The team at Warner Brothers has been working incredibly hard to promote Denis Villeneuve’s Dune ever since the film went into production. The studio clearly has big hopes for the sci-fi epic as there have been numerous photo reveals and even magazine covers highlighting the film and its cast. In preparation for the release of the first trailer, Warner Brothers invited select journalists to attend a special Dune trailer reveal event over Zoom. The presentation featured a panel discussion about the film that featured Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem, and director Denis Villeneuve. The panel was hosted by Stephen Colbert, who admitted that he was a huge fan of the book and said that Villeneuve’s adaptation is something that he cannot wait to experience.
As for the trailer itself, it should be noted that the trailer released today was re-edited from a previous version. The first trailer that I saw back on August 3, 2020 featured a different version of Pink Floyd’s Eclipse (one that was slightly darker) and a few different shots from the film. My immediate thought after seeing the trailer was that film felt rather grim and hollow. Yes, the cinematography looked stunning, it felt very much like a Denis Villeneuve film, but I honestly didn’t feel a level of excitement when watching the trailer. For me, it lacked that WOW factor. I watched the trailer a few more times but my excitement level didn’t change. After the second or third viewing, I couldn’t help but wonder who the film was made for and how accessible it would be for the average moviegoer. That is when I thought of Blade Runner 2049 and quickly realized that this film will more than likely speak to very a similar audience.
This brings me to yesterday when I got to see a revised version of the Dune trailer prior to its release today. I watched the “new” trailer about four times and felt that the version of Eclipse used in the trailer helped to lighten the tone a bit but it didn’t change my overall thoughts on the film. I still feel like I have no idea what the film is about and that is a big problem, especially if you haven’t read the book or if you haven’t seen any of the previous Dune adaptations.
Please don’t get me wrong, I love Denis Villeneuve as a filmmaker. He’s a smart and sophisticated filmmaker who makes films that challenge an audience. However, while his films do have captivating stories and feature well-written characters, Villeneuve does create a very specific type of film. But, when you are making a 200 million dollar movie, you need to have a large audience that will ensure the film will be a financial success. I am not entirely sure that this film will be.
What is even more worrisome about Dune is the fact that it is actually going to be two films. Yes, you read that right. Two films. I don’t know how many people were aware of that but it is a bit risky given the fact that the trailer looks as though it is only going to appeal specifically to film critics, film aficionados, and die-hard Dune fans. I have a feeling that Dune may end up becoming the next Blade Runner 2049 in terms of Box Office success. I say this solely based on this trailer, but to me, this film just doesn’t have that commercial appeal. Science Fiction is often a hard sell at the box office minus notable franchises like Star Wars. Dune isn’t going to be a fun science fiction adventure. It is going to be a heavy and depressing science fiction epic that is sure to have a runtime well over 2 hours. I just can’t see the average moviegoer being excited about seeing this.
Now, with all that being said, I am still interested in seeing the film. If I learned one thing from all my years of being a film critic, it is that you can never fully judge a film by its trailer. While this trailer for Dune didn’t really make me excited for the film, it is hard to deny that it captures the spirit of what I know about Dune. It looks and feels familiar. It very much captures the same essence of the David Lynch version but with improved visuals and an ensemble cast. I also have very little doubt that the film will be visually stunning and that Villeneuve’s love for the source material will be apparent throughout the film. This is going to be a really interesting film to keep an eye on because I am very curious about how its release will play out. There is no doubt an audience for Dune but is that audience big enough to make this a box office hit? That is still yet to be determined.