The ambitious adaptation of epic science fiction novel Dune by director Denis Villeneuve has been in the news ever since the project was first announced. The movie boasts of a strong cast of actors, one of whom is Zendaya. Recently, the actress took to Instagram to post a picture of herself in character as Chani.

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The photo sees Zendaya Coleman in full combat gear, crouching down while looking warily at something to her front. Her hand is reaching at her side in preparation for unsheathing the knife strapped to her leg, while her other hand appears to be holding a form of face mask. Finally, a pair of breathing tubes are inserted in her nostrils.

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In the novels, Chani is the love interest to Timothée Chalamet's Paul Atreides, the main protagonist of the series. The two first met through his dreams. She belongs to a warrior tribe and is very much a girl of action rather than a damsel in distress.

The Dune series is set 19000 years in the future and concerns a society of aliens that spans an entire galaxy. Although the story is science-fiction at its heart, it also borrows heavily from real-world history and features ruling clans who battle each other for supremacy similar to the Ottoman and Roman empires of the past.

The first novel in the series, which the movie is an adaptation of, tells the tale of the Atreides family, the current ruling clan of the planet Arrakis. A coup planned by their enemies results in the assassination of the head of the clan, Leto Atreides, with his son Paul being forced to go on the run and bring about a revolution to overthrow his enemies and reclaim his birthright.

What sets Dune apart from other stories in its genre is the complex socio-political backstory upon which the central conflict of the series is built. In fact, so densely packed is the storyline with complex, morally grey characters, heavy inner-monologuing, and metaphysical imagery that it was widely considered unfilmable by fans.

However, Villeneuve is known for taking difficult scripts and turning them into beautiful and complex films, like Sicario and Arrival. Meanwhile, Zendaya, who started her career as a typical Disney kid, has been branching out steadily in the past few years with new and challenging roles.

Add in the rest of the cast, which includes Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista, Javier Bardem, Stellan Skarsgard, Charlotte Rampling, and Josh Brolin, and the upcoming film seems like a perfect match between an ambitious script, a visionary director, and actors who are ready and willing to explore challenging roles and narratives.

The filming of Dune has been completed, with the original release date for the film being locked in for 18 December 2020. This date might now be changed, keeping in mind the current lockdown which has affected the release of every major upcoming movie. For now, fans can mull over the movie stills released so far and look forward to the release of the trailer.

Neeraj Chand