'Dune' Director Denis Villeneuve is Optimistic He'll Get to Make That Sequel

For the purposes of this very tortured metaphor, consider that the massive Dune sandworm in the image above represents the daunting prospects of a $165-plus million budgeted Dune movie making anywhere near enough money at the box office to justify return trips to the world of spice and sand — in a pandemic, no less. Meanwhile, the tiny figures in the foreground about to get swallowed up are director Denis Villeneuve and eager fans hoping against hope that we’ll actually get a Part 2 out of this, somehow.

Blockbusters are hardly underdogs in this current IP-obsessed landscape, but those are the seemingly David versus Goliath stakes involved in trying to turn Dune into a mass audience-friendly property that will feed the franchise hunger of studios. But according to Total Film, don’t count Villeneuve among the crowd of pessimists. The auteur has made a career out of delivering incredible movies time and time again … but they haven’t always taken the box office by storm. When it comes to Dune, however, the filmmaker isn’t sweating it.

“So the first thing was to prove that there was a beautiful, popular movie that can exist, and I think that I proved that – everybody at Warner Bros and Legendary, they are 100 percent behind the project. They feel that it would need a really bad outcome at the box office to not have a Dune: Part Two, because they love the movie. They are proud of the movie, so they want the movie to move forward. And they still did half of it. So, you know, I’m very optimistic.”

We wouldn’t expect a director to publicly admit that a studio has zero faith in their chosen director or the overall product, obviously, but it has to counts for something that Warner Bros. is apparently so confident in what they have here, right? At the end of the day, audiences (and the coronavirus) will have the final say on whether the planned sequel will ever actually materialize. On that note, Villeneuve also has some interesting thoughts on calling the second movie of this two-part adaptation a “sequel” in the first place:

“There’s no such thing as Dune 1 and Dune 2. It’s Dune: Part One and Dune: Part Two.”

If I’m being totally honest here, that sounds like the exact same thing to me. I guess Villeneuve is trying to draw a distinction between two distinct sequels concerned with two different plots as opposed to two movies that tell two parts of one larger story, but this feels like semantics to me. That’s just another nuanced aspect audiences will have to be sold on, which will make a tall task even taller considering how most people will not have read the original novel or seen any previous adaptation.

The Real Mind-Killer

Fear might be the mind-killer in Dune lore, but the pandemic has changed everything about the way movies are released and viewed and nobody can state with any certainty how this will affect the future. It’s impossible to escape the fact that movies like Dune were originally greenlit in one world and now face the trouble of releasing in a completely different one altogether. But to his credit, Villeneuve acknowledges the reality of the situation:

“First of all, the enemy of cinema is the pandemic. That’s the thing. We understand that the cinema industry is under tremendous pressure right now. That I get. The way it happened, I’m still not happy. Frankly, to watch Dune on a television, the best way I can compare it is to drive a speedboat in your bathtub. For me, it’s ridiculous. It’s a movie that has been made as a tribute to the big-screen experience.”

Villeneuve was among the most vocal critics of Warner Bros. strategy to shift its library of 2021 releases from theater exclusives to a simultaneous release in theaters and streaming on HBO Max. He still sounds mighty put-off by that decision all these months later, insisting on the importance of the theatrical experience. It’s not hard to see where he and other likeminded filmmakers like Christopher Nolan are coming from, but no amount of well-intentioned, name-brand artists can defy the whims of a debilitating virus.

Assuming that all goes according to plan, the first installment of Dune is slated for release in theaters and HBO Max on October 22, 2021.

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