Dune Art Director Affirms Comparisons to Lord of the Rings

KIDS FIRST! Film Critics spoke with Tom Brown, Supervising Art Director for Dune (2020), currently working on the additional filming taking place in Hungary. While the interview was soon made private–perhaps due to misunderstandings on a couple of questions or because the producers felt too much was revealed–we gain some valuable insights into the production of the upcoming movie.

Talking about the epic scope of Dune (2020), Tom was confident in affirming comparisons that have arisen with the award-winning The Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies (2001-2003).

I think what Denis Villeneuve is doing is what’s called a seminal version of this story. I don’t think it will be topped, to be perfectly honest. The sheer scale of it is going to be daunting, but I do think it’s going to be extremely special. I heard in the paper the other day that they’re looking at the new Lord of the Rings, and I firmly believe that. I think it’s going to be up there with those kinds of films, really.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – © New Line Cinema

Tom also described the sets as “extremely beautiful”. He explained how Patrice Vermette, production designer, took the approach of designing locations around the characteristics of the different Houses (main factions of Dune), so that audiences will directly recognize where the events are taking place. The attention to detail also carries into the realism of the technology portrayed in the film, including the ships.

It’s so realistic, it’s not like anything they’ve seen before. The attitude that Denis [Villeneuve] and Patrice [Vermette] took was; what would happen if these things could actually fly? Unlike a lot of spaceships that just sort of lift off and fly, these have an incredible realism to them. Even though some of the spaceships are the size of skyscrapers [and other ships] are two-seater vehicles.

If the earlier leaked images of the Ornithopters are anything to go by, it indeed appears that a lot of effort has gone into both the concepts and physical construction of the vehicles.

Speaking of practical effects, there appeared to be a misunderstanding around the topic of sandworms. While Tom’s answers could be interpreted as there being no sandworm appearances during the first movie (knowing that Dune will be a two part adaptation) apart from in dreams, it’s likely that these statements are specifically referring to presence of physical models of the gargantuan creatures.

We touch upon them in a dream sequence… We’ve built a piece of the worm, part of its scale and skin, to develop texture and see how it would move in the sand … but we don’t actually use any ‘worm technology’ in this. That’s coming in the second part.

Based on what we know so far from the Dune novel and what will be covered in the first film, we can expect a couple of scenes involving sandworms and those are likely to be created using visual effects.

The Dune (2020) crew and cast members are currently filming additional footage in Budapest, Hungary. This work is scheduled to be completed within August and, at this time, not expected to affect the film’s planned release date on December 18, 2020.

Source: KIDS FIRST! Film Critics YouTube channel via Keefer Blakeslee (August 7)