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Dune was always going to be a herculean undertaking of a film project. The book the film is based on is so massive it was decided to only even attempt turning the first half of the book into the movie that is on the way from Arrival director Denis Villeneuve. Luckily for Dune, principal photography was completed prior to the global pandemic shutting everything down, which may be the main reason that while nearly every other movie scheduled for release in the next two years has seen a release date shift, Dune has remained set to open this December. However, it turns out the pandemic has still had a serious impact on Dune's production, and thus, that lack of give in the release date has put the new film under serious time pressure.
While most of the filming of Dune may have been completed, producing something of the scope and size of a movie at this level basically can't be done without reshoots, and Denis Villeneuve recently confirmed to Indiewire that he was planning to go back out and do some additional filming, that then needed to be put on hold due to the pandemic. The reshoots are actually on the schedule now, so they will be able to happen, but then needing to integrate them into the movie, and complete any post-production work is going to likely mean working right up to the last minute to finish Dune. According to Villeneuve...
I was planning to go back and shoot some elements later because I wanted to readjust the movie. I needed time. At the time I didn’t know that it would be a pandemic…as we were about to go back to do those elements. The impact was that it crushed my schedule right now. It will be a sprint to finish the movie on time right now, because we were allowed to go back to shoot those elements in a few weeks…it meant also that I have to finish some elements of the movie, like VFX and the editing, being in Montreal as my crew stayed in Los Angeles.
Following the 1984 Dune movie that director David Lynch still doesn't like to talk about, the original Frank Herbert novel became one of those books that gained the label of being "unfilmable." Putting everything that's important from the first book into a single film would certainly be difficult and boarder on impossible, and so the solution that was found in taking another stab at Dune was to break the story in half. Having said that, the second half will likely only be produced if the new film is a success, so there's a lot riding on this movie.
Considering that nearly every other movie set for release through the end of 2021 has been given a new release date, it's a bit surprising that Warner Bros. is holding firm with Dune. Still, because everything else has moved around it seems unlikely WB would be holding Dune in place unless there was a strong expectation the movie would be done in time.
Dune costars Timothee Chalamet, Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, and Oscar Isaac and is set for release December 18.