It all started with ‘Call Me By Your Name’. Having watched that film once the Oscar nominations came out for the 2017 awards season I became intrigued with Timothée Chalamet. He had ‘it’. A natural rawness onscreen that led to further acclaim in subsequent roles. He wooed an entire generation as Laurie in Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women. I think I decided he was a firm favourite as ‘one to watch’ after I was fortunate to get onto the guest list for a taping of The Graham Norton Show and he appeared with Saoirse Ronan while promoting Beautiful Boy.
Upon news that he would play the hero Paul Atreides in the legendary sci-fi tome that is Dune, by Frank Herbert, I was excited at the prospect of him leading a film. A great, big, huge budget film by one of the newest stars in direction of sci-fi themed cinema Denis Villeneuve. I love a Canadian connection. And I wondered how Chalamet would cope with something so much less indie than his usual fare.
As more costars were announced, buzz was building in the film world, with sci-fi geeks, and ComicCon enthusiasts. The series of books are cherished by many and I had heard about them for years. The build up to the production of this 2020 version was growing exponentially. All the film stills released have been micro-analysed. With good reason too. After all, the first film adaptation by David Lynch was a notorious donkey flop of a film that disappointed the legions of fans of this epic space opera. It managed to regain some notoriety as a cult film years later, but the technology to render the story to its fullest just wasn’t there at the time.
With a lot of time on my hands, and knowing that I actually knew nothing about this story, now was the perfect opportunity to drop Dune into my Kindle and educate myself. I knew the story was detailed, infinitely so. I knew that it had a reputation to potentially confuse viewers of the new film if they weren’t down with the lingo and the intricate storylines. This isn’t to say that I didn’t believe the director would not do his best to lay the groundwork and explain the intergalactic politics that permeate the start of the story. But I wanted to be clued up. In the know. Able to have discourse on the finer points of the film vs. book in the post-release chatter that inevitably happens when fans compare and contrast. I also made a calculated decision NOT to see the David Lynch version beforehand. I would be a novice Dune reader untainted by the poorly received and poorly rendered film version of 1984.
I have to say that I was not disappointed. For a novel that has a massive glossary in its appendices (yes, it has multiple ones) it was a joy to read. It was almost like having to learn a new language. There were many moments of ‘what the hell IS that?’, and by virtue of plowing on I would come to understand the meaning of the word, whatever noun or verb it represented. I felt like I had joined a secret club.
It’s really hard to talk about Dune with someone who hasn’t read it, or possibly seen the earlier film. I’m making no attempt here to summarise the plot because I went in blind with no preconceived ideas myself. Anyone who likes Star Wars should like Dune, and will likely find this deeper to take in. Light and breezy it is not! It’s a fully fleshed out intergalactic world like no other with politics at its core and a heroic arc that I haven’t read/experienced in a very long time. The book, with an epic hero at its core, is so absorbing I only hope that this new 2020 film redeems its cinematic potential. It’s being split into two parts, which I agree it needs to, to express the storyline to its fullest. The action set-pieces look set to be nothing short of spectacular.
I wholeheartedly encourage anyone looking for something new to read to check out Dune.
You might decide not to and see the film anyway. If you’re confounded by it, then you still have time to read the book before the second half and may find that you see it in another light. Time will tell!
I’ve started the second book in the series and I’m pretty damn happy I joined the club.
Dune is due for UK and North American release on December 18, 2020.