Heading Back To DUNE

Director Peter Berg will be taking us back to the planet Arrakis, having been attached to direct a big screen version of Frank Herbert’s classic science-fiction novel Dune.

Berg will be working with producer Kevin Misher, according to a Variety article announcing the project. Micher and Berg are currently looking for a screenwriter to adapt Herbert’s sprawling tale of intergalactic civil war and the emergence of a prophesized messiah.

Dune was the first David Lynch movie I saw when the film hit the local cinema in December 2004. A sophomore in high school, our household was still about four months away from its first VCR and no one was showing Eraserhead on the Saturday afternoon movies on television. My friends and I went opening weekend (Anyone else have those 8 ½ by 11 sheets of paper they handed out at the box office with definitions of everything in the Dune universe like stillsuits and ornithopters?) and walked out with mixed feelings. The look of the film was great, but the story felt like the Cliff Notes version of something bigger.

Inspired, I sought out and read Herbert’s novel, which confirmed my suspicions. Reading the book also showed the story to be much more internalized than I would have guessed. Sure, Lynch tried to deal with several of the characters’ inner struggles through voiceover, but it didn’t come off very well. The 2000 miniseries on the Sci-Fi Channel took more time to flesh out the events of the book, but made little headway in finding a way to bring the non-cinematic introspection to the screen.

Can a mammoth, sprawling book like Dune ever be faithfully adapted? Perhaps. I had my doubts that the graphic novel Watchmen could ever be adapted into a live action presentation without being a multi-hour miniseries for a pay cable outlet. However, a reading of the most recent draft of the screenplay for the currently in production feature film version suggests that director Zack Snyder is on the right track.

It is easy to see that the tale of warring political houses in the distant future would sound appealing to a studio looking for a big epic summer blockbuster, which is how Paramount is envisioning this project. But it will take some hard, and in some cases inspired, work to translate some of the book’s more literary and non-cinematic themes to the big screen. The Variety article states that the producers are “looking for a faithful adaptation of the Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning book.” I wish them luck.

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About Rich Drees 6999 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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