Approximately 10 billion years ago when I was in college (because what is time anymore), I took a science fiction literature course on a whim. The course’s centerpiece was a little book I had never heard of before: Dune by Frank Herbert. The beaten, worn down copy that I picked up from the campus bookstore had that quirky, unassuming 60s pulp novel look which did not prepare me at all for the life-altering contents within.
That’s honestly how I feel once more after watching the trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune (2020). This film covers the first half of the novel and appears on the surface to be just another sci-fi/action flick. Given everything that’s been publicized about its development and the details on display in this trailer, I can guarantee that it’s anything but a mindless popcorn action movie. If it’s handled with the same deft care and staggering storytelling talent exhibited by Villeneuve in Arrival (2016) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017), we’re in for a treat y’all.
Not that action movies are bad – I stan JCVD and have watched the Fast & Furious series more times than I can count. It’s just that this story has a message (several messages) to impart that would be utterly lost if it leaned too far into that format, despite containing characters, themes, and intense moments that warrant such treatment. I’m encouraged by the balance showcased here, where action is a narrative tool and not a crutch.
Dune is a shrewd story—one so thought-provoking it makes you question the world around you (and the people you revere) like never before. In an age where we are beset on all sides, the “Litany Against Fear” referenced in the trailer has never been more relevant.
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
– The Litany Against Fear by Frank Herbert
We need to speculate, challenge norms, broaden our awareness, care about each other, and grow as a culture and as a society—it’s more important than ever that the media we consume inspires us to cast aside our paralyzing fears so that we may find the strength to stand against oppression. By the same token, it’s just as important to be wary of fanaticism and paths that lead to destruction. Under sumptuous visuals, it appears this film will do just that and remain faithful to its source material in a way that previous adaptations have failed to capture. It’ll do it in style with a stacked cast, unbelievably realistic special effects, and a score by the musical messiah himself, Hans Zimmer.
Also, holy crap: look at the size of that sandworm.
Dune is set to release on December 18, 2020.