The Internet is broken. Pick up the pieces if you wish. Denis Villeneuve has released his vision of Frank Herbert’s Dune. And it’s absolutely extraordinary.
There are aspects of Frank Herbert’s work inside that trailer that only someone would know if they read the entire series. (Yes, David Lynch. We’re talking to you.) Even in the 45-second teaser, there was a taste for the spectacular vision we were close to seeing, but no one knew this was coming.
The scale to put it all in motion. The amazing ensemble cast looks like an All-Star game in Hollywood. There was even a damn Pink Floyd vision of an “Eclipse”! And the grandiose imagination required to establish this in film. And today. Dear sweet baby nerd Jeebus, today! We saw the impossible become the unmistakable.
More on that in three minutes…
So? For those who appreciate the closest we ever got inside Frank Herbert’s dusty pages (until now) in 1984, how does this trailer stand up to the last one?
Let’s look inside the sandstorm of Arrakis. Let’s revisit Dune.
He Who Controls The Spice
It all started with an interview from Stephen Colbert (who knew) with the ensemble cast on Twitter. Smart, if only it was promoted. Only 44K views on Periscope at the time of the trailer is lackluster if you consider they were looking to make the Internet their own sandbox. (See what I did there?)
The interview was splendid, and it all began with Denis Villeneuve. This is a movie 40 years in the making (as I opined in August 2019). It’s always a treat to get inside the heads of the people who make these stellar films.
And Dune is surely to be among Denis Villeneuve’s best, which is saying something since the man doesn’t make slop. From Prisoners to Sicario and Arrival to Blade Runner 2049, the man knows how to cast a vision.
This was more than that. It was a chimera of untold proportions. If you have seen the bio on arguably the biggest kick to the teet any geckaphile has experienced, Jodorowsky’s Dune, you know. Not since the cerebral acuity of Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, H.G. Wells, and Issac Asimov have seen a series that required such allegiance to the source like Frank Herbert’s Dune.
Examples of the Evermind
To realize what we are going to get in December, it proves what was accomplished today upon the trailer’s release. As of now, Denis controls the spice. For a period of time, David Lynch’s Dune was considered among the most criminally underrated films in geckaphilia.
The improvements made upon those glimpses of Arrakis shows the passion Villeneuve placed into his own perception for Frank Herbert’s work.
If you see this scene of the arrival of House Atreides to the forbidden desert planet, we get… well, New Mexico in the fall.
Now, we get a pragmatic glimpse of this crusade.
There is more than spice mining going on; there is war. And although Arrakis is a vast, desolate place in the year 10,191, Paul and Chani should have been in the middle of it. Here, we see they have a front-row seat to the devastation caused by House Harkonnen.
When you see the David Lynch version of Dune, everything is a rustic color, as if the sheen from the sun refracts the ruddiness of the earth beneath. That may be true, but was it realistic? Would the desert envelop someone in this shade of vermilion haze?
Fast forward to 2020, we have much different technology, so the previous film can’t compete, but 2020 has Greig Fraser as it Director of Cinematography. His craft has resonated among most cinephiles with Rogue One, Zero Dark Thirty, Mary Magdalene, and of course, The Mandalorian. The guy understands desert landscapes, so when we see Chani glistening in a flaxen sun, we get the idea of a hot, sweltering planet.
Among some of the most hallowed characters of Dune is the protectors of the Spice Melange, the Worms. Everyone was waiting for it. No one knew what to expect. And there isn’t a single person who didn’t shrill a little when the big reveal happened in the trailer.
These sandworms are the heart of Frank Herbert’s work, because all sacred artifacts deserve a champion, a protector. The growth of the Gospel saw the disciples, apostles, and the Crusades. The Holy Grail was guarded by the Knights Templar. Felines, specifically the lioness-headed Sekhmet, were revered in ancient Egypt as guardians. In Mesopotamia, Pazuzu was the protector of the nation (who later possessed Linda Blair).
And in this beloved story of Messianic proportions, the spice has the Sandworm.
There is the Shai Hulud, the sanctimonious expression of the Fremen for the Sandworm. It was given in awe, respect, and a little bit of fear. Everything the Fremen did was given in respect to the world around them. Even Paul’s codified name of “Muad Dib” actually means “kangaroo mouse.” Dude gets around but he is small in the grand scheme of things.
This was the divine measuring stick from Herbert to Lynch to Villeneuve. The worms had to be fierce but majestic, daunting but dangerous, If Lynch got anything right, it was the sand worm. If he didn’t, people wouldn’t have waited with baited breath for this part in the reveal of the trailer.
(Fun Fact: Remember when Paul Atreides pried into the skin of the sandworm to climb aboard and saddle this thing? When the hooks dig deep and Paul shucks his oyster…those are condoms. You’re welcome.)
Everyone on Arrakis was dependent on these gigantic worms for life — the spice and oxygen — both controlled by the Shai Hulud. If you read Frank Hebert’s work, we find settlers on Dune killed the worms like some asshats do for whales.
They did not care or realize the importance Sandworms had to the ecosystem on Arrakis. The Fremen instituted respect for these protectors of the planet, and end up teaching Paul the same reverence.
When we get to the underrated SyFy miniseries, Frank Herbert’s Dune, John Harrison attempted to make the sandworms more like monsters.
The fangs. The Sarlacc’s Pit hellhole of a mouth. And they were gruesome in the miniseries.
Let’s be clear — underrated for the story telling. Harrison did a terrific job digging into the nuance of the Fremen but came too close to creating a Shakespearean play instead of a sci-fi miniseries.
Yet, the series on the eyes was more like Level-10 Thai Food on the stomach. Pepto-Bismol, party of one!
To the new denizen of Dune, the sandworms are 700 meters of destruction and chaos. Do we get that feeling in the new trailer? Oh hells yeah!
In tales of epic, biblical lore, we know there has been fascination with the unfathomable. From Leviathan to The Lemures, the parting of the Red Sea to Hegira of Muhammad. Herbert was connected to dogma when he created Dune.
Consider the name “Kwisatz Haderach.”
This is the universe’s “super being…the Messiah.” Made-up language? Poppycock of terminology? Not at all. It means in Hebrew to jump the path. That term is in the Talmud and throughout Jewish folklore. Why? We must all “jump the path” from the temporal to the eternal.
Do you see that in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune? Probably not. It’s just a movie. To Herbert, it was a message — one clearly Denis heard, loud and clear!