Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049), the new Dune movie is gearing up to replace Star Wars as the big sci-fi blockbuster event of the year. Vanity Fair just shared our first look at the film, introducing a star-studded cast including Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya and Jason Momoa. Unsurprisingly for an adaptation of such a beloved book, the film’s aesthetic is already proving divisive among fans.
Previous Dune adaptations include a couple of TV miniseries, David Lynch’s commercially disastrous 1984 movie, and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ambitious but famously unfinished film in the 1970s, whose concept art went on to influence Star Wars and Alien. Villeneuve’s version has a more gritty, grounded aesthetic than the opulent costumes favored by Lynch and Jodorowsky, with Vanity Fair showing actors wearing khaki stillsuits and angular grey armor. It’s a different Dune from the baroque style that many fans imagined, and that isn’t the only major change. The new film will also have better roles for women.
Chalamet stars as Paul Atreides, heir to an aristocratic family on the desert planet Arrakis. His parents are played by Rebecca Ferguson and Oscar Isaac, while Zendaya plays his love interest, Chani. Ferguson told Vanity Fair that Villeneuve wanted to improve the roles given to female characters in the book, with more screentime for Paul’s mother, a member of the mind-reading Bene Gesserit sect.
“Denis was very respectful of Frank [Herbert]’s work in the book,” Rebecca Ferguson told Vanity Fair, adding, “the quality of the arcs for much of the women have been brought up to a new level.” There aren’t any women in the main creative team for Dune (which was co-written by Villeneuve, Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts, and edited by Joe Walker), but after making Sicario and Arrival, Villeneuve is aware of the need for well-rounded female characters.
Given the male-dominated nature of the main cast, Villeneuve also chose to change one character’s gender: Dr. Liet Kynes, who was a white man in the book, but is now played by a Black actress, Sharon Duncan-Brewster.
This film has a far more diverse cast than previous adaptations, but while Villeneuve acknowledges the book’s origins as a partial allegory for oil wars in the Middle East, he did not cast any Middle-Eastern or Arab actors to reflect the book’s political and linguistic roots.
H/T to Vanity Fair