It’s Back and Dunier Than Ever!

GalleyCat passes along a rumor that Paramount might be interested in mounting another production of Dune.

Although I’m very fond of the original book (as opposed to any of its sequels), I find myself underwhelmed by the prospect. The David Lynch movie had some visual impact but didn’t tell the story capably; the versions on the SciFi Channel struck me as some of the worst television I had ever seen (for as long as I could stand to watch).

It took Hollywood three times to get The Maltese Falcon right, so maybe this is actually good news. But the thing is, I don’t think Dune is very amenable to film adaptation. There are too many characters, too many events for a single movie. A miniseries might work, or a multipart movie like the Jackson LotR. But the real impact of Dune comes from being in the heads of all these different people. A novel like that may never transfer well to the screen.

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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9 Responses to It’s Back and Dunier Than Ever!

  1. kythiaranos says:

    My general feeling is that science fiction and fantasy novels aren’t very amenable to screen adaptation. Generally the scope is too broad, in terms of setting and number of characters. So you end up with a truncated version that’s either oversimplified or such a mess that it makes no sense at all.

    • JE says:

      Epic movies (that make sense) must be tough to make, I agree. Of course, some sf/f operates on a more stageable level. Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time, for instance. (Of course, it might not be visual enough to attract a filmmaker.)

  2. al_zorra says:

    That’s funny because I really love the SciFi Channel’s Dune and Children of Dune. I’ve watched them 4 times, once on re-broadcast on an actual television, as opposed to dvd.

    Though I will admit to getting mighty tired of hearing “MaaawwwwwwwDEEEB” pronounced endlessly, with all that emphasis and reflection. I got the sense that the actors felt that way too, and thus they really pushed it. 🙂

    The lynch thing? Not at all.

    Love, C.

    • JE says:

      Well, each to his/her own Dune, I guess. I thought Hurt was a good choice to play Leto, anyway.

      Lynch + Dune + De Laurentiis has to go down as one of the great mismatches in cinema history.

      “It’ll be like Eraserhead meets Lawrence of Arabia… in SPACE! How can it lose? Let’s do lunch!”

      • al_zorra says:

        You’re so right — it was beyond awful.

        The SciFi Channel’s 2 though — I loved the design and the costumes. It felt alien in all the right ways.

        And it sure made prominently obvious the phallocentricness of Herbert’s books.

        Love, C.

  3. madwriter says:

    I’m hoping that LOTR has taught moviemakers the lesson of “Oh, hey, maybe we could make a smash hit by following the book. That’s so crazy it just might work!”

    • JE says:

      Of course they’d have to read the book, first. That might be the stumbling block, in some cases.

      Sorry: I seem to be swimming with the snarks, today.

  4. davidcapeguy says:

    It’s probably because it’s rained every day but one here in October, but my first thought on reading your post was, “Hey dude! They should film Dune as a surfer flick! With Keanu Reeves as Paul! And Frankie Avalon as…somebody else!”

    Considerably more seriously…I’ve never been a huge fan of Dune or of Frank Herbert. I thought Lynch’s version and the Sci-Fi channel Dune weren’t appallingly bad (I’d forgotten all about Children of Dune), so I don’t hold out much hope for anything terribly impressive from a third try. It’d never happen, but I think a multi-part radio adaptation might work far better than a movie. Say, 26 half-hour chapters.

    As far as movies go, I’d much rather see an ambitious filming of Zelazny’s first five Amber novels than Dune. Or “Galactic Patrol.” And in the hands of a truly brilliant director, Bester’s “Demolished Man” and “The Stars My Destination,” both of which are probably completely unfilmable, but what a splendid star to shoot for…

    • JE says:

      I’d like to see Keanu try playing Baron Harkonnen and really extend his thespic craft. Also, under heavy makeup his complete lack of affect might be less disturbing.

      I like your suggestions, especially The Stars My Destination. That might yield something pretty wonderful.

      There was an anime called Lensman some years ago, but as I remember it didn’t really have much to do with the Doc Smith books, barring the use of a few names.

      I think the original Amber novels would be very filmable, but I guess I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t want filmakers messing with my favorite books. And Hollywood’s track record with Zelazny (e.g. Damnation Alley) isn’t very encouraging…

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