Brief Thoughts on a Trailer: Dune (2020)

If there ever was a trailer that was going to make me drop everything and immediately watch (with the mad crazed energy of a chihuahua on a sugar high) then it’s the one for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. In a year that’s been unpredictable and scary, Frank Herbert’s book series has been my one constant haven. But even before that, the David Lynch film was my pathway to my love affair with the director’s surrealist films, the music of Brian Eno and ambient music.

Remarkably, the trailer does effortlessly sell the appeal of the celebrated book series, while also providing enough for general audiences to raise a curious eyebrow. Part of this comes from the framing of the trailer. The novel’s tense and dramatic opening is the backdrop for the trailer. The protagonist (Paul Atreides) is tested by Gaius Helen Mohiam via putting his hand in a box where he will feel pain. If he removes it, he dies via a poisoned needle (referred to as a Gom Jabbar in the novel).

By showing us this scene, the filmmakers illustrate some of the things that Paul has to consider, such as leadership, legacy and what he does when he’s caught in a tough spot. At the same time, these scenes hint at some of the themes that Herbert contended within the novel, namely what differentiates human beings from animals and the inheritance of power.

For the casual moviegoer, the trailer impresses with some stunning imagery (courtesy of DP Greig Fraser). The planet Arrakis is shown in full bloom with sweeping desert vistas and intimate granular detail. But the trailer’s starker scenes, such as the one where we see a full display of military power that’s arranged in front of a tall rock formation and line of ships, particularly catch the eye. I love the scene’s use of light (via the sun) that breaks through some spots of the clouds and randomly illuminates some of the elements we see in the scene (such as the soldiers and parts of the ships).

But if there’s one scene from the trailer that personifies this dance of appeal for the Dune trailer, then it’s the final one with the Sandworm. It’s a stunning spectacle, particularly when we see the creature’s full open mouth. There’s a sound design choice of a protracted intake of breath that makes me think of vintage science fiction movies (particularly Alien and 2001). A moment like this would emphasis the excitement, but there’s almost a haunting quality with this sound design choice, proving that Dune might follow in the footsteps of its genre brethren of stimulating the senses and mind.

About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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