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The Spice Must Flow In New Images From Villeneuve’s Dune Adaptation

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BY April 14, 2020
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Dune by Frank Herbert is one of those novels that many have tried to adapt over the years. The book was first published in 1965, but remains as timely and relevant as ever. There is the notable David Lynch film from the 80’s, and an excellent Syfy mini-series from the early 2000’s. There is also the infamous failed Dune adaptation from Jodorowsky that has its own documentary. Now at last Dune is set to be updated for the modern era, with Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation. The classic sci-fi tale of spice and sandworms gains an all-star cast, and is set for release in December. It will be the first of a two-part film telling the story of Dune. Notably, Villeneuve chose to focus on only the first half of the Dune novel for this film.

Villeneuve’s Dune adaptation has been highly anticipated by genre fans and film buffs alike. The director has made a name for himself as one of the science fiction auteur directors of our time. He is well known for directing films like Arrival, and Bladerunner 2049. The director brings his signature style to Dune in photos released this week. It also appears that he is still paying homage to the adaptations that came before him, like David Lynch’s version.

Vanity Fair released photos this week from the Dune set, and they reveal some interesting changes to the characters integral to the story of Dune. Let’s take a look at the photos and what we can glean from them.

A Look at the Characters and The Ever Important Stillsuit

Dune Photo by Chiabella James

First up we have a photo of Timothee Chalamet in the leading role as young Paul Atreides. He is pictured here with actress Rebecca Ferguson, who will play Paul’s mother Lady Jessica. Already an important figure in the book, according to reports the role of Jessica has been expanded. A member of the Bene Gesserit order, Jessica has already defied her sisterhood by the time her family lands on Arrakis. She has spent years training Paul in the ways of the Bene Gesserit, for his own protection. According to Villeneuve, she will be portrayed as a ‘warrior priestess’ in a departure from the way the Bene Gesserit have previously been depicted as ‘space nuns.’

In this photo we also get our first glimpse of the ever important stillsuits that must be worn on this deadly desert planet. The stillsuit recovers all bodily fluids and filters them into drinking water. It also provides protection from the heat and the sand on Arrakis. Villeneuve’s stillsuits echo the design of David Lynch before him, but appear far more practical.

At Least One Role Has Been Gender-Swapped

Dune Photo by Chiabella James

Next up we have the actress Sharon Duncan-Brewster of Rogue One fame. She is playing the role of Dr. Liet Kynes in an unexpected character gender-swap. In the books, Dr. Kynes is a white male role but this was a character that Villeneuve felt could easily be female. In a series that has a lot of female characters, it is true that the first book is focused primarily on Paul. So gender-swapping this key role is an easy way to include another key woman, and a woman of color as well. Not only is Dr. Kynes important to the peacekeeping on Arrakis, but the character is also the parent of Chani, the character who will be played by Zendaya.

According to the actress: “This human being manages to basically keep the peace amongst many people. Women are very good at that, so why can’t Kynes be a woman? Why shouldn’t Kynes be a woman?”

Dune / Zendaya as Chani Photo by Chiabella James

Speaking of Chani, we have a photo of the character who will be portrayed by the actress Zendaya. I don’t think it is a major spoiler to say that Chani is the primary love interest for Paul. She first appears in his dreams as a mystery woman with glowing blue eyes. Those eyes are faint in this photo, but they are clearly there. Exposure to the drug melange – ‘the spice’ native to Arrakis – causes the glowing blue eye phenomenon. The Fremen all have blue eyes according to the book, and Chani is a member of this indigenous culture on Arrakis.

Oscar Isaac Will Play Leto Atreides

Dune / Oscar Isaac Photo by Chiabella James

We also got a glimpse of another Star Wars actor in the cast: Oscar Isaac looking stern in his dramatic metal armor in his role as Paul’s father. Duke Leto Atreides is the one who brings his family to Arrakis to take over the spice-mining. He has long been in conflict with House Harkonnen who once controlled the planet and are desperate to regain that control. As the books say, ‘he who controls the spice controls the universe.’

The primary antagonist here is the Baron Harkonnen, who will be portrayed by Stellan Skarsgård in Villeneuve’s Dune adaptation. We did not get any photos of this character, but Villeneuve gave some insight as to how he approached the character.

“As much as I deeply love the book, I felt that the baron was flirting very often with caricature… And I tried to bring him a bit more dimension. That’s why I brought in Stellan. Stellan has something in the eyes. You feel that there’s someone thinking, thinking, thinking—that has tension and is calculating inside, deep in the eyes. I can testify, it can be quite frightening.”

A Stellar Ensemble Cast In Villeneuve’s Dune Adaptation

Dune / Jason Mamoa Photo by Chiabella James

Next up in Villeneuve’s Dune adaptation, we have Jason Momoa playing the mentat warrior Duncan Idaho. He is a mentor to Paul, and a longtime fan favorite character. Mentats are humans who have trained their minds to function like computers, developed to staggering cognitive and analytical ability. Momoa will be joined by actor Josh Brolin, taking a break from his role as Marvel supervillain Thanos. Brolin will play Gurney Halleck, the warmaster of House Atreides who trains Paul to fight.

Dune Adaptation / Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck Photo by Chiabella James

Alongside these notable castings are many characters whom we do not yet have photos of. But there is no shortage of A-List actors playing even minor roles. Dave Bautista will play Glossu Rabban, a member of House Harkonnen who has a personal rivalry with Gurney Halleck. Javier Bardem is also onboard as the Fremen leader Stilgar, who befriends Duncan Idaho and plays a vital role in Paul’s journey. Charlotte Rampling is also in the cast list, as the Bene Gesserit reverend mother.

What I am curious about however are the roles that we have not heard any casting news about. Where is the character of Irulan in all of this? She is certainly an important female character in the books, and one whose role definitely deserves to be amplified and altered.

What do you think of the Dune casting, and the look of the new film? Join the conversation today with Comic Years on Facebook and Twitter. Villeneuve’s Dune adaptation is due for release on December 18, 2020 and thus far has not been delayed.

(Featured image via Warner Bros.)

BooksMoviesPop CultureArrakisCharlotte RamplingDave BautistaDenis VilleneuveDuneJason MomoaJavier BardemJosh BrolinOscar IsaacRebecca FergusonSharon Duncan-Brewstertimothee chalametZendaya

Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.

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