Forty Years in the Making: ‘Dune’ Promises to be the Winter Blockbuster of 2020

It’s been more than a year that the most vociferous science fiction nerd enthusiasts have been twiddling their thumbs waiting for the latest news on Denis Villeneuve’s vision of the heralded Frank Herbert novel “Dune“.

THR reports a strategic delay on the upcoming movie. Baz Luhrmann is developing the Elvis biopic slated for Oct. 1, 2021. Because of that delay, Dune gets the premium slot of Warner Bros.’ distribution on Dec. 18, 2020.

A December release allows the much-anticipated film to have some breathing room and not to be encumbered by Marvel’s November offering Eternals (Nov. 6, 2020), which is sure to own that holiday weekend (and maybe a couple of weeks after that). Allowing Dune to roll out the week before Christmas gives the premiere weekend placement an opportunity to earn as much money as possible.

(Don’t be mistaken: Although fans adore this movie, this movie is happening because of them. It’s still about the Brinks truck and making it rain.)

It’s All About Timing

Dune-artwork

Both post-Thanksgiving weekend and pre-Christmas weekend has proven to be highly profitable time slots for nerd movies. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Four of the eight Harry Potter movies (2001, 2002, 2005, and 2010) and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in 2016
  • Four of the five Twilight movies (2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012)
  • Three Hunger Games sequels (2013, 2014, and 2015)
  • Two Marvel movies launched pre-Thanksgiving (Doctor Strange, 2016; Thor: Ragnarok, 2017)
  • And, a far less noteworthy note, Justice League in 2017 and Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Not to be missed, here’s what Santa left under the geek cinephile’s tree:

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
  • Rogue One (2016)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
  • Aquaman (2018)
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Way back in December 1984, the Frank Herbert classic novel was adapted for the silver screen once before by heralded TV and film director and screenwriter David Lynch (Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive). Lynch, like many other directors, get comfortable with certain actors (i.e., Coppola, Scorsese, Mann, Spielberg). When adapting Herbert’s novel, Lynch initially chose Kyle MacLachlan to star as Paul Atreides, destined to become the Kwisatz Haderach (aka. ‘the Messiah’).

As we have pointed out before, box office results are not — and should not be — the chief measuring stick for success. Understanding ticket sales are relative because of time period, inflation, and marketing, Dune needed a considerable amount of spice (pun intended) for sci-fi and fantasy fans earning only $30.9 million during its theatrical run.

Sometimes, Christmas releases do not come bearing gifts.

But It Does Take Time

1984 - Dune

Dune had all the makings of a blockbuster hit. An acclaimed producer in Dino De Laurentiis. A stout cast featuring MacLaughlan, Sean Young, Virginia Madsen, Jürgen Prochnow, Jose Ferrer, Sir Patrick Stewart, and even Sting (yes, that Sting). An impressive–for the time in 1984–budget of $40M (yes, Universal lost $10M on the making of this film).

It even was nominated for an Oscar for Best Sound, which could have been for the cutting-edge sound effects and editing or legendary rock group Toto’s stellar, sacrodotal score that keeps you glued to the edge of your seat throughout the film.

Today, Dune is a cult classic film, adored by fans of a couple generations. It has a theatrical version of 137 minutes and an extended edition steel book promoted heavily by the BBC of 190 minutes. And it even managed to spark a riveting documentary about the fabled creation of what could have been entitled Jodorowsky’s Dunemarking what a cult director should have been permitted to create in a four-hour version of the seminal novel, labeled “the greatest movie never made.”

dune cameraAlthough there is a spewing trail of remakes and reboots, sequels and prequels being ushered by Hollywood’s thought leaders, Dune is one that will have been 36 years in the making. Think about the similarities:

  • An acclaimed producer in Joseph M. Caracciolo, Jr. (Logan, The Wolverine, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, Dracula Untold)
  • A stout cast featuring Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, Oscar Issac, Stellan Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling, and Dave Bautista
  • An impressive budget of what has to be more than $250 million, although that is a rumored amount
  • And already positioning itself for something of an award-winning sound and score outreach with the great Hans Zimmer creating the audible experience

This rendition promises to deliver everything that some believe the 1984 version did not. There is a distinct reason that a book written in 1965 has created this much sustainable ballyhoo up to today — it all starts with writing and storytelling.

David Lynch knew it then and Denis Villeneuve knows it now. And although this story has already been written, and both a documentary and feature film has too, this modern adaptation may finally close the book on a desert-famine craving for some other water of life in Dune. 

Because, as we have seen before, it even rains in the desert…sometimes.

 

 

 

 

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