Release Date, Story Details & Cast

Release Date, Story Details & Cast


Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune is heading back to the big screen. Here’s everything you need to know about Denis Villeneuve’s movie adaptation.

Here’s what to expect from Denis Villeneuve’s Dune movie, including its release date and story details. The upcoming film is far from the first time Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel has been adapted for the screen since it was published in 1965. A previous Dune movie was directed by David Lynch and released in 1984, but flopped at the box office and was widely criticized for its often incomprehensible storytelling. It’s gone on to attain cult status in the decades since then, in spite of Lynch’s disowning of the theatrical cut and outspoken lack of interest in anything else Dune-related.

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Dune was later adapted as a TV miniseries by writer-director John Harrison in the 2000s (for what was then the Sci-Fi Channel). Reviews were far kinder to Harrison’s version than Lynch’s, but even then many Dune fans agreed the story was hindered by the budgetary and VFX limitations of television at the time (not to mention, perfectly acceptable, yet otherwise unremarkable acting and writing). The sheer scale of the world-building in Herbert’s source material alone makes it an unwieldy fit for adaptation, as filmmakers ranging from Alejandro Jodorowsky to Peter Berg have discovered in their own failed attempts to adapt Dune both before and after Lynch and Harris took their shots.

Related: How Dune Changed Sci-Fi Movies (& Denis Villeneuve Can Do It Again)

All the same, the latest Dune movie has people excited, and for fair reason: it’s being directed by Villeneuve, a filmmaker who’s already delivered two of the most critically-acclaimed sci-fi features of the 21st century (Arrival and Blade Runner 2049). More than that, Warner Bros. is sparing no expense with this new adaptation and hopes to build a multi-platform franchise around Villeneuve’s film, including a spinoff TV series for HBO Max. Of course, that’s not the only reason everyone’s keeping a close eye on the movie.

Dune’s Release Date

Zendaya in Dune Movie

Tentatively, Dune is scheduled to open in theaters on December 18, 2020, but the date is far from a done deal. With the daily number of new COVID-19 cases on the rise across the U.S. and no vaccine in sight, it’s become increasingly likely the largest movie theater markets in the country won’t be able to safely reopen until early/mid 2021. Due to its high cost (thought to be in the same $150-200 million range as Blade Runner 2049), Dune needs to be able to screen theatrically in those areas if it’s to have any hope of turning a profit. This further rules out the idea of the film going directly to VOD on its current date. Either way, expect WB to hold onto that December 18 spot until they have no other choice but to finally postpone Villeneuve’s new sci-fi project to sometime next year.

Dune’s Story Details

Villeneuve’s Dune will only adapt the first half of Herbert’s source material, with the intention being to tackle the rest in a sequel (should the first movie gross enough at the box office to warrant it). Per its synopsis, the movie takes place in the distant future and tells the story of Paul Atreides, a “brilliant and gifted” young man whose powerful family assumes control of the planet Arrakis: a dangerous wasteland and the only source of Melange or “The Spice”, a precious substance that affords its users qualities like prolonged life and, most importantly, heightened mental abilities necessary for interstellar navigation. From there, the members of House Atreides are forced to defend themselves and protect their newfound empire against their enemies in a deadly game of politics and religion. Villeneuve has likened Dune to “Star Wars for adults”, but a better comparison might be classical mythology and melodrama (a la Beowulf) in space.

Dune’s Cast

Oscar Isaac in Dune movie

For newcomers, Dune‘s biggest selling point might be its cast. Actors were already lining up with work alongside Villeneuve after his efforts on Arrival and Blade Runner (not to mention, his acclaimed dramatic thrillers Prisoners and Sicario before them), so the chance to adapt Herbert’s revered novel was mostly the icing on the cake. As a result, the film boasts a star-studded lineup led by Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, Rebecca Ferguson and Oscar Isaac as Paul’s parents (Lady and Duke Leto Atreides), Josh Brolin as warrior/Paul’s mentor Gurney Halleck, Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (the head of House Harkonnen and Leto Atreides’ sworn enemy), and Zendaya as Chani, a member of Arrakis’ native people the Fremen. The film’s roster of talented character actors runs even deeper than that, with Jason Momoa, Charlotte Rampling, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, and David Dastmalchian playing key supporting roles.

NEXT: Why Dune’s Reshoots Shouldn’t Have You Worried

Key Release Dates

  • Dune (2020)Release date: Dec 18, 2020

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