This following article is based on various tidbits of information gathered regarding the script by Denis Villeneuve of his upcoming Dune adaptation. The compiled material is arranged in a logical order below. I do not have access to the script myself. Without further ado, here we go:
Beginning of the Script
The script starts off with Duncan Idaho (Jason Momoa) landing on Arrakis. In the book, it was hinted that Duncan Idaho was previously on Arrakis to socialise with the Fremen. In the script, this appears to have been actually shown:
The opening scene of the movie is very very cool. It opens with Duncan Idaho being dropped from the sky over Arrakis to infiltrate before the changeover happens, but to infiltrate Arrakis and find out what’s going on and perhaps meet the Fremen. I don’t want to tell you too much of what happens, but that’s what happens in the script. So Duncan Idaho opens the movie. — RMB.
Furthermore, this movie will also show the Atreides family leaving their homeplanet of Caladan as they depart for Arrakis. The amount of runtime regarding this is similar to the David Lynch adaptation, with an expanded Duncan Idaho role:
Lynch levels of Caladan. Jason Momoa will be well served. More to do than Richard Jordan in Lynch’s Dune. — DuneInfo
Like the novel, pretty early. — DuneInfo
Chani (Zendaya) will be present in a limited number of scenes. She will primarily be seen in Paul’s visions throughout the movie, before finally meeting her face to face near the end of the movie:
Paul’s vision of her early on is in the script, yes. — DuneInfo
Not that much, but that is to be expected as the script follows the novel pretty well, and Chani doesn’t appear early on (apart from dreams). — DuneInfo
In fact, Paul won’t even know her name until much later in the film when the two come face to face after Paul and his mother Jessica seek refuge among the Fremen people. Their first interaction will see Chani questioning Paul’s greatness and telling him he looks like any boy. — John F. Trent
Overtime, the relationship between Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) and Chani will develop over time, especially after his fight with Jamis (Babs Olusanmokun) and later when he discusses the visions with her:
Their relationship will eventually deepen with Chani giving Paul advice after he his challenged to a duel to the death by a Fremen who rejects Lady Jessica’s leadership. Before this duel, Paul relays to Chani the numerous visions he’s had of her. Those visions include “a thousand futures” that involve Chani killing him, a few where they lose each other, but in many where they fall in love. Not only does he detail these visions, but he reveals his fear of death. — John F. Trent
Until eventually, near the end of the script, they will finally get together:
In between these visions, he comes to and finds himself in the process of making love to Chani. As their lovemaking comes to an end, Chani will lean close to Paul. This image will be the first one he saw of her in his dreams from so long ago. — John F. Trent
In terms of which part of the movie this will take place in relation to the runtime:
Paul has meet the Fremen and Chani, yes but only in the last 30 mins of script or so. — DuneInfo
As audience members, we will see remnants of Chani throughout the film before finally acknowledging her and later confirming who she actually is:
I read the script as that we are meant to recognise Chani as the girl from Paul’s dreams when we see her, yes. — Duneinfo
In regards to her father, this is not currently known. In the books, her father was Liet Kynes, but he has been gender swapped from the books and is now portrayed in the movie by Sharon Duncan-Brewster, who will now be the mother. There were speculations that the father in the movie would be Stilgard (Javier Bardem). In regards to this speculation however, the script has not confirmed this:
Unknown in part 1. — DuneInfo
The combat in the movie will primarily melee-focused, judging by what the script has said. The probable training combat requirement combined with a decent fight choreographer will mean there will be decent action/combat moments from the movie:
That was one of the biggest surprises. I expect that there was a lot of hand-to-hand training for the cast and crew. — DuneInfo
Not much, but fight scenes in scripts are often pretty short, and it is left to the fight choreographer to define each beat of the fight. Watch out for a knife switch! — DuneInfo
It is unknown if there will be any gore or slashiness present in these combat scenarios.
In comparison to the previous adapted scripts, Denis Villeneuve’s version appears to have the least amount of speaking roles. This is the despite the fact that renowned filmmaker Robert Myers Burnett has described the script as quite talkative. Perhaps, whilst there are less speaking roles, the characters who do talk actually talk a lot more?
Jodorowsky’s Script: 86. Lynch’s 6th Draft: 58. Chase Palmer’s Script: 36. Denis Villeneuve’s Script: 46. Some are off-screen characters, or just 1-liners, but still some important casting yet to be announced… — DuneInfo
It doesn’t have the creamy goodness of say a Star Wars movie in terms of getting all that. It’s not a sugary, it’s a more of a fore-course film than it is a romp. It requires a lot of thinking and understanding. I mean it’s a very talky thing. The script has a lot of taking in it. It’s got action too. It predisposes your audience will be smart. — RMB
Ending and Length
The script itself 130 pages long, which is correspondent to around 2 hours 25 minutes or a total of 145 minutes of runtime. As expected, this movie will cover 2/3rd the book, as there is a time gap of 5 years between a pivotal moment involving Jessica to the next:
About 130. Which with credits I’d estimate to be about 2 hours 25 mins, give or take. — DuneInfo
Ends shortly after Jessica takes the Water of Life. — DuneInfo
About 2-thirds I’d say. — DuneInfo
Even though this movie is roughly over half of the novel, the film itself should stand out on its own, at least according to the Director of Photography:
It’s a fully formed story in itself with places to go. It’s a fully standalone epic film that people will get a lot out of when they see it — Greig Fraser
There do not appear to be any inner thoughts in this version. The original book was full of inner monologue throughout its text which is what makes it difficult to adapt. To circumvent this, the script avoids such effects altogether:
There is no inner voice/whispering I think, — Duneinfo
Instead, the way around this is that the role of the Bene Gesserit have been elevated for the script. The actress for Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) later confirms this:
Denis was very respectful of Frank’s work in the book, [but] the quality of the arcs for much of the women have been brought up to a new level. There were some shifts he did, and they are beautifully portrayed now. — Rebecca Ferguson
The script confirms that Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) will have the second most amount of screentime:
After Paul, probably the most screen time. — DuneInfo
Whilst this messaging might appear to be woke, this is most likely not the case. Inside sources have previously reported there is no studio interference with cast members praising the accuracy of the adaption of the book. The source later says the expansion of Lady Jessica and the Bene Gesserit is simply the way to circumvent the inner monologue dilemma:
The key to that is making Lady Jessica the de-facto narrator who introduces both Paul and audience to the world of Dune through her eyes. The eyes of the Bene Gesserit who in turn will be assessed by Paul. And not too favourably too, I might add. They are disaffectionately called Bene Gesserit witches for a reason. — Midnight’s Edge
Liet Kyne’s Death
In the book, Liet Kynes dies under an exploding pre-spice mass after helping Paul Atreides and Lady Jessica escape. As this happens, he gets hallucinations of his father making Kynes doubtful of the intentions of Paul Atreides. In the upcoming movie, Liet Kynes will instead be assassinated by a Sardaukar soldier, before taking them both down under a pre-spice mass explosion:
As she looks on, she is stabbed in the back by a Sarduakar assassin. After being stabbed, Kynes tumbles down a sand dune and is pursued by the Sarduakar. As Kynes lies at the bottom of the sand dune, she hears a hiss of sand, and a giant sandworm emerges and swallows up both Kynes and the Sarduakar. Kynes’ final words are, “I serve only one master. His name is Shai-Hulud!” — John F. Trent
In accordance with the chronology of the book, this will most like occur in the second half of the film.
Manipulation — Social Engineering
The Fremen believe in a prophecy in which a messiah with a reverend mother will lead their people to freedom. They refer to Paul as ‘Mahdi’, which is the Islamic term in regards to an upcoming messiah according to the Muslim theology and is directly translated into Arabic as “The Guided One”. In the original book, it is later discovered this prophecy was created by the Bene Gesserit to produce a superstition which will benefit their secretive order. This manipulation is not referred to in the David Lynch adaptation, but is present in both the Syfy miniseries and Denis Villeneuve’s vision:
Not all of the significant book characters appear to have been mentioned in the script. For instance, Harah appears to be missing from the script, even though Jamis is present. This is despite the fact that IMDB lists Harah being portrayed by Gloria Obianyo, who herself posted an old Instagram of herself visiting Petra as part of the filming production in Jordan.
Excellent question, and one that is puzzling. Jamis’s family is not mentioned at all in the script, which is odd as according to IMDb Harah is played by Gloria Obianyo. IMDb maybe wrong, they may have added her character in a later draft. Or the script could be fake! — DuneInfo
Furthermore, there does not appear to be any mention of Shadout Mapes or Reverend Mother Ramallo or even Princess Irulan:
No one officially confirmed for Mapes, Ramallo or Kynes yet. Oddly IMDb lists a Harah, but she isn’t mentioned in the script. There are some other named minor characters, some from the novel, some new. — DuneInfo
Feyd and the Emperor are mentioned, but not seen. Not mention of Irulan at all. — DuneInfo
Zero Irulan I’m afraid. — DuneInfo
This is despite the fact that the trivia section of Dune on IMDB states:
However, the IMDB trivia can be added and deleted by anyone, so this statement is somewhat doubtful. Might be true, might be not.
The age rating is not something which is definitely confirmed. People suspect it could be both PG-13 or R-Rated. Robert Myers Burnett suspects it can be PG-13. DuneInfo suspects it could be either PG-13 or R-Rated. A Russian guy with a bunch of scripts suspects it will be R-Rated:
I don’t anticipate Dune would be rated R. I mean obviously there is a lot of fighting, there is a lot of knife work in the fighting. But it really is an epic fantasy. There wasn’t anything egregious. There might be a few instances of people being bed together. Unless there is nudity, there is not a lot of bad language. I don’t really anticipate it getting an R-rating. I don’t think it will. I didn’t get the feeling from the script. — RMB
Hard to say about the rating. Violence and nudity could be filmed for either audience. Heck if they can do a PG-13 Deadpool version they can make a PG-13 Dune. — DuneInfo
I’m from the UK, and I never can understand the US rating system. However any violence/nudity could be filmed for any rating in my opinion (if they can do a PG-13 Deadpool anything is possible). Paul’s visions could be the deciding factor. — DuneInfo
Paul has terrifying visions of the jihad. If anything is going to push the ratings it could be the visions. — DuneInfo
As for the rating — according to the description of the action scenes, I get the impression that Villeneuve hopes that he will be allowed to release a version oriented to the “soft” R. But it will be difficult to say in the end. On the one hand, since this is a film with a large budget, it is logical to assume that the studio will try to maximize the potential audience. On the other hand, as the practice of recent years shows, PG-13 in such projects does not give a particular advantage, since such a movie is still not interesting to the corresponding target group. So, as they say, wait and see. — Russian Script Guy
The rating could go in either direction. If the rest of the Duniverse is taken into consideration, the franchise should become R-Rated. When adaptation happens, certain elements have to be changed for the big screen with certain areas expanded for the visual audience. The successful Dune miniseries was quite accurate to the books and this naturally made the series mature.
Recent years have shown PG-13 ratings do not necessarily mean that there will be a significant financial advantage. In 2019, 7 of the 10 flops were rated PG-13 or less, with the Joker breaking the record to become the first R-Rated movie to reach a billion dollars, in accordance to a Variety article. Dune has potential to surpass this title. Currently, 3 of the top 5 or 5 of the top 10 films in 2020 are also R-Rated in regards to the International Box Office.
Furthermore, Denis Villeneuve’s filmography is primarily filled with R-Rated films. His latest science fiction and masterpiece, Blade Runner 2049 was R-Rated and this made more money than his previous PG-13 science fiction Arrival. Arrival made $203 million dollars worldwide against Blade Runner 2049’s revenue of $259 million dollars, a difference of $56 million. Whilst Blade Runner 2049 indeed had a bigger budget than Arrival, it shows that audiences are willing for and prefer more mature content if the story is good.
This shows everyone that the age rating is not a primary factor in revenue. If there is a good marketing strategy/campaign alongside a great storyline, then the movie will generate a lot of buzz and thus produce a lot more revenue, regardless of the rating.
Dune is not designed for a teenage audience and thus should not be watered down in any way.
Trivia — Additional
The Butlerian Jihad is not mentioned by name and instead referred to as “Great Revolt”, which is a terminology also present in the actual book itself:
“Jihad” does appear once, but the “Butlerian Jihad” is referred to as the “Great Revolt” instead. — DuneInfo
The secret message which Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) discovers underneath the leaf in the books does not appear to be present in the script:
Sadly that scene isn’t in the script I read. There are plenty of secret hand signals though. — DuneInfo
However, there are secret languages present in general and translated for the audience:
The hand signals and spoken Chakobsa are subtitled. — DuneInfo
The Bene Gesserit ability of Voice, which was the precursor the Jedi Mind trick, is also present:
Just as compelling and more than human, it doesn’t describe how it will sounds — DuneInfo
The irregular steps to avoid the call of a sandworm in the desert is present in the script:
Walking without rhythm is carefully described in the script. — DuneInfo
The ornithopter vehicles will indeed have the insect flapping ability:
Flapping is most definitely part of description. Of course that doesn’t mean the visually on screen will match. — DuneInfo
The ‘thopter are described as having flapping wings, and while they could be designed out, the script does make use of that feature. — DuneInfo
Someone get’s beheaded. Unknown who:
Someone loses their head. In Lynch that was Rabban. For Jodorowsky that was Leto. For Villeneuve — well that would be telling… — DuneInfo
The Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) will more than likely walk in this adaptation, contrary to his flying abilities in both the Lynch version and Syfy miniseries:
He tends to walk (supported by his suspensors), unlike the film and TV series. But flying could be a possibility… — DuneInfo
The adaption itself should be a gentle surprise, even for the people who have read the original book:
Very well. Obviously not everything is in there, but they have kept a lot of detail in, but still managed to surprise me without going too far from Herbert’s novel. — DuneInfo
The biggest question with Dune is always how it will be adapted, given Jodorowsky and Lynch’s versions. I was impressed with how naturally and simply this adaption worked. After I finished reading it, I thought, “Why could no one else do this?” — David J. Peterson