I think of Frank Herbert’s, ‘Dune’ as the best science fiction novel ever written, and one of the finest pieces of fiction ever published. It’s that good; and so are the sequel, ‘Dune Messiah’ and to a lesser extent, the third book, ‘Children Of Dune’. Everything tapers off after that, so I’m not really talking about those now. I have many reasons for why I dig these so much:
- There’s a big, overarching religious context with the Bene Gesserit witches and the manufacturing of a messiah. I love the big, humming metaphysical overtones.
- Intrigue all over the place – everyone’s spying or betraying everyone else.
- Power plays and an uprising. Maybe it veers dangerously close to the white savior-style storyline where an outsider guy does native stuff better than natives; but there are great explanations for why. Loads better than the steaming turd that was, ‘Avatar’
- Freaking giant sandworms tearing up the desert and eating people.
- I’ll count the worms twice because they summon, hook and ride them!
- Spice-driven superpowers like telling the future, folding space, and whatnot
- Unlike almost anything this high-concept, I mean almost anything that tries to be this ambitious, there is nothing outright stupid and poorly thought-out. Even the idea of the giant worms living where there’s nothing big for them to eat was incredibly well structured with an ecology. Nothing stupid. All well-cooked. Guy was a genius.
With the glowing blue eyes on the Fremen, the worms, the battles, the technology, the intrigue, palaces, beautiful women, honor combat, exotic desert scenes, and massive space ships, the visuals and action are perfect for a grand, high budget, Hollywood treatment. So what keeps happening?
There was a piece of junk made with Sting and Kyle MacLachlan in 1984, which though many people still dig it, honestly doesn’t deserve their praise. Probably it’s nostalgia. I mean, I still like watching, ‘Jason Of Star Command’ and ‘Logan’s Run’; but that doesn’t mean they were good.
This was after Alejandro Jodorowsky’s disastrous attempt at making a 12-hr LSD hallucination with Salvador Dali based on, ‘Dune’. He even started treating his son like a messiah in the making because he was so into it. No, seriously, you need to watch the documentary on this or at least the trailer. Alejandro is a genius, yes; but he’s a genius to be consulted by people not high on peyote and who can stick to a budget, not a genius you should hand anything over to.
So now I’m rewatching the almost-mess the SciFi channel (not SyFy back then) put together back in 2000 as a mini-series. I love the book so much, this is entirely watchable for me. I can ignore the ridiculous Peter Pan costume they put Stilgar in and the silly sailboat sails they have hanging off people’s backs, even the little diapers they make Paul wear in his knife fight. I can ignore the ludicrous mwa-ha-ha maniac laugh the Baron makes when he’s floating around in his gay bondage outfit. But my point is this – why should I have to?
I know, I know. Disney tried making an old-time classic (John Carter of Mars) into a high budget non-Star Wars movie and it sank like a rock and was a Hollywood punchline and career-killer for years. That probably means we’re out of luck for a long time on this.
If modern audiences just want a little humor, plenty of action and spectacle, and to have fun with an interesting story, as Marvel’s successes would indicate, here’s my proposal; and if you’re a purist who loves, ‘Dune’ like I do, then don’t freak out:
- Make Duncan Idaho and Gurney Halleck into humorous Indiana Jones-style tough guys
- Put an interesting twist on the Baron to make him more likeable, the way Loki was handled in the Avengers
- Ground everything by de-emphasizing off-planet and spaceship stuff, focusing on Paul and Jessica’s trying to win over the Fremen
- Cool battle scenes, yes; but not with CGI and keep them fun by retaining occasional humor, the way the dwarf and elf banter in, ‘Fellowship Of The Ring’, for example.
Somebody write this and send it off to Hollywood. I’d totally watch it.