How is it you can through millions upon millions of dollars into a project and then see it so improperly marketed? Such corporate shortsightedness practically killed genre projects like 1990’s Tremors and 2012’s John Carter – two fabulous cinema properties that, thankfully, have gone on to find massive life and huge audiences in secondary markets like home video and streaming – and unless I’m way off on the mark it looks like 2021’s Dune might suffer the same fate. Granted, Frank Herbert’s dry read of politics and spice might seem like nothing contemporary in scope to the uninformed; but this Fantasy saga bares more in common thematically with the best themes William Shakespeare explored and deserved to be explored.
Sadly, only now – just months before its release – are audiences getting teased with anything that looks remotely relatable as its second official trailer just dropped on the Information Superhighway today. Finally, the uninformed are being given something that might tweak their interest. Finally, the story is being framed not only as some highbrow political shenanigans but as a tale of one kid trying to do right by dear ol’ dad and answer a call to action.
Dammit, Hollywood: why do you make things so hard?
You should have been doing this all along – ratcheting up interest in not an obscure piece of American literature in a way that both young and old could connect with. Filling the screen with big ideas might work for Academy Awards contenders – of which Dune might be – but summer and Fall audiences are genuinely looking for greater escapism in their entertainment diet. From my experience, October releases tend to be a bit of a mishmash – films thought to be a bit too cerebral for summer’s tentpole-heavy roster but a bit too light on the kind of performances usually crying out for coveted trophies – so I understand why any studio might ‘dump’ something like Dune in that window; but at least you could make some effort to appeal to the masses who still like going to the theaters in the age of COVID.
I know, I know, I know. I’m ranting. (It’s my lot in life.) I’ve no personal attachment to Dune, honestly. I don’t sink or swim on its merits. In fact, I never much cared for David Lynch’s somewhat popular 1984 version; but I’m an ardent fan of the 2000 miniseries (which hardcore fans seem to loath for reasons I’ve never understood). Herbert’s book never touched me the way it has others – it’s a tome I’ve started reading thrice only to put down not all that long into it out of mild boredom – but I can understand and appreciate the desire of those who worship it to see the story done right.
That may be the problem here. For any number of reasons, books rarely translate well from the intellectual endeavor they are to the screen. Ideas can’t be easily reformatted into cinemascope and pixels, and Dune’s epic worldbuilding will likely always work best on the page instead of at so many frames per second. Director Denis Villeneuve is a visionary, and his work on 2016’s Arrival and 2017’s Blade Runner 2049 suggest the film was placed in good hands … but adapting and directing something as massive as one of Science Fiction’s biggest franchises could be the straw that broke anyone’s back, even when that back is as thick as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s.
I’m holding out hope. This trailer finally gives regular folks something they can sink their teeth into (no film will be a success by courting only SciFi fans, peeps, that’s just simple math), and maybe the studio can pony up a bit more of this in the weeks that remain between now and when the opening credits roll.
In any event, the trailer is below …