Those of us who’ve read and enjoyed Frank Herbert’s Dune saga have not provided with much in the way of visual adaptations of the series. The last was 2000’s miniseries from John Harrison, and prior to that the 1984 Dune movie by David Lynch.
That version of Dune is not regarded highly by audiences, although Frank Herbert was complimentary, possibly because of his greater familiarity with the material.
“They’ve got it. It begins as Dune does. And I hear my dialogue all the way through. There are some interpretations and liberties, but you’re gonna come out knowing you’ve seen Dune.”
In some ways Dune is like The Lord of the Rings, a book considered impossible to properly represent in film until Peter Jackson did so in 2001.
John Harrison’s 2000 miniseries came out nearly 20 years after David Lynch’s 1984 movie, and that in turn came out nearly 20 years after the literary release of Dune in 1965.
In keeping with this (approximate) rule of 20, Denis Villeneuve’s version is coming in 2020.
This will be the first part in a two-part series which, given the size of the book, is quite reasonable.
Denis Villeneuve’s last movie was Blade Runner 2049, which I found to be fairly good.
At first brush this movie series looks quite promising. However, there may be reason to fear Dune becoming woke trash.
In an interview with ComingSoon.com, while speaking of her role as Paul Atreides mother, Lady Jessica, Rebecca Ferguson commented that.
“Completely and utterly honors the strength of Jessica – the Bene Gesserit that she is, even though she is a concubine and her rights are not as high as the King or what her son becomes, Denis was very much aligned with creating empowerment and powerful moments for her where they were needed.”
Now, this might just be an attempt to sell Dune to a perceived modern audience, more perceived than actual, but she goes on to say:
“I think Frank Herbert… when he wrote it he didn’t really live in an understandably equal environment. And the book is great! It has beautiful moments in it. It’s not really where we are or where we should be.”
This is something I find troubling.
In my opinion, Lady Jessica was one of the strongest characters in Herbert’s Dune. She is, as Rebecca notes, Bene Gesserit, a member of an order of women who, through mental and physical training, possess near-superhuman abilities.
Moreover, Lady Jessica chose to have a son for her husband, Duke Leto, in violation of the Bene Gesserit, who demanded their members only bear girls.
She also trained Paul in the ways of the Bene Gesserit. It was her actions that kept Paul Atreides alive after their House was destroyed by the Harkonnen.
After Paul himself, Lady Jessica is the most important character in the book and, arguably, already the strongest.
Dune is set in a universe unlike our own, where human Mentats replaced calculating machines, Navigators can fold space to allow interstellar travel, and the most important product in the universe is the psychotropic spice, Melange, which allows imbibers to see the future.
Should we expect a universe like that to conform to modern ideas about sexual politics?
I still have hope that Dune will be a good movie series. It has a cast of well-known actors, including Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho and Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck.
However, yes, I do have concerns.