‘Dune’: Why Hollywood keeps retelling this story, and why this latest adaptation may be a takeoff

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After many delays caused by the pandemic, the latest film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction classic “Dune” will be available in theaters and HBO Max this weekend. Directed by Dennis Villeneuve, the film starring Timothy Chalamet, Zandaya and Oscar Isaac is one of the most anticipated films this year. (The “Dune” studio Warner Bros., HBO Max and CNN are all part of WarnerMedia.)

But this movie is not the first screen adaptation of the novel-a much-maligned movie was released in 1984, and a TV miniseries followed for nearly 20 years. Even so, the source material has long been considered almost impossible to adapt.

This novel is based on Arrakis, a desolate desert planet that is valued for its hallucinogenic “spices”. This novel tells the journey of a young Paul Atreides (Chalamet) whose family is responsible for overseeing the planet. The task-to replace their rival Harkonnens. The story covers everything from spaceships and alien life forms called sandworms to themes surrounding betrayal, politics, and religion.

The world built in “Dune” and its sequels are full of layers, many of which have been difficult to make on the big screen. Look back at previous adaptations and why today’s audience might appreciate Villeneuve’s adaptations.

The first adaptation of “Dune” was not good

In the 1970s, after the film’s copyright changed hands many times, the first film adaptation of “Dune” took more than ten years. Director Alejandro Zodulowski (“El Topo”)-the subject of the documentary “Zodulowski’s Dunes”-was at the helm for a time, including Orson Welles and Salvador Dali The magnificent casting plan included. But the project eventually collapsed, partly because of increasing budgets and clumsy runtimes.
When director David Lynch took over the project after the success of “Like a Man”, a “Dune” movie became a reality. Lynch’s “Dune” was released in 1984. It was a commercial and major disaster with a budget of 40 million U.S. dollars and a domestic box office revenue of only 30.9 million U.S. dollars.
“This movie is really a mess, puzzling, ugly, unorganized, and pointlessly entering the dark realm of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time,” Roger Ebert said in his adaptation of Lynch The one-star comment wrote that it was “a project that has been severely out of control from the beginning.”

“The producer crossed his fingers, hoping that everyone who has read these books will want to watch this movie,” his comment concluded. “It’s not that if the news goes out, they won’t.”

Kyle McLachlan played Paul Atredes in David Lynch's big screen movie
Although “Dune” in 1984 has gained some fanatical followers over the years, Lynch himself did not speak highly of the film, calling it “a huge and huge sadness in my life” in a virtual quiz in 2020.

Science fiction and movie lovers have some theories about why these early attempts to tell the story of “Dune” on the screen were unsuccessful.

Jodorowsky and Lynch “both are trying to be weird in their own way-balancing their own style and [source material’s] Marina Hassapopoulou, professor of film studies at New York University, said in an email to CNN:

YouTube video essayist Patrick Williams told CNN, especially Lynch’s version, that he tried to do too much in a limited time, and pointed out that “this movie is something people who don’t like science fiction think all science fiction The look of the novel is basically just cold, dense, without emotion, basically only information and knowledge.”

Unlike “Star Wars,” which uses an opening line to entice the audience to understand the story and provide a reason to invest in the character’s journey, Lynch’s adaptation of “Dune” immediately “dumps all these terms, names, and information on you,” Williams Say.

“It was only about two hours, and they tried to fit into it, so that it felt like a CliffsNotes version of the textbook,” he said. “You can see the elements of a fascinating story-it’s just that it’s so condensed, it feels more like an information dump, rather than a true emotional story about the character.”

The 2000 miniseries performed better

The failure of Lynch’s adaptation did not prevent the creation of another “sand dune.” In 2000, the Science Fiction Channel (now stylized as SyFy) released “Frank Herbert’s Dunes”, a three-TV miniseries written and directed by John Harrison, closer to the original material. Compared with Lynch’s big-screen adaptation, this miniseries was a victory, bringing science fiction the highest ratings at the time. According to the New York Times, more than 3 million people watched the first part.
Actor Alec Newman played Paul Atredes in the 2000 TV miniseries
Although this miniseries has its critics, it won two Emmy Awards for photography and special visual effects. This led to the channel’s release of a sequel miniseries “Frank Herbert’s Sons of the Dunes”, starring James McAvoy, who was relatively unknown at the time, which combined the author’s follow-up books “The Dune Messiah” and “Sons of the Dunes” “In the event.

Of course, although these views on the “Dune” story have found their audience, they do not have the wide-ranging influence that large-budget theatrical releases usually do.

“That was the era before the SF Channel’s Battlestar Galactica-nothing they did really connect with the wider mainstream audience,” Williams said.

Despite the complexity of the source material, the director is still attracted by “Dune”

“Sand dunes” are generally considered “unphotographable”. As Hassapopoulou said, “The source material is too sublime to be adapted (and limited to) audiovisual media like movies, which makes the adaptation from books to movies challenging.”

As this year’s Villeneuve screening demonstrated, filmmakers are still attracted by the source material-partly because of the complexity and challenges involved. Villeneuve told the Los Angeles Times that “it took a long time to find the right balance” between maintaining the main storyline and capturing some of the complexity of the text, while also maintaining some “mystery”.

“For me, it is very important that we don’t explain everything,” he told the New York Times.

Josh Brolin (left) plays Gurney Halleck and Timothy Chalamet as Paul Atreides in the 2021 adaptation of Dune.

Despite some denser themes, the “Dune” story has many generally recognized elements. The feud between the Atredes family and the Hakkoning family is a metaphor for classic literary works-such as “Romeo and Juliet” and “Wuthering Heights”-are already familiar.

Williams said: “Since the birth of the movie, people have been making movies.” “All aspects of this story are really common, but you have sandworms, you have spaceships-you have all these interesting and weird things. Science fiction stuff can be played.”

Are the audience ready for the “sand dunes” of 2021?

At the time of writing, Villeneuve’s “Dune” has earned more than $100 million in international box office revenue. The film received an 8-minute standing applause at the world premiere during the Venice International Film Festival. When it was shown in American theaters, the comments were mostly positive.

Although the final box office performance of the film is not yet known, Hassapopoulou believes that “Villeneuve’s Dune will be the most commercially successful of all adaptations so far” and pointed out that the director’s previous work was his The reason for the success of the vision.

“Just as he did with Blade Runner’s legacy through Blade Runner 2049 (2017), Villeneuve was able to attract new fans and rekindle interest in the source material,” she said. “His film “Arrival” shows that he has the ability to deal with complex storytelling that is still understandable by mainstream audiences.”

In addition, today’s mainstream audience may be more willing to accept the “Dune” adaptation than ever before. Hassapopoulou stated that since the 1990s, Hollywood films “have put forward higher and higher demands on intellectually active and critically engaged audiences”, which means that the new “Dune” may attract “not be A new generation delayed by aesthetic experiments and intricate narratives.

From left: Josh Brolin as Gurney Harleck in Dennis Villeneuve’s Dunes, Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides, Stephen McKinley Hen Desen plays Thufir Hawat.
Williams has a similar feeling, pointing out how “nerd media” has become more mainstream in the past 15 years. Ordinary people today can name many previously inconspicuous Marvel characters, and series like “Game of Thrones”-“The true dense fantasy of dragons and ice zombies”-have become so popular that even him His parents care, he pointed out.
But even if various factors are beneficial to the new movie, there are still some risks. On the one hand, Villeneuve’s “Dune” does not cover the entire novel-and it is not certain that a second movie will be made. “There will be enough people to watch it to ensure that Warner Bros. can justify the production… Is the second part reasonable?” Williams asked, while observing the latest update of Stephen King’s “It” The film adaptation was divided into two parts to be “effective” for the studio, and ultimately committed to completing the story in the second film.

He said that although people have heard of “Dune”, it is not necessarily a “familiar and verified franchise.” But this didn’t stop him from watching the movie’s excitement.

“I’m really curious how the public will react and respond,” he said. “We don’t have too many movies like “Dune”, so I personally hope that people will see it.”


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