The sheer number of stills came as a huge shock for fans eager for this new adaptation, and they have surely whetted their appetites. Villeneuve strikes again with his beautiful shot composition, particularly with sole silhouettes, that are as mesmerising as they are fragile. The first teaser still, featuring Chalamet’s leading character – Paul Atreides – is haunting, with the grey-scale colour palette and use of negative space setting up the change in Atreides life as his family emigrates to the desert planet Arrakis.
While all stills encapsulate so much, my person favourite is of Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson, who plays his (sort of) mother Lady Jessica. The shot features the pair looking beyond the dunes of the desert, wearing armour that is both futuristic and grounded in our own time. The nasal cannula is a nice touch, shaking off the burdensome spacesuits that are beginning to plague modern science-fiction, while also centralising their existence as being non-natives to the planet.
The rest of the stills have become a fun who’s-who game with the film’s already notoriously large and prolific cast. Oscar Isaac is looking appropriately machoistic as Paul Atreides’ father, Duke Leto, geared out in a more chromatic and battle-ready version of the armour worn by Paul and Lady Jessica. Zendaya, on the other hand, looks for elegant and vulnerable as Arrakis native, Chani.
The simplistic colours and shadings hint at the distinctions that Villeneuve is clearly making for the audience between the colonisers and the natives. Although the colonisers certainly look more mechanised, the Fremen natives haven’t been designed to be primitive. The latter notion is a common pitfall in these narratives, and it’s great getting an idea of the direction that Villeneuve is going to take.
In the interview itself, Villeneuve has expressed his commitment to the project, stating that the source material is too complex to be adapted into one film. This has been a source of criticism towards the original 1984 adaptation by David Lynch which, while competently made, suffered from lack of time to explore Dune’s intricacies. Hopefully Villeneuve will be able to make his series of films to the material justice, but like most things in the world of cinema, it will really depend on the film’s financial success.
Keeping the initial release date may be a misstep for Warner Bros. if people are still feeling fearful of COVID-19’s effects by December; that is, if cinemas have reopened by then. I imagine the large and prolific cast was the greatest bargaining chip in this project. While there’s no doubt that Denis Villeneuve can create critically-acclaimed science fiction films – Arrival (2016), Blade Runner 2049 (2017) – they haven’t exactly been box office smashes.
The cast’s wide range of appeal is cleverly designed to cover these bases and, with a bit of luck, should secure Dune enough profit to warrant the rest of the series. Until then though, let’s just sit back and let Dune be the excellent film that it’s shaping up to be!