When the theatrical and HBO Max release of Denis Villeneuve’s new sci-fi epic Dune were still three months away, a handful of Imax theaters across the US hosted a special two-day Dune event. The presentation revealed the first 10 minutes of the film, as well as 15 minutes of related materials and the movie’s trailer.
I attended the event. Here’s what you need to know to prepare yourself for the film, which arrives in theaters and on HBO Max Thursday, Oct. 21.
SPOILERS AHEAD: From this point on it will be difficult to talk about the experience without spoiling the film, so if you don’t want any details ruined, please stop now.
Everything revealed at the Dune Imax event
The 30-minute presentation was designed to be a sneak peek at the film, and it contained the following:
- The first 10 uninterrupted minutes of the film.
- Remarks from the cast on their experiences in the film and how they hope the audience will appreciate it.
- A scene from later in the film.
- A brief remote conversation between director Denis Villeneuve and Hans Zimmer on the score and background audio choices.
- Snippets from the film to support the conversation.
- The first theatrical trailer for Dune.
1. The movie jumps right in
The Dune universe is a lot. The scale of everything is ridiculous, its rules more than a little weird, and you could probably spend the time it would take to see this film in its entirety breaking down the galactic politics leading up to the opening scene. But instead of holding your hand through all of author Frank Herbert’s backstory, this film just drops you in the middle of everything. You get a brief explanation from Chani, played by Zendaya, about why the planet Arrakis is important, how ruthless the Harkonnen family are and that suddenly they left. There’s a question about who the new oppressors of Arrakis natives the Fremen will be, then immediately you’re taken to the bedroom of royal scion Paul Atreides, played by Timothée Chalamet, and his story starts.
As a fan of the Dune universe, I loved this. No hand-holding, no background, just 60 seconds of introduction and off we go. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it felt like the introduction you get in the book, but the feeling of being dropped into something that feels impossibly big is familiar.
2. The characters’ special abilities are amazing
I’m grouping all of the different special abilities you see in the Dune universe as powers for the purpose of making this point. Across all the scenes included in this preview we get to see Paul using his Voice on his mother Lady Jessica and master of assassins Thufir Hawat wield his Mentat ability, and there’s a one-on-one fight with personal shields on. Spectacularly, none of these things looked or felt the way I’d imagined they might. In each case, what I saw on screen was even more impressive.
The unique audio choices that represent the Voice, the way Thufir’s eyes instantly go white as he processes information and the skin-close shimmer of a personal shield all made me so excited to see more of each.
3. Hans Zimmer ‘invented’ new instruments for this film
This was a fascinating detail from the conversation between Villeneuve and Hans Zimmer. The legendary composer said it was weird epic space films are always scored with music that sounds decidedly Earthly, so he sought to find new sounds to help demonstrate how alien these planets truly are. He didn’t specify just how he invented these new sounds, but in the example scenes, he certainly nails a strangeness in the score.
Zimmer also relies on singing, especially when someone from the Bene Gesserit nuns is on screen. The higher-pitched chanting or soft-spoken women singing in the background immediately bring a feeling of power and terror to their scenes, which is appropriate given everything they’re capable of.
4. All of the vehicles I saw were perfect
I’ve seen many iterations of the Dune vehicles across TV, film and video games, and I’ve never felt like any of them fit the descriptions in the books. I’m not sure the vehicles in this new Dune movie match what’s in my mind’s eye either, but they’re undeniably the coolest versions I’ve seen so far.
The Ornithopters in Villeneuve’s Dune are more dragonfly than bird in design, but they do a great job moving more like the animal than a ship, which was the point in the books. These small crew ships were always supposed to fly more naturally than mechanically.
The Carryalls are often described as “like an Ornithopter but bigger,” but that isn’t what you’ll see in this film. They don’t look bad at all, but they don’t look like bigger versions of the main vehicle.
Spice Harvesters feel truly massive in this film. The sheer size of them, even as one is fully consumed by a giant sandworm, is incredible.
Finally, the Spacing Guild Heighliner no longer looks like a space ship, and that’s great. The scale of these vessels were often lost in previous films and shows, but this version helps show how insanely big they are.
5. Those blue, blue eyes
There’s been a lot of conversation about whether the Fremen eyes were enough. In the past, their eyes have always been presented on screen as glowing, piercing, electric blue. While that looks great, I never felt like it did justice to the way the eyes are described in the books. In fact, the Eyes of Ibad are described as being blue within blue, with no white at all. I think this is more realistically presented in this film. It feels more plausible that the blue would be intense but not unnatural.
And trust me, on the big screen, the blue is blue enough to bring the intensity when needed.