The Epic Dune, the saga of its 2021 remake amid the breathtaking vistas of Jordan

dune 2021
The 2021 movie adaptation of the 1984 film, Dune, based on Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel was shot in Wadi Rum and Wadi Araba. (Photo: IMDB)
AMMAN — Dune, the 2021 movie adaptation of the 1965 science fiction novel by Frank Herbert, shot at Wadi Rum and Wadi Araba, was screened last week at Taj Cinemas in Amman at a gala event organized by the Royal Film Commission of Jordan. اضافة اعلان

The Canadian director, Denis Villeneuve, directs this mythical and exciting hero’s journey. The movie rights were acquired by Warner Brothers and Legendary Entertainment in 2016 after Paramount Pictures failed to reboot its 1984 film adaptation of the book. 

This project seems to come out of the dreamlike abyss of the history of cinema. One only needs to remember Alejandro Jodorowsky’s intrepid yet failed attempt to bring this story to the big screen in 1984 to realize the epic nature of the project. Even David Lynch’s version in 1984 was beset with issues and the length of the movie caused the director to lose his wits. Jodorowsky’s sensational documentary expounds the difficulties faced in translating the pages of Herbert’s book to the big screen.
So as not to face the same issues, this version has been divided into two chapters.

The special screening in Jordan

The RFC screening of the 2021 “Dune was held under the patronage of Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, chairman of the RFC’s Board of Commissioners, who attended the screening along with Princess Rym Ali, member of the Board of Commissioners. The screening was also attended by the Jordanian crew that worked on the movie as well as selected guests, journalists and media representatives.

Dune was shot in the Kingdom over 23 days in 2019, specifically in Wadi Rum and Wadi Araba. These dazzling landscapes, which have always served as preferred filming locations for many international movies, were best suited to represent parts of the world of Dune as seen in the film.

The 2021 movie adaptation of the 1984 film, Dune, based on Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel was shot in Wadi Rum and Wadi Araba. (Photo: IMDB)

“I am very proud that Jordan hosted the shoot of a world-class film such as Dune. It was the biggest production of the year, shot in a safe and film-friendly environment, and it is based on a novel that is considered as being the world’s most influential bestselling science-fiction novel,” Prince Ali said. 

“A wide audience from all over the world will be able to watch this film on the big screen and see how the beautiful landscapes of Wadi Rum and Wadi Araba can serve as an other-worldly cinematic experience. Congratulations to all the Dune team, the international and local cast and crews who through their hard work brought back such an epic adventure to the silver screen,” the prince said.

After months of scouting trips and preparations for the shoot, the international crew worked with some 400 Jordanians across various departments. The movie had its world premiere earlier this month at the Venice International Film Festival, where it was highly acclaimed by critics and the audience alike.
The RFC also offers international, regional and local productions filming in Jordan the benefit of a cash rebate program, provided that they meet the eligibility criteria.

A complex saga and feudal conflicts

Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, a brilliant and talented young man, born to meet a destiny greater than his imagination. He must reach the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure his family’s and his people’s future. Evil forces fight for the exclusive possession of the most precious resource on the planet, a spice capable of unleashing the full potential of the human mind, and only those who can defeat their fears will survive.

The 2021 movie adaptation of the 1984 film, Dune, based on Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel was shot in Wadi Rum and Wadi Araba. (Photo: IMDB)

In the feudal system that dominates this fictional universe, power is in the hands of an emperor under whom important families fight among themselves. 
Spice is found on the desert planet Arrakis. The Atreides family and their leader, Duke Leto are entrusted with the control of the planet but in reality a conspiracy is being fomented to eliminate their control. The duke has a son, Paul, who is endowed with special powers that he is developing with the help of his mother Lady Jessica. He too ends up becoming an obstacle to be overcome.

Is Dune an epic tale?

Villeneuve’s task in this latest version of Dune is to capture both the attention of audiences who have never read the original work or seen the previous version, as well as those who know the story inside and out with all its intricate details of the intergalactic family feuds of the Atreides family. 

From the very first few minutes, the opening of the film immediately plunges you into an alien universe thousands of years in to the future, a magnificent and dangerous world with well-defined characters.

Villeneuve immediately gives audiences a spectacular scenic rendering of this world, as he often does, all combined with breathtaking cinematography and a sumptuous soundtrack curated by a Hans Zimmer in a state of grace. 

Despite a certain underlying slowness of the pace, the movie will remain faithful in all respects to the Frank Herbert novel, to avoid losing elements of this involved and complex story, that could easily have gotten lost along the way during transition from book to film.

Adapting it to the big screen has in fact been planned in great detail. Although, Dune traces only half of the story of the original book. This is just part one.

Regardless, the ability to turn one of the great science fiction novels into film always deserves to be applauded, more so even than box office success. One only need remember the original movie adaptation from the 80s by one of the greats of movie directing, to understand the magnitude of the task at hand.

Telling the story of a universe populated by dozens of main characters, houses and planets, all condensed into a single movie, with all its complex and rich underlying philosophical meanings, is something a single movie cannot deliver. 

Villeneuve prefers to indulge in long dialogues often for their own sake, rather than pushing his foot on the accelerator with regard to the narrative, which is seen in less pretentious but equally complex space sagas, such as Star Wars.

Villeneuve pays homage to the myth of Dune

Thumbs up with regard to the stellar cast who took part in the project. Timothée Chalamet proves to be an actor constantly growing, ready to take on a really demanding and substantial starring role. He has the potential to deliver his best if he is allowed to in the saga’s next instalment. He will be joined by the remarkable acting prowess of Josh Brolin in the role of Gurney Halleck, Zendaya in the role of Chani,  Stellan Skarsgård, who is unrecognizable in the role of Baron Harkonnen, Dave Bautista, as the imposing Glossu ‘Beast’ Rabban, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, and last but not least, Javier Bardem as Stilgar. The stars are directed with rare skill by Villeneuve.

Dune therefore takes its time, does not “run” straight to the point because in reality this would have been wrong and risked “stumbling” and ruining a work with multiple ambitions.

Villeneuve preferred to direct a film that lays the foundation for what is to come, the movie’s part two, provided Warner gives the go ahead for the production of one or more sequels, including the spin-off series. He thus sacrifices the fast pace that would have turned the film into a blockbuster in the most commercial sense of the term.

The film sometimes seems to want to draw parallels with the reality of some countries in the Far East in our modern world, countries that had been exploited by Western nations for their resources. 

The 2021 movie adaptation of the 1984 film, Dune, based on Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel was shot in Wadi Rum and Wadi Araba. (Photo: IMDB)

Villeneuve’s project summarizes almost to perfection an immortal work which has now become legendary. If for that alone, there is cause to be grateful for this part one of Dune.

Direction and the script

Years after Lynch’s “problematic” adaptation of the epic saga, it was entrusted to another great director, more immature than the first this is true, but certainly charismatic to the point of being given movies to direct early in his career of such import as Arrival, Sicario, and Blade Runner 2049.

Denis Villeneuve is considered the future of Hollywood, and directing a film like Dune could only be considered a real watershed moment in his career. 
Therefore, adapting a work like Frank Herbert’s Dune, must not have been an easy job for the Canadian director, that’s for sure. Anticipation is high, expectations too, as Dune is considered by many to be the science fiction novel par excellence, the literary work that has contributed most to influencing writers, directors, screenwriters and genre enthusiasts. It is in fact for this reason that the risk of a terrible failure was just around the corner.

Having made this small consideration, it is right to say that Villeneuve’s work with Dune, from many points of view, is genuine, faithful to the work that inspires him, but above all reflects his awareness of the great responsibility that rests on his shoulders. Without overturning the original work too much, the director makes his mark, but he does it with respect, while showing that talent that many have already loved and appreciated in him through the films he previously directed.

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