great factor! In spite of everything, “Avatar” was a record-setting blockbuster, and whereas Chalamet is new to main this kind of film, Villeneuve has surrounded him with a forged of veterans: Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista and Josh Brolin have all finished their time within the superhero salt mines, Oscar Isaac is recent off a “Star Wars” trilogy, and Rebecca Ferguson has grow to be the main girl of the “Mission: Unattainable” franchise. In that case many different tentpole movies have stolen from “Dune,” the least “Dune” might do is steal one thing again.

Nonetheless, even with that pedigree, “Dune” faces some vital obstacles. The movie completed principal pictures over two years in the past and was initially set for launch in November 2020 till Warner Bros. determined to delay the movie for practically a yr. The expectation was that the push would place “Dune” in a post-Covid movie panorama; the truth is that the persevering with havoc wreaked by the Delta variant has film studios spooked sufficient to shove some main films (like “High Gun: Maverick”) into 2022.

In some methods, this might be a great factor for “Dune”: With fewer brand-driven blockbusters within the market, “Dune” might stand out and draw curious viewers who’re looking forward to one thing large to look at. However to Villeneuve’s vocal consternation, the movie may even premiere on HBO Max on the identical time it bows in theaters, which might lower into box-office receipts and threaten the percentages {that a} sequel might be greenlit.

It might have an effect on the primary spherical of buzz, too: The viewers that can go see “Dune” in theaters is extra inclined to be invested in it (and can expertise its visible and sonic pleasures on the most important doable scale), whereas the bored, curious and unfamiliar who click on over on HBO Max might not be as keen on Villeneuve’s mise en scène. The primary vital motion sequence, a sandworm assault, doesn’t arrive till an hour into the film. Are at-home audiences going to be as keen to see issues by way of because the individuals who eagerly paid for their very own tickets?

A part of what’s so putting about “Dune” is that Villeneuve has a way of texture that’s uncommon amongst big-budget filmmakers. When a personality falls in battle, Villeneuve is besotted with the way in which the person’s eyelashes flutter as he dies. And through the assault on a personality’s compound, the digital camera drifts from the motion to point out us magnificent palm timber which were set aflame, their leafy crowns now a starburst of destruction.

Although sci-fi films can generally be a tough promote with Oscar voters, I believe that Villeneuve’s distinctive eye will distinguish “Dune,” because the film seems to be undeniably ravishing. A ton of below-the-line nominations are assured, together with Greig Fraser’s cinematography and the manufacturing design by Patrice Vermette. The rating (by Hans Zimmer), sound and enhancing are all extra daring than this style often permits: The aural soundscape and artsy crosscutting really feel nearly designed to attract you right into a spice-induced trance.

And I haven’t even gotten to the style! The costume design (by Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan) is a stunner, and particularly through the first hour of the movie — with Rebecca Ferguson sporting outrageous space-nun sheaths and a veiled Charlotte Rampling dressed like the Inexperienced Knight in Gaultier — “Dune” can seem to be a moody high-fashion shoot that often contains spaceships. (I imply this as a great factor.)

Villeneuve’s final movie, “Blade Runner 2049,” scored 5 Oscar nominations and gained its cinematographer Roger Deakins a long-overdue Academy Award. Nonetheless, the film couldn’t break into the 2 high Oscar classes, greatest image and greatest director. Does “Dune” stand a greater probability?

I’m taking the wait-and-see method right here. Not one of the actors from “Dune” are prone to be nominated, which might have helped legitimize a movie like this with Oscar voters, and an adapted-screenplay nomination isn’t a foregone conclusion, both. Nonetheless, after 2020’s intimate discipline, I believe the academy is keen to get an even bigger film into the best-picture race. Villeneuve’s battle to get his film seen on the large display may resonate with streaming-skeptical voters who see his stubbornness as a campaign price backing.

Viewers who watch “Dune” anticipating an entire expertise could also be thrown for a loop when the title card comes up: This isn’t “Dune,” it’s “Dune: Half One.”

Villeneuve has cut up Herbert’s guide roughly in half, which means that a number of of the numerous character arcs are simply getting began when this movie involves an in depth. And although Zendaya is plastered everywhere in the advertising as the feminine lead, it’s actually Ferguson who will get that highlight: Outdoors of some dreamy visions of what’s to return, Zendaya’s character doesn’t issue into the story in a giant approach simply but.

Villeneuve intends to make “Dune” a two-parter and is engaged on the screenplay for the sequel, however Warner Bros. nonetheless hasn’t technically greenlit it. The studio has tried the two-film gambit earlier than, splitting the Stephen King adaptation “It” into halves, however these movies opened two years aside and a potential “Dune” sequel would probably take far longer to mount. (It could additionally concern the studio that “It Chapter Two” made some $225 million much less worldwide than the primary movie, regardless of an inflow of massive stars.)

Maybe Warner Bros. is taking a wait-and-see method, too, and watching the “Dune” field workplace earlier than pulling the set off on a second movie, however the benchmarks of success look very totally different throughout a pandemic and a simultaneous streaming run. With a deliberate HBO Max spinoff sequence centered on the Bene Gesserit (a secretive, all-female group that counts Ferguson’s and Rampling’s characters amongst its acolytes), I’m shocked that the studio gained’t firmly decide to a sequel now, if solely to engineer some momentum forward of the movie’s launch.

It will additionally cue audiences to anticipate an unfinished story on the finish of “Dune,” which rockets by way of a few higher-octane climaxes earlier than touchdown on a considerably muted denouement. Villeneuve does loads of teasing: Many main occasions to return are glimpsed, as if the film can’t wait to get to the good things. However how lengthy a wait will that show to be?

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