During the pandemic shutdown of Hollywood, most of the focus has been on the shifting release date carousel or when movies and TV shows can resume production. But post-production is affected, too, and movies set for release this year that require extensive work in post are scrambling to catch up.
One of those movies is Warner Bros.’ Dune. In an interview with CCTV (via IndieWire), director Denis Villeneuve admits he’s scrambling to finish the movie on time for its still-planned December 18 release. Even though post-production on movies has continued during the pandemic, that doesn’t mean the process been unaffected by the shutdown. It’s still far easier to do post when everyone is in the same location as opposed to scattered all over the place.
What’s even harder is that part of that post-production work involves the reshoots and pickups necessary for every big movie, as well as recording ADR – all things largely impossible do to unless it’s in person. And it’s necessary to get scenes and dialogue exactly right when adapting something like Frank Herbert’s classic novel. As Villeneuve explains, even though they’ve been given the green light to go back and reshoot those scenes, it leaves the production badly behind schedule:
“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.”
Reading his comments, it appears he was planning to do those pickups right before the shutdown, meaning it’s put them at least five months, maybe closer to six, behind schedule. With any tentpole, let alone with one that relies on large-scale visuals and VFX like Dune, almost half a year is a massive amount of time to be taken out of post-production. After all, it took Villeneuve a full year just to nail down the creature design for Dune‘s iconic sandworms.
It will be interesting to see if Warner Bros. decides to bump back the release of Dune. So far, they don’t appear to want to move from the December 18th release date, which, on one hand, makes sense. The holiday release calendar for this year is relatively light compared to recent years, thanks to a number of movies moving their release dates. Dune would open against other wide-releases but would be uncontested by any other holiday release in terms of size and scope. If Dune were to move to next year, it would find itself jockeying for position in an overly-crowded release calendar now stuffed with almost two year’s worth of wide-releases.
On the other hand, losing almost six months of post-production work isn’t a minor thing. It may be better to delay the release in order to give Villeneuve and his team time to make the best and most faithful movie they possibly can. Villeneuve is one of the more visually ambitious sci-fi directors today, a director who crafts distinct worlds with his movies, like Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. Allowing him more time would almost certainly benefit him in allowing him to achieve his vision.
We’ll have to wait and see. In either case, Dune is one of our most highly-anticipated movies, no matter when it hits theaters.
Dune is in theaters on Friday, December 18th.
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