“Dune” is perhaps one of the most prolific science fiction stories to have been shared with the world from the last century to current times. It will probably continue to be such an influence well into the future. This is perhaps due in part to its massively rich story and compelling characters who experience a deep character development through their interactions with other characters and the environment around them. Literally, the environment on planet of Arrakis, also known as Dune, changes whoever comes in contact with it forever altering who they are right down to their consciousness. Sounds a little scary I know.
“Dune” was originally written in the novel form and was intended by late author Frank Herbert to be a commentary on many things including environmental awareness and a cautionary note on trusting our leaders unconditionally. Much of this was sparked when Herber took a trip to the desert and experienced it first hand the harshness of the environment, the people who survived in it and the potential for such condition to spread elsewhere in the world. The experience changed his perspective and prompted him to develop a commentary on it in story form. Ok, so that’s kind of the philosophy of it, but I should move on to the actual story that came out of it.
So, it’s super difficult to give a plot summary for “Dune” because the story is so huge with many plot points, factions and interesting characters to mention here. So I’ll try to sum it up in the simplest of ways. “Dune” takes place 10,000 years from our current time and spans across the universe where humans have developed into a space faring feudal society that is governed by the Padishah Emperor and the great houses of the Landsraad, the nobility of the universe. In addition, there are silent influences, such as the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, in the background of the political scene that are helping to keep the thousands of years old system running smoothly. Out of this political quagmire rises the House of Atreides, the one house that stands above all as being a truly noble house and a possible threat to the Emperor himself. Out of malice, greed and jealousy, many of the factions including the Emperor plot to rid the universe of the Atreides and restore certainty that the political and economic machine will continue to function as they see fit. But little known to the Emperor and his allies, a new threat is building within House Atreides in the form of the Duke’s son Paul Atreides, that will change the course of the universe and mankind forever.
Ok, that’s the best I can do at this time because I don’t want to get too spoilery or write a ten page article just to summarize this massive story. Again, the novel is chocked full of details and plot twists that just can’t be explored until you fully read it. This brings me to the primary issue turning this into a movie, or movies. There’s just not enough time allotted in cinema releases to explore this type of story properly. Rarely does Hollywood or Bollywood or whoever else take the time to thoroughly explore the full ideology of prolific authors such as Frank Herbert or Tolkien. Speaking of the latter, they did give “Lord of the Rings” three good movies and I have to be thankful for the “Harry Potter” movies. Someone had sense enough to realize those books needed a proper treatment. “Dune”, like the “Harry Potter” series spans five more books beyond the original novel and is great in world building depth like “Lord of the Rings” and really needs a meticulous production to pull off what needs to be done.
From the past, we have two attempts at creating solid medium for the “Dune” universe, one in the form of a two hour movie made in the 80’s and a SyFy channel miniseries that managed enough popularity to make it through the original novel and an abridged version of books two and three. A valiant effort to say the least, but it still managed to be unfulfilling to fans and general TV viewers. The two hour movie managed to be a tremendous box office flop and was too short and too interfered by the movie studio to grant the viewer the privilege of seeing the director’s final cut. Still, the two hour movie is what many folks picture when they think of “Dune” and most other media such as video games tend to adopt the style of that version (what we refer to as the David Lynch version). Indeed Lynch’s version was mesmerizing to a lot of the fans because it was such a beautiful movie and well acted. For the miniseries though, not quite as beautiful or well acted in my humble opinion, but much more accurate in its storytelling. An, you see, therein lies the dilemma. How do we get this magnificent story to come together in its completeness on the screen?
Because “Dune” is such a prolific work of science fiction, it has certainly influenced many of the movies, TV shows and other media that we consume today. Just go online and read about some of the major works that were influenced by this story, including our beloved “Star Wars”. Because of this fact and the supposed lack of new ideas available to the film industry (let’s just ignore all the great independent films out there), studio execs are determined to produce another version of this beloved franchise. The current efforts are being helmed by “Blade Runner 2049” director Denis Villeneuve. If you haven’t seen it, maybe you’ve seen “Sicario” and “Arrival”, two movies I also found entertaining but carried enough weight to edge it over the top of other lightweight and campy Hollywood movies and which felt like they were made for adults. Hmm… that’s exactly Villeneuve’s strategy. He wants to make “Star Wars” for adults which, again, is ironic since so many of the ideas for “Star Wars” came from “Dune”, something Villeneuve readily acknowledges. I think he may be the right man for the job due to his handling of previous big budget outings, but that remains to be seen. Once again, as I continue to preach, the studio execs have to have as minimal a control as possible in order to let the director and production team realize their proposed vision.
With all that said, here’s what I think should really happen. The original “Dune” novel is a saga that’s divided into three books in one and spanning 412 pages. This was done to give separation to the events happening within the story. If you get the full volume of “The Lord of the Rings” it’s done in similar fashion by Tolkien, something they Herbert may have borrowed in the first place. But to the point of Tolkien’s adaptation to the big screen, that franchise received 3 three hour theatrically released movies over several years. To follow up with that, the DVD and blu ray director’s cut were 4 hours apiece for a whopping 12 hours of movie viewing bliss. So, doesn’t it stand to reason that “Dune” would need at least two movies at the 3 hour mark for each? Let’s be real, they’ve stretched out lessor, simpler stories in recent times and it’s an absolute sham. Well, Villeneuve is certainly aiming to do at least two movies and if he gets his way, I’m betting he actually wants to do more just to get that quality treatment. I think it’s critical also that it’s done this way in order to garner the most success, because there’s still five other original books to explore and a host of extended universe stuff developed by Herbert’s son Brian and author Kevin J. Anderson.
Ok, so that’s the movie side of things. What would really be sweet is if someone had the genius idea of sitting down and watching “Game of Thrones” and going “Hey, wait a minute… why don’t we just port “Dune” to HBO or Netflix or Hulu or something and just do a seasons long television series? That way we can take our times and tell the full, rich story, make fans super happy, pull in new viewers, do spinoffs of the other novels and make a crap load of money!” Lmao… not! But it’s fun to wish.
In any case, I’m glad they’re attempting to right their wrongs of the past when it comes to this franchise and I think they have the right person at the helm of the ship. If they play their cards right… the spice will flow.