Denis Villenueve, fortunately, felt more than just fear when offered the chance to adapt Frank Herbert’s work. “The excitement of doing it was far more powerful than the fear,” he said. “Even just opening up the book and reading that first page once again, it was like, ‘Ah! There it is. I see it!’ If I can get even 10% of that [he points to his head] on the screen, I will have succeeded.”
Although we’ve only seen half of Villeneuve’s adaptation so far, it’s safe to say he’s gotten more than just 10% of the novel on screen. He somehow captured the sheer scale and beauty of the sandworms as described in the books, and he managed to at least partly compensate for the source material’s constant internal narrations. We don’t get to hear any characters’ thoughts in Villeneuve’s adaptation, but he did invent a new sign language for the Atreides to use, which helped bridge some of that gap.
Of course, not everything from the book has made it into Villeneuve’s work. There’s a ton of political scheming in the first half of “Dune,” most of it centering around Jessica, Leto and Paul trying to figure out the identity of the Harkonnen spy they suspect is among them. Almost all of this is cut from the film, which admittedly makes sense: This storyline was where the book most relied on giving us the character’s direct thoughts. And even without this subplot, the first “Dune” film still felt like it was struggling to include as much as it could.
But overall, Villenueve has proven himself right for ignoring that initial fear. His first “Dune” film was undeniably impressive, and there’s no reason to think “Dune: Part 2” will be any different.