Dune Part Two Adapts the Unadaptable

There are some hard and fast rules in Hollywood and the so-called unfilmable novel: Morgan Freeman will never get Rendezvous with Rama made, Blood Meridian will stay in its dusty and dense little corner, and adapting Dune is supposed to be impossible. Or, at least, it was, up until a few years ago, when Denis Villeneuve released Dune Part One.

All of this is still the case at the present moment because that wily Villeneuve has only brilliantly adapted about a third of Frank Herbert’s iconic doorstop. He’s still got plenty of material to left to fuck up – the novel could still, yet, prove unadaptable. But he’s coming at it with a solid fanbase built-in after the success of the first part, along with critical adulation. On the basis of the trailer for Dune Part Two, the only fuck-up possible is if no one goes to see it; though second parts are always tougher sells than the first, given that beginning a story is easier than ending it, this shit looks intense and absolutely gorgeous.

The scale and artistry on show in under three minutes of footage is overwhelming – once again, Villeneuve’s amazing eye for epic scale are indulged against the Dune backdrop, and the stunning sound design (that music is just phenomenal) is the kind I know you have to explore in the cinema. The costuming, make-up, character design, it’s all just as rich, expansive, and alien as part one, a huge part of what made the original entry so brilliant.

We have the introductions of Princess Iurlan, played by Florence Pugh, and Elvis himself Austin Butler as the Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, a villain that was wisely left out of the first film and even more wisely doesn’t look like Sting in a velvet thong. Some things need to be left in the eighties. It’ll be interesting to see Butler dive into such a challenging villainous role, given his major hit as Elvis just last year.

Then there’s the worm. It’s kind of hilarious that a piece of literature so beloved, so important, that any adaptation lives or dies on whether this skinny little dude can ride a giant worm, but it does – the choice to feature it so heavily here is solid reassurance that Villeneuve knows how to handle the iconography of the book. He seems to do it quite well; Javier Bardem is impressed and so am I. This trailer is built on Paul’s potential, and the choice to show off such a juicy part of his worm-riding sequence underlines how much confidence Villeneuve has in his leading man – and, in the capable hands of everyone’s favourite Muppet teenager Timothee Chalamet, he’s got nothing to worry about.

There’s a lot riding on Dune Part Two – almost as much as there is on that worm, actually – but if anyone can break the rules of the unadaptable book and bring it to complete cinematic life, it’s Denis Villenueve.

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By Kevin Boyle

(header image via Empire)

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