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A guide to the highly-anticipated movie adaptation of Frank Herbert's 1965 sci-fi novel

Dune finally has a confirmed release date: October 22, 2021. A movie six years in the making, the hype has been steadily building, especially with the attachment of Denis Villeneuve, the critically acclaimed director behind the successful Blade Runner sequel, and star-studded cast including Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya.

Adding to the excitement, Dune received an eight-minute standing ovation after its showing at the 78th Venice Film Festival, with praise from top reviewers and industry giants including Oscar-winning director Chloé Zhao

Based on Frank Herbert's beloved sci-fi novel, this movie follows Duke Leto Atreides and his son, Paul Atreides, who has been tasked by a tyrannical emperor to oversee the dangerous harvest of 'The Spice', a valuable substance from Arrakis that can prolong life and bestow superhuman powers. Paul begins to hear the voice of Chani, a woman fighting to protect Arrakis, and embarks on a mission to liberate the planet from its oppressors. 

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Here's what we know so far about Dune

It's split into two parts

The beloved 500-page novel strikes the perfect balance between detailed exposition describing the epic world and fast-paced character-driven plot, alongside piercing social and political commentary. 

However, it is precisely this unique aspect that garnered the novel a reputation for being notoriously difficult to adapt for cinema. In the 1970s, cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky's attempt at adapting the novel was scrapped after three years in development as the budget was unable to keep up with the scale of the world.

David Lynch's 1984 film adaptation was also met with much hostility. In his review, Roger Egbert commented: "This movie is a real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time."

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Understanding the complexity of Dune and perhaps inspired by the success of the 2000 Sci-Fi Channel miniseries, Frank Herbert's Dune, Villeneuve made the bold decision to tell the story in two movies, despite not yet obtaining the green light for the second film. "I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie. The world is too complex. It’s a world that takes its power in details," he said in an interview with Vanity Fair.

And it appears that this decision has paid off, as the early reviews have been celebrating that the powerful sci-fi novel has finally been done justice on the big screen. 

A stellar soundtrack

Hans Zimmer is the Oscar-winning composer behind the iconic soundtracks of Inception, Gladiator, and The Lion King. He has worked with Villeneuve on Blade Runner 2049, starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. Therefore, the news that the duo are joining forces again have been met with much excitement. 

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In fact, WaterTower Music has announced that they are releasing three separate music albums from the movie—The Dune Sketchbook, Dune (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) and The Art and Soul of Dune.

The first two will be released in Dolby Atmos Music, featuring the movie's film score and the musical inspiration and exploration behind it; the last is  a soundtrack to accompany an eponymous book, written by executive producer Tanya Lapointe, about the creation of the film. 

Oscar-worthy performances

Alongside Marvel's Eternals and Netflix's Don't Look Up, Dune features one of the most star-studded casts this year that also includes Stellan Skarsgård, Javier Bardem, Jason Momoa, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin and Charlotte Rampling. Critics were particularly blown away by the standout performances of Isaac and Chalamet, who play the father and son leading the House Atreides. 

Many have already put their money on Oscar nominations for the two actors' performances. "I left with just so much gratitude that I could just be a part of something that was that amazing, that cool, that much of a cinematic achievement. I think it's unlike anything that's has ever come before it. I think it's a masterpiece," said Isaac in an interview with Kevin McCarthy after watching Dune for the first time. 

The actors also received Oscar buzz for The French Dispatch and Scenes from a Marriage respectively, which were also screened at the 78th Venice Film Festival.

Explore the Galactic Padishah Empire

Dune doesn't just have an exceptional cast. Behind the camera, Villeneuve has assembled one of the most talented technical crew to bring Herbert's epic story, with its vast universe, from the giant sandworm-infested desert planes of Arrakis to the calming ocean landscape of Caladan, to life. Visual and special effects supervisors Paul Lambert and Gerd Nefzer, production designer Patrice Vermette, editor Joe Walker, and director of photography Greig Fraser, lead the team.

Collectively, they have earned more than a dozen Oscar awards and nominations for some of the most technically impressive movies, including Arrival and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. In fact, many have already been drawing parallels between Dune and the post-apocalyptic desert film, Mad Max: Fury Road, which swept an astounding 10 awards at the Oscars in 2016, including Best Picture. 

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And it's not just about the set and production design. Expect futuristic outfits from Oscar-nominated costume designer Jacqueline West and Robert Morgan, as well as extraordinary fight scenes choreographed by Tom Struthers, the stunt coordinator from The Dark Knight trilogy and the rotating combat sequence from Inception

Big screen for the best cinematic experience

As it was filmed for Imax, Villeneuve feels quite strongly that the best way to experience his upcoming film, with a runtime of 155 minutes, is on the big screen. It is one of the reasons that the release date to this movie has been pushed back several times, as cinemas remained shut during the pandemic. Reaching a compromise, the movie will be released in theatres as well as streaming platform, HBO Max, on October 22. 

While he understands the necessity to protect public health and safety, he has expressed some lingering regret: "We understand that the cinema industry is under tremendous pressure right now. That I get. The way it happened, I’m still not happy. Frankly, to watch Dune on a televisiom, the best way I can compare it is to drive a speedboat in your bathtub. For me, it’s ridiculous. It’s a movie that has been made as a tribute to the big-screen experience."

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