I must not fear.Dune
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
If I was to risk my life to see a movie, this is possibly the only movie that I would cross that line for:
Check out the ‘thopters, man. Finally someone gives me real ‘thopters. That alone will get me to go watch the movie, even in a time of plague.
I just hope the movie has a story. A story that feels something like the story in the book. I’m not looking for the book as a movie, I’m looking to feel the same way about the story in the movie as I do about the story in the book. Fingers crossed.
The first movie of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune ends immediately following Jamis’ Tahaddi challenge. Given the place in the first book where the movie ends, I would say that there are at least two more movies of material left to put on the screen. That is, if we are talking about the series of movies ending where the first book ends. If we go on to Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, then we have at least a nine-film epic.
I liked his handling of the story as far as it went. He departed from the text several times, and yet the story remains intact underneath the changes. The director deftly weaves a tale that was made for the screen out of the text that Frank Herbert wrote, and he does it better than all the others who have attempted to tell the story before.
Jodorowsky’s Dune (2014)
Documents the first time someone tried to bring the book to the big screen. While the attempt was fatally flawed from the beginning, the collaborations that started with that endeavor went on to generate a dozen other works that would be sorely missed today had the attempt not been made. I’m glad the movie was never finished. There is no way the completed project could equal the grandeur of the vision that is presented in the pitches for the movie.
Unfortunately for us, David Lynch did complete his attempt to put Dune on the big screen. Luckily for us, David Lynch went on to make better movies. Don’t get me wrong, there are facets of the 1984 Dune that are grandiose almost beyond imagining unless you have seen the movie yourself. The guild steersman in the first act; in fact, all of the first third of the movie was excellent. All of the casting for the Harkonnen’s including Sting as Feyd-Rautha was excellent. Unfortunately the production couldn’t create ornithopters that looked like ornithopters. They also abandoned the Prana-Bindu training/fighting in favor of creating a gadget that they called a weirding module to make the fighters unbeatable.
The production suffered from many problems during the course of the movies’ creation and this shows in the finished product. There were long exposition sequences throughout the film, a shortcut to storytelling on film that is never a good idea. The Wife walked out of the movie back in 1984, midway through one of the sequences that featured a bloody battle scene while the voiceover track intones “…and Paul and Chani were in love.” The horror of it was too much to bear. She spent the remaining hour of the movie playing video games in the arcade attached to the theater.
I have watched the movie several times over the years. It never got better for me, which is its own condemnation of the effort in my eyes. When you know a story before seeing the movie made from it, the anxiety of what you are about to see enacted on something you know and love overshadows everything. This has proven to be true for me for every movie that I have watched after reading the book. The first viewing is almost painful to endure. If the movie is good though, the later viewings get better and more enjoyable because you already know how the movie treats the thing you are nostalgic for.
1984 Dune treated a novel that I had read more times than I had read anything else very poorly. It strayed from the meaning and intent of the story almost from the moment the characters touch down on Arrakis. I had read the first four novels seven times through before seeing the movie in 1984 and most books never get a second reading by me. Dune spoke to me in ways that other books did not. Frank Herbert understood realpolitik, and he wove his vaguely recognizable societal groups into a believable future framework that gives the reader insight on the world of power politics, and what can happen when an oppressed population is given a savior that they recognize instinctively. Almost none of this was present in the 1984 version of Dune.
Dune (2000) Miniseries
This version was superior to Lynch’s version. It was more like the story it was trying to tell than 1984 Dune. True, they still didn’t get the ornithopters right, and they didn’t have Sting as Feyd-Rautha, but they made do with what they had and at least tried to tell the story that Frank Herbert wrote. I’ve never managed to catch this series since it first aired, so I have little recollection of it now. I just remember being glad to see the story treated more like I expected it to be treated, instead of being buried behind special effects sequences that could never replace real storytelling. They even went on to make:
Children of Dune (2003) Miniseries
An adaptation of the second two books of the series. I remember even less of this series than I do the first SyFy series, although I remember watching both. This one didn’t impress me with it’s ability to bring the story to the screen. In the end the small screen can’t compare to the big screen and these stories deserve to be on a big screen.
All of this is my way of saying that I look forward to seeing Jason Momoa returning in movie number four as the Goula Hayt. I’ll be along for the ride for at least that long. Here’s hoping that Denis Villeneuve gets the green light to continue with the second movies’ creation.
What Dune achieves – as Frank Herbert himself wrote – is an ambivalence and suspicion of “good wars.” The film’s allegiance is with the natives, and certainly with cultural humility toward the unfamiliar and the unknowable. Colonizing another is a brutal if not a fatal mission.npr.org
I always wondered why Frank Herbert’s world of Dune seemed so deeply human and real. It seems that he borrowed a lot of Arabic social norms and words to flesh out his world in a way that made it seem both real and foreign:
Setting aside the mistaken belief that because whole parts of the world were borrowed from them that then the story belongs to them (every reader thinks this about the stories they love and identify with) that episode of Throughline sheds some interesting light on the framing that Herbert crafted to tell his political epic in.