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October 06


Fall 2021

Final Frame: DUNE – Then and Now

Images courtesy of Universal Pictures (1984) and Warner Bros. Pictures (2021). 

This year sees a new adaptation of Dune, based on the 1965 sci-fi novel by Frank Herbert. The first film iteration, budgeted at $40 million, made its film debut in 1984 and was written and directed by David Lynch. Featuring Kyle MacLachlan, Patrick Stewart, Dean Stockwell, Max von Sydow, Virginia Madsen and others, the plot involves rivalry among elite families in the future vying for control of a harsh planet called Arrakis (aka Dune). Reportedly, some several hundred workers spent a few months actually hand-clearing three square miles of Mexican desert for the shoot. Other scenes were filmed at studios in Mexico City. It was lensed by cinematographer legend Freddie Francis. The production crew numbered 1,700 with 80 sets on 16 sound stages.

Some special effects scenes required more than a million watts of lighting and 11,000 amps. That film did not fare well with critics or the box office but has gained a cult following over the years. The new Dune, budgeted at $165 million, is helmed by Dennis Villeneuve, fresh off his Blade Runner 2029 success (see article page 20). It stars Timothée Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson. The special effects were handled by DNEG, Clear Angle Studios, FBFX, Lidar Guys, Territory Studio and Rodeo FX. Shot with large-format cameras with Panavision lenses, much of the location work was shot in Norway and the Middle East. The new Dune is a vivid illustration of how far visual effects have traveled in 37 years – light years from the original.

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