Sources have confirmed to Inside The Film Room that the first official “Dune” trailer will be released online on Wednesday, September 9. This will come in the wake of a special, theater-exclusive teaser that is attached to screenings of “Tenet.”
A Canadian cinema employee shared the following details to ITFR. The teaser will run for one minute and 37 seconds and will give audiences around the world a glimpse of Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi world through the eyes of Academy Award-nominee Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Blade Runner 2049”).
But wait… There’s more! Not only did our source confirm the teaser’s existence and Warner Bros.’ plan for marketing the full official trailer’s release, but they have actually seen the footage – and so have I. It’s nothing short of spectacular and a true tease.
TEASER SPOILERS BELOW, SCROLL DOWN FOR NON-SPOILER SECTION
It opens with gorgeous, custom WB and Legendary logos that fit the gold and black aesthetic the marketing material has shown so far. Then, it hops right into an iconic scene fans of the novel will immediately recognize: the Gom Jabbar test. This scene takes place early in the novel and is the focal point of this teaser.
Before traveling to Arrakis, Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) is introduced to the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam (Charlotte Rampling). She asks Paul to place his hand inside a box that causes Paul to feel excruciating pain without physically harming him. The catch? He’ll die if he removes his hand. The Gom Jabbar is a lethal poisonous needle that Mohiam wears on her finger and presses against Paul’s neck during this test of his humanity, awarenesses and animal instincts. You’ll discover the reason for this test during his journey.
This is nothing short of stunning from a visual perspective. The set that Chalamet and Rampling sit in is enormous and circular, with beautifully ornate carvings in the walls and floor. Sunlight beams through a skylight, and the two characters are centered in the room. The Reverend Mother is wearing a complex gown. It’s almost terrifying how the black, netted material drapes over her entire body, from head to toe. She speaks with a taunting, almost mechanical voice, explaining the test to Paul – the poor boy is clearly in over his head.
As the test plays out and his fear and pain increases, the footage is intercut with a sweeping shot of Arrakis’ deep desert, with dunes as far as the eye can see. It’s exactly how you would imagine it. They’re bright yellow, and you can feel the sun through the screen. We also get quick, big shots of almost every cast member, making their faces obvious to viewers.
We see the door open on an aircraft and the Atreides men stand in their armor as the Arrakis sun shines on them. Oscar Isaac looks absolutely regal and badass as Duke Leto Atreides. Rebecca Ferguson is hooded and smiling as Lady Jessica, and Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) makes a quick appearance wearing a stillsuit. We also see Javier Bardem’s Stilgar remove his face mask to speak to someone and Zendaya’s Chani climbing over rocks with a group of Fremen.
Some quick shots also include an ornithopter touching down in the desert and Paul stepping off. We also see Chang Chen as Dr. Wellington Yueh, Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Liet-Kynes and our first look at “Beast” Glossu Rabban Harkonnen, played by Dave Bautista. He looks almost painted white or covered in dust. There is also the quickest glimpse of a large character’s head emerging from a huge tub full of a liquid that had a similar color to Rabban’s skin. This character seemed to be Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård), and it was a perfectly grotesque moment.
Throughout the teaser, the intensity of Paul’s test builds and builds with each new cast member who is introduced, finally culminating with an epic closeup of Paul in the desert in a stillsuit, walking among Fremen. The score really comes in as the title reveals itself, and I am almost certain this is a piece from Hans Zimmer himself. It sounded like a cross between “Blade Runner” and “The Lion King,” with a good amount of drums mixed in with some ethereal, synth vibes. It perfectly fits “Dune.”
The teaser finishes with the title reveal, followed by a stacked list of every cast member that fills the screen from top to bottom, and a stamp that says “FILMED IN IMAX.” This film wasn’t captured with IMAX cameras, so this could mean they’re going the “Top Gun: Maverick” route of having their digital cameras certified by IMAX themselves. I’d expect expanded aspect ratios for at least part of the film, if not the entire film, when you eventually see it in IMAX. The images themselves look unbelievably crisp and almost surreal in a way that’s hard to put my finger on. I don’t know what exactly Villeneuve and cinematographer Greig Fraser did here — anamorphic lenses might’ve done the trick — but if these simple character shots look this good, I can’t wait to see the big and complex stuff.
It must be noted the teaser closes with the phrase “ONLY IN THEATERS,” but this is nothing new. Despite their upcoming films having official release dates picked out, all of WB’s recent trailers have forgone these dates in favor of highlighting the theatrical experience and keeping their trailers evergreen in the event of a delay — they won’t have to release a new trailer just because the date is wrong. I actually recognized this pattern last week with “Judas and the Black Messiah” and “Tenet” and predicted that the new trailers for “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Dune” would also go this route. The absence of a date is not any indication that “Dune” will be delayed; this is simply the new normal in a pandemic.
So, we know it exists, but when and where will this theater-exclusive teaser be available? That is a little less clear. In social media messages posted yesterday, both the Facebook and Twitter accounts for Canadian theater chain Cinemark stated “the teaser trailer for ‘Dune’ will be debuted in select Tenet screenings starting August 31.” Additionally, the Twitter account stated “Warner Bros. has pushed back the date for the ‘Dune’ trailer.”
But despite being rated and ready for theaters when Canada and countries around the world show “Tenet” today, WB has asked for Cinemark to withhold the teaser until next week. The explanation for this is likely two-fold.
Firstly, the trailer for “The Batman” made an earth-shattering splash when it arrived on Saturday and is still dominating social media conversation. I suspect WB didn’t want one of their babies stealing the limelight from the other. Despite this teaser being exclusive to theaters, news of it (and bootleg footage, no doubt) would have been all over social media the remainder of the week. Secondly, the first screenings of “Tenet” in the United States begin on Monday, Aug. 31. It is entirely possible that WB wanted to wait until domestic public screenings began before allowing the teaser to show overseas, as well.
The final impression that I will leave you with is that this teaser did not disappoint me in the slightest. Although the 1:37 runtime whisked by in a flash, I could not have been more impressed with the look of this film and the way Villeneuve and company are capturing the world of Dune. This will blow every previous adaptation out of the water.
With all the cast members getting shown off, the music, the designs and tease of the official trailer coming soon, this is truly Warner Bros. and Legendary flexing their muscles. They know they have something special on their hands, and they want the trailer debut for this event film to be an event all on its own. With the marketing to this point having been basically nonexistent, I have to admit some concern was growing in me. That’s all gone now. I have no doubt in my mind that the official trailer that drops online on Sept. 9 is going to melt faces and blow minds.
The wait is almost over, everyone. The sleeper has awakened.
“Dune” is set to hit theaters December 18, 2020.
Johnny Sobczak is an entertainment journalist and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in Media and Journalism and minored in Global Cinema. Johnny is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has been with Inside the Film Room since August 2019. He was named Senior Writer in January 2020 and co-hosts the Inside the Film Room podcast with Zach Goins. Johnny spends his days job-hunting, watching films and obsessing over every new detail of Denis Villeneuve's "Dune."