"Dune": what about the Oscars and a second part?

The New York Times translated a selection of its best articles into French. Find them here. The spice must flow. But will the public b...


The New York Times translated a selection of its best articles into French. Find them here.

The spice must flow. But will the public be there?

Denis Villeneuve’s highly anticipated film premiered at the Venice Film Festival on September 3. It was an unexpected location choice for the launch of a nearly $ 160 million sci-fi franchise – but “Dune” is no ordinary studio powerhouse.

It’s a weirder, more dreamlike cinematic object, a work brazenly straddling an auteur film and a studio blockbuster, so that even after seeing it, I can’t predict how successful it will be on its own. theatrical release (in the US and on HBO Max on October 22). At the end of the screening, the first critic I spoke to was won over. Another to flee the room as if Villeneuve had planted a bomb there.

However, after a decade of Marvel films made with great technical prowess but without much formal risk, it is stimulating to see a film of this stature take such artistic risks. Three questions run through my head since this session in Venice.

‘Dune’ may be based on Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi classic, but its adaptations are far from having won over the crowds. That of David Lynch in 1984 is a famous fiasco that the filmmaker himself has disowned. As for the two adaptations in mini-series, they were more marked by the crazy blue contact lenses worn by a young James McAvoy than by having inspired something significant in the world of pop culture.

But ‘Dune’ has strong backs, and they’ve put up with a lot since the novel’s publication in 1965. sent to an exotic planet where a precious natural resource – in this case the famous hallucinogenic “spice” – is being exploited – but will decide finally to take the side of the natives and to fight against their archi-militarized oppressors.

This is more or less the plot of “Avatar”, you might say … and maybe so much the better! “Avatar” smashed records, and if Chalamet is new to this type of role, Villeneuve has surrounded him with a cast of veterans: Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista and Josh Brolin are veterans of the superhero universe. , Oscar Isaac is fresh from the “Star Wars” trilogy and Rebecca Ferguson stars in the adaptation of “Mission: Impossible”. If so many blockbuster movies have borrowed from “Dune”, it is only fair that “Dune” borrows from them in return.

Despite his pedigree, “Dune” however faces major obstacles. Filming ended over two years ago and the first scheduled release for November 2020 has been postponed for about a year by Warner Bros. This deadline reserved the hope that “Dune” will see the light of day in a post-Covid era; in fact, the continued ravages of the Delta variant are shaking studios to the point of delaying the release of a few major films until 2022 – like “Top Gun: Maverick”.

In a way, it might not be too bad for “Dune”: with fewer branded blockbusters on the market, the film has a better chance of standing out from the crowd and attracting big show fans. . But in the US, to Villeneuve’s dismay, the film will be released on HBO at the same time it opens in theaters, threatening to cut into box office revenue and torpedo the chances of a sequel. .

This could also affect the initial buzz: the public who will see “Dune” in theaters will certainly feel more immersed in the film (with the sound and visual sensations it provides), while the uninitiated or the curious who arrive on HBO Max with a single click will certainly be less responsive to Villeneuve’s staging. The first major action sequence – the attack of a giant sandworm – only happens after an hour. Will spectators at home be as willing to go to the end of the film as those who made the effort to pay for their tickets?

One of the partly striking things about “Dune” is Denis Villeneuve’s sense of texture, unlike other big budget filmmakers. When a character falls in battle, it is the beating of the dying’s eyelashes that fascinates him. During the assault on an entrenchment, the camera turns away from the action to show us magnificent palm trees in flames, their crowns of leaves radiating with destructive power.

Even though Oscar juries aren’t usually very fond of sci-fi films, I suspect that Villeneuve’s peculiar look sets a “Dune” apart, because the film is undeniably spellbinding. He’s sure to garner a ton of secondary nominations, including photography by Greig Fraser and for sets by Patrice Vermette. Hans Zimmer’s music, sound, and editing are all far more daring than what the genre usually offers us: the sound effects and cutaways seem elaborate to put you in a trance as if you were in the grip of the spice.

And I am not yet at the costumes! Their design (by Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan) is stunning, especially during the first hour of the film. With Rebecca Ferguson as a nun of space dressed in extravagant sheaths, and Charlotte Rampling veiled as Jean-Paul Gaultier like the Green Knight, “Dune” has the air of a haute-couture parade where spaceships occasionally pass – and for me it is a good choice.

“Blade runner 2049” , Villeneuve’s latest film, received 5 Oscar nominations and a long-earned Academy Award to its cinematographer Roger Deakins. But he failed to break into the two Oscar categories of excellence – Best Picture and Best Director. Does “Dune” have a better chance of succeeding?

I kick into touch and opt for the ‘wait-and-see’. None of the actors of “Dune” seems to have a chance to be nominated, which would have acquired the legitimacy of the film with the members of the jury. Let us add that a nomination for the best adapted scenario is not more certain. At the same time, after a relatively confidential year 2020, I think the Academy will want to see a high-profile film selected for the award for best film. And the fight that Villeneuve led so that his film passes on the big screen will find echo after jurors refractory to streaming, for whom his obstinacy is a crusade worthy of being supported.

The spectators who expect the complete experience of a disappointment when reading the title: it is not “Dune”, but “Dune: 1st part”.

Villeneuve roughly cut Herbert’s novel in two, with the consequence that the trajectory of the main characters does not emerge until towards the end of the film. And if the promotion of the film suggested that Zendaya is the leading female role, it is rather Rebecca Ferguson who occupies the narrative. Other than a few anticipatory visions of the future, Zendaya is yet to make a significant contribution to the story.

Denis Villeneuve intends to deliver “Dune” in two parts and is already working on the script for the sequel. But Warner Bros. still hasn’t given the green light. The studio has already experimented with a two-part adaptation of Stephen King’s “It”, the films were released two years apart while a sequel project for “Dune” would likely take much longer to complete. ascend. )

Perhaps the Warner also opts for the ‘wait and see’, the eye on the box office before giving the starting signal of a second “Dune”. But with increased competition from streaming in times of pandemic, the criteria for success have taken a new turn. Given that HBO Max is preparing a spinoff series on the Bene Gesserit – an underground, all-female order starring the characters of Charlotte Rampling and Rebecca Ferguson – I’m surprised the studio isn’t making a firm commitment to a sequel, nor would it be. -what to promote a dynamic upstream of the film’s release.

This would also clearly signal to the audience that the story is still unfinished at the end of this “Dune”, which goes through two peaks of intensity before landing soft for a somewhat muted outcome. Villeneuve is not stingy with teasing: we foresee a lot of major events to come, as if the film was eager to get to the heart of the matter. How long should this wait last?

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Newsrust - US Top News: "Dune": what about the Oscars and a second part?
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