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Dune Editor Defends The Long Runtime Of Denis Villeneuve's Movie

Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya in Dune
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Most people would likely agree that Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is an excellent movie. They would also agree that it’s quite a long movie. And it’s actually even longer since the movie we have is only half the story, and will require a second film to complete. Dune: Part One is over two and a half hours long, but the film’s editor says that, while a shorter version is technically possible, it’ would be a much lesser final product.

Joe Walker has been nominated for an Academy Award for his work as the editor of Dune, (though his category is one that’s being treated like it’s unimportant by the Oscars), so clearly his peers think that the long movie was well edited, but Walker tells Screen Daily that making the movie any shorter would simply have cut out too much of the detail regarding the politics of the universe as well as important pieces regarding who these characters were. Walker explains… 

There is a faster version you can make of Dune if you wanted to cut back low-hanging fruit. One of the biggest challenges was establishing all the factions and main characters and being able to get insight into their souls before they get thrown into the oven. So the film grew in length and, as a consequence, got better.

There are a lot of important characters in Dune and there’s a lot of world building that needs to be done to explain how the politics of the universe operate. There’s so much to deal with that it has proven to be a problem the other times that attempts to adapt Dune for the screen have been made. 

And of course, there’s always a balance that movies need to find when it comes to developing its characters. You want to spend enough time with them and explain them well enough that an audience can begin to empathize and understand them, but you can’t spend the entire movie doing that. Far less complex stories than Dune have had difficulty figuring out how to make that work.

And ultimately this is the reason that Dune: Part One isn’t just a long movie on its own but is a “part one” in the first place. In order to cover everything that needs to be covered it was either going to need to be two films or one extremely long single movie, and between the two, splitting the story in half is almost always the better option.

Of course, if we never got a Dune: Part Two we might be feeling differently about that. Luckily, while the follow up film that will complete the story wasn’t confirmed to be happening when the first movie was released, it has since been given the green light. It’s even possible that, due to the worldbuilding that was done in the first movie, part two might not need to be so long. Although, I wouldn’t bet on that.  

Dirk Libbey
Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.