Hollywood considers it a golden era of intellectual property. This is also to say that it’s a golden era of adaptation. Almost every favorite genre story of the past century was optioned and sold, often with extravagant budgets in the hopes that the new version will be a success. Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, or, if one is really dreaming big—and who in Hollywood isn’t?—Star Wars or Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hollywood’s biggest stars have dug deeply into the postwar history of beloved adolescent fantasies.
This bounty of IP is missing something: classic science fiction. Although there have been scattered attempts to adapt the Golden Age masters—Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Frederick Pohl, Arthur C. Clarke—and their many literary successors in the half century since Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space OdysseyThese efforts are not very effective. Remember Will Smith? I am RobotIs that you? This is what I believed.
It has been an unpleasant experience for me personally. For as much as I love Batman and Han Solo and black-and-white zombie comics and am genuinely thrilled to finally see Iron Man cross paths with Spider-Man on the big screen, I grew up reading classic and contemporary science fiction—which meant I grew up imagining worlds and stories that have largely been absent from the movies.
One problem with sci-fi is the difficulty of adapting them: Their stories are complex and large in scale, which makes it difficult for them to work within a standard feature film format or a premium TV series. It is complex and intricate. The classic sci-fi genre has so far largely failed to receive a big-screen adaptation. Some of the best sci-fi is too vast for the large screen.
Case in point: Frank Herbert’s Dune Trippy, Middle Eastern-philic and anti-colonialist novel of 1965. It was an 188,000 word saga about economics and politics. The long sequences were centered around lengthy boardroom discussions on supply chain logistics and industrial production. There also existed obscure rivalries among corporation-like families with long, fictional histories. There were also psychics and witches and skyscraper-sized, Sarlaac-like orifices for sandworms. Spice melange was a natural resource that enabled interstellar travel and extended your life. It was Lawrence of ArabiaThis was in the psychokinetic future-verse where giant mouth-monsters were also LSD-ed. What the heck is that? What screen do you want?
Alejandro Jodorowsky was a well-known purveyor and distributor of wines in the 1970s. Hippie friendly cinematic psychedeliaHerbert conceived an adaptation, but it never saw the light of day. Herbert’s original ideas were later incorporated into George Lucas’s Star Wars films in a much more traditional, pulpy format. (The weird). trade disputesHe would still need to attend his prequels.
David Lynch was a weirdo dreamwizard from the 1980s. EraserheadIn an entertaining, but largely uncoherent manner, she brought the book to life on the big screen. Often, cheap-lookingThe film was largely used to show how hard the project was.
Here we are, 35 years after the fact Dune Denis, director of the film, has brought it back to life. Villeneuve’s large-budget adaptation was finally completed after nearly a year. delayThe movie is now in theatres.
It is so, I tell you Villeneuve’s with joy mixed with relief. DuneIt is the genuine deal. It’s a loving letter to a classic science fiction novel, and in some ways, all of the great science fiction novels. The future-fantasy epic is uncompromising and performs at a level I have never seen. It’s a show I have already purchased tickets for again.
Villeneuve brought sci-fi cinema big ideas and incredible imagery before with both An Arrival And Blade Runner 2049, His is not the case. DuneYet, there is more. Villeneuve captures Herbert’s vision in a way that is truly breathtaking. He shows the great magnificence of everything, from the carriers to the ornithopters and the toothy mondo sandworms. Villeneuve, like everyone else in Hollywood, dreamed big. But not in terms of the number spinoffs or prequels that he was able to generate. The sheer magnitude of Villeneuve’s presence is simply amazing.
Villeneuve works with Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts as screenwriters to make some adjustments to the story. These include condensing lengthy expository scenes and streamlining subplots. The movie is faithful to the book’s story, and even the dialogue is taken directly from the pages. Villeneuve directed this movie but Herbert wrote it. Dune
This is in contrast to another major Sci-Fi adaptation that’s being released. FoundationApple TV+ – Based on Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi classic. Like DuneThis complex story is one of intrigue and conflict between religion and science. DuneThis is often stunning even though the scope of it can be quite small.
But unlike Villeneuve’s Dune FoundationIt seems unwilling or unable to directly translate the source material. The screen doesn’t attempt to display Asimov’s work.
Instead it turns Asimov’s talky, thoughty tales about political maneuvering and smart logical victories into an action epic. It borrows only a few narrative elements and names from the source material, but is much more traditional. There are still many episodes left in the 10-episode season one, but it may be able to fix itself. However, I don’t believe so. The story is like an adaptation from a Golden Age science fiction story. However, it’s not a Golden Age masterpiece. Instead it’s a remake of the same story.
Villeneuve’s DuneOn the contrary, reveals no shame in its origin material. The film, on the other hand, is designed to showcase Herbert’s book to both new and old viewers.
If you are a new DuneIt has one major flaw. The book only covers 60 percent of its story. This leaves an incomplete conclusion. A sequel may be in the works, but its production will depend on this movie’s performance—a dicey proposition any time, but especially during a pandemic that has severely depressed box office returns.
It is my hope that we will get another chapter. Dune deserves to be done. However, even if that is all I ever get, it’s something I would gladly do. Denis Villeneuve’s Dune Half a work of science fiction is a great masterpiece in an obscure genre.