A couple of weeks ago, the first photos from the upcoming movie “Dune” were revealed. In 2019, my most awaited movie was “Parasite”. “Dune” is the one I’ll be waiting to see this year. In this post, I share why, including my history with the book the movie is based on.
Frank Herbert wrote the science-fiction novel “Dune” in 1965. It was recognized immediately. The book won the two most prestigious science-fiction/fantasy book awards - Hugo and Nebula. It came to be widely recognized as one of the essential science-fiction novels of all time. There are movies, TV shows, and games based on it.
I was blind to all this when I first read it. I did not know the importance of “Dune” in science fiction’s history. It was just a book I found in the library. Just a book with an exciting cover.
“Dune” consumed me. I remember sitting in the back of my parent’s car and reading page after an excellent page. While I was on another planet, the rest of my family were buying groceries. I was a voracious reader as a child and teenager. Staying in the car to read a book was not uncommon. I would also sometimes read books while walking, occasionally taking my eyes off the pages to see if I’m still didn’t become lost from my parents and brother.
I’ve read the book multiple times. Like all the best science-fiction novels, “Dune” crafts a complex universe. For me, the book’s world is often the main character in many of the science-fiction books. It starts off one way, and through the actions of the book’s characters, it changes and ends up in a different state, a system rearranged to function differently. As someone who enjoys thinking in systems, I enjoy seeing the fictional system reorganized.
In the center of the “Dune” system are resource constraints. The desert planet Arrakis, where most of the book’s plot happens, is the home of the most critical resource in that universe - the spice. The struggle for control of the planet creates the central conflict in the book. He who controls the spice controls the universe.
The themes of the book are more relevant today than they were in the 60s. Environmentalism and ecology center-stage in “Dune.” When I first read it, I furthered my understanding of the need to take care of the world we live in.
“Dune” is also heavily steeped in Zen Buddhism and mindfulness. Maybe the most famous passage of the book is “The Litany Against Fear”, which I always understood as a meditation. The name of my blog, this blog, was partly influenced by this litany.
There have been multiple attempts to make a “Dune” movie. Alejandro Jodorowsky tried unsuccessfully in the 70s. Even with the involvement of Pink Floyd, Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali, Orson Welles, and many others - it never saw the light of day. Only a documentary about the attempt was made in 2013. It’s the most famous unsuccessful attempt, but not the only one.
“Dune” finally ended up on the big screen in 1984. David Lynch directed it. The movie is sadly primarily seen as a failure. The reviews are not the kind to Lynch’s creation, even the director himself has said that he’s not a fan. I still enjoyed watching it - because any “Dune” is better than no “Dune.”
There was also a slightly better three-part mini-series released in the early 00s. I remember enjoying it, but not much else. Looking at it’s rating on letterboxd, it’s only slightly higher than Lynch’s. My enjoyment might’ve stemmed from the same reason - any “Dune” is better than none.
The odds are against a good “Dune” movie. It’s not an easy book to adapt. Denis Villeneuve will direct this year’s attempt. The fact that it will be a two-parter is something I already see as a good sign. Villeneuve has as good of a shot as anyone. He has a stellar track record with movies like “Incendies,” “Sicario,” “Prisoners,” “Blade Runner 2049,” and “Arrival.” All of which I enjoyed. “Arrival” even ended up sixth on my 2010s favorites list.
I’ll be there in the theater on the opening day, hoping for it to succeed. And I will probably enjoy it either way. The spice must flow.