Why Denis Villeneuve is the Perfect Director for “Dune”
"Dune" is the bible of science fiction. Released in 1965 by mastermind Frank Herbert, the novel set in place many of the norms for the genre we know today. Interstellar travel, feuding factions, a young and heroic protagonist, and a galaxy of limitless imagination.
In 2016, Hollywood mongol, Legendary Pictures acquired the rights to produce a film. This could be seen as a needless cash-grab, threatening the sanctity of a perfect franchise. However, a single name changed this project’s entire outlook. That name is Denis Villeneuve, who has recently confirmed being in talks to direct.
Legendary has the potential to revolutionize science fiction filmmaking, and with one of the most promising names in the film industry in set to direct, they have what it takes to create one of the most ambitious studio projects in years.
But is Villeneuve truly the right director to tackle this feat? Several factors foreshadow his potential.
Too say Villeneuve has an impressive resume is an extreme understatement. Even before he rocketed into the Hollywood 2013 American debut, "Prisoners", Villeneuve still retained an admirable collection of works.
His long career began in 1998 with the release of his feature debut, the French-language film, "August 32nd on Earth". He continued his Montreal-based career experimenting with thrillers, including the tragic Polytechnique (2009) and the Oscar-nominated Incendies (2010).
Arguably, Villeneuve hasn’t made a single bad film, a quality that will much appreciated if he plans on taking on Hebert’s magnificent world.
A Master of Science Fiction
So far with only two films in the genre, Villeneuve has proved that he is a master of science fiction.
"Arrival" (2016) dared to challenge audiences, experimenting with language and international politics and interaction in order to portray a realistic take on an alien arrival on Earth. Villeneuve’s efforts payed off, earning him his first Oscar nomination for Best Director, while Arrival received a nomination for Best Picture.
"Blade Runner 2049" (2017) tested our thoughts on what it truly means to be human, a long-held tradition of many classic science fiction films. A visual masterpiece of storytelling in an alternate reality, "Blade Runner" 2049 cemented Villeneuve’s status as a modern master.
Dune’s ambitious approach to human nature, ideology, and nature are of the many science fiction themes one would have to face in the making of a film adaptation. Villeneuve could be the force we need to pitch his vision of the work.
This Wouldn’t Be His First Reboot
Dune has unfortunately been through several cycles of attempted adaptations, ultimately resulting in disappointment.
The first notable attempt was in 1975, when Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky planned on making a 10-hour feature film adaptation. Despite an impressive cast and a revolutionary screenplay, no studio dared to finance the film. American studios would end up producing the ill-fated Dune (1984), directed by auteur David Lynch. Unwilling to give Lynch creative control, the film ended up a critical and financial failure, and no major studio or director has touched the film since.
Villeneuve, however, is no stranger to reboots. Blade Runner 2049 was an unexpected, sudden film. Despite rather sour expectations, the sequel to the classic Blade Runner (1982) not only blew critics away, but arguably surpassed the sequel (see our review here).
Villeneuve has a knack for defying expectations. His expertise and absolute devotion and respect to source material is vital to a meaningful adaptation. If Legendary ends up granting Villeneuve creative control of the project, we can only dream of what we may see on-screen.
He Knows How to Develop Characters
Dune has dozens of beloved, memorable characters, from the young protagonist Paul Atreides/Maud’dib to the villainous, grotesque Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.
Villeneuve has a trend among his films to display an outsider as a protagionist. Evident in Incendies, Sicario (2015), and Arrival, many of Villeneuve’s main characters show direct similarities to the Paul, a gifted yet at-first introverted and inexperienced character. Villeneuve’s career of portraying character evolution throughout the film is a key aspect for directing Dune, as faithfulness towards established characters and their development can be expected if he were to helm the film.
A regular collaborator with Villeneuve and more famously the Coen Brothers, Roger Deakins is a giant in the film industry, and is arguably the greatest cinematographer of all time. Having worked with Villeneuve on Prisoners, Sicario (for both he received Oscar nominations for best cinematography), and most recently, Blade Runner 2049, it isn’t impossible to rule out the possibility that he may join the Dune team if Villeneuve is hired.
Deakins’ simplistic, static style of camera work masterfully demonstrates his ability to examine emotion, dangerous environment, and gradual mood shifts. Seeing Deakins’ eye on the desert planet of Arrakis could be an aspiring filmmaker’s dream. With a staggering 13 Oscar nominations, Deakins would most certainly be a warm welcome.
Many may consider it a surprise that Villeneuve became a breakout success in the American film industry. With many critics and audiences alike complaining that the film industry is dying in terms of originality and creativity, Villeneuve proudly stands out in the crowd, laying to rest this convention.
Rather than approaching films as quick and easy money, Villeneuve takes on a more thoughtful and enlightening approach to his films, often choosing a slower pace to examine the many themes his films produce, often examining morality, intimacy, and uncertainty.
Many see it as a miracle that Villeneuve so effortlessly combines or flat-out rejects Hollywood norms of pacing, editing, and messaging in order to install his own slow, artistic approach, and is still able to make a healthy profit. This is a much-admired skill, especially for fans of Dune, a work which is also heavy on deep subjects, including nationalism, naturalism, religion and even income inequality.
While it cannot be 100 percent confirmed that Villeneuve is officially helming the project, talks have been underway for quite some time, meaning that some progress may be being made. This news should excite film and literature fans alike, as the Canadian director has more than what it takes to produce a perfect film.