‘Dune’ Director Denis Villeneuve Reveals Why the Movie Is Still Relevant

The greatest asset sci-fi has is its ability to reflect real-life topic through the lens of a fantastical world. As such, 2021’s Dune manages to be both faithful to Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel and speak to modern audiences. Amid all the chatter about “spice” and the politics afoot, the film — which earned 10 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture — has a lot on his mind which pertains to today, according to director Denis Villeneuve.

Edith Bowman, Denis Villeneuve, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Greig Fraser, Paul Lambert, and Donald Mowat sit in chairs onstage under the ‘Dune’ logo
Edith Bowman, Denis Villeneuve, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Greig Fraser, Paul Lambert, and Donald Mowat | Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Warner Bros

Denis Villeneuve adapted Frank Herbert’s 1965 ‘Dune’ novel

When Dune hit bookshelves in 1965, the story spoke to the issues of the day. But in addition to its social commentary, the novel became a building block in virtually all sci-fi that followed. In particular, George Lucas has acknowledged how impactful Herbert’s work was on his creation of the Star Wars saga.

Naturally, some aspects of Dune have aged less successfully, such as its use of Middle-Eastern and Islamic iconography. But Villeneuve — in his two-part adaptation of Herbert’s Dune — set out to retain the central story while updating other aspects of the world in which it takes place. Part of that means keeping the themes in place.

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Director Denis Villeneuve’s movie still speaks to today’s issues

The world of Dune revolves around a resource commonly known as “spice.” The real-world counterpart could be a variety of things, but as he told Vanity Fair, Villeneuve believes the movie speaks directly to the ongoing climate change crisis.

“No matter what you believe, Earth is changing, and we will have to adapt. That’s why I think that Dune, this book, was written in the 20th century. It was a distant portrait of the reality of the oil and the capitalism and the exploitation — the overexploitation — of Earth. Today, things are just worse. It’s a coming-of-age story, but also a call for action for the youth.”

The fact Dune hit theaters in at a time when young people are engaged in activism and politics as they haven’t been since perhaps Herbert’s novel was published feels reassuring. Villeneuve’s story does indeed hinge on young Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) inspiring positive change in the world around him. Perhaps that’s part of why the film has resonated so strongly with fans.

Will the Academy Awards recognize ‘Dune’ on Oscar night?

Like some other sci-fi epics, the themes at the forefront in Dune elevate it from popcorn entertainment to something a bit deeper. And the 94th Academy Awards certainly took notice. Villeneuve’s movie earned 10 nominations for Oscars 2022, including Best Picture. Villeneuve, however, failed to secure a Best Director nod.

However, the story of Dune is far from over. Villeneuve and his cast will return for Dune: Part Two soon. The sequel will adapt the second half of Herbert’s book and features a larger role for Zendaya’s Chani. Beyond that, it remains to be seen whether Villeneuve continues the world of Dune — which inspired countless novels as recent as 2019.

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