According to the Internet Movie Database, a new Dune film is scheduled to go into production next year. The very fact that this has been green lighted so soon after the Sci-Fi Channel’s above average adaptation blows my mind to the very core. Why do we even need this? Who in Hollywood thought that this would be a good idea to begin with? Yes there were problems with the Lynch version being akin to a bad acid trip, but I can forgive it for what it is; Frank Herbert was on set for most of the filming and the man himself gave it his seal of approval despite problems that long time fans of the book have with it. (Weirding Modules and the end of the film, I’m looking at both of you) While I’m the first to admit that the Sci-Fi channel is far from perfect itself, it’s a closer adaptation to the source material, especially if you can look past the cheap sets and the William Hurt robot they built to play Duke Leto Atreides. Neither are perfect in any way shape or form, but I do give a lot of credit to Sci-Fi for trying to stay as close to the source material as possible and taking their time by stretching it out to six hours to get as much as possible in, and I have to hand it to Lynch for casting Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck, since he IS Gurney to me now. In a perfect world I would take elements of both and create the perfect Dune for the screen.
This brings us to the latest Hollywood try at bringing Dune to the Screen. Dune is a complex mélange of theme that are difficult, maybe impossible to convey on the screen; the two previous attempts at bringing it to a wider audience is a testament to this fact. Then why should they even try it again? The real answer is the only answer when it comes to anything that Hollywood does and that is money. The executives in their offices are convinced that you will put your hard earned money down to see this film whether is turns out bad or good. They want your money and they feel that Dune can bring it to them, DVD sales of the Lynch version and the revisionist “Dune” novels of Brian Herbert (more on him later) appearing on the New York Times Bestseller lists show them that there is a market for this film.
This movie will not be good, it can’t be good, it will come out like Koko the signing gorilla describing the collected works of Hunter S Thompson; the gist might be there, but almost all of it will be lost in translation. Most people have forgotten that during the first week of Lynch version of Dune audiences were given a pamphlet of terms to help them understand the movie! Where did this glossary come from? The back of the novel! The original work is so complex that it has to explain itself to the reader! I don’t want this movie to go into production.
I’m blasting this out of love for the property. I love the Dune Chronicles. I read Dune once a year and I get a different meaning out of it every time I do. I have all of the books in their hardbound first edition formats. I have a rare first edition hardbound from 1965. I bought Frank Herbert’s collection of short stories, titled Eye because of the author approved illustrations of Dune characters and the accompanying short story. I have two editions of the apocryphal Dune Encyclopedia in both softbound and the extremely rare hardbound editions. I own both versions of both Dune screen adaptations and Children of Dune on DVD. I have a lot invested in the Dune Chronicles and I know, as sure as the sun will rise in the east and set in the west that a two hour film adaptation will do nothing for it but bring in more readers to the series and that is the only good thing that I can think of that will come of this.
Brian Herbert has been making a cottage industry out his father’s work for a decade now and it really grinds my gears just as much as the news of the new movie does. I suffered through his novels to get to the mythical Dune 7. For those of you that don’t know about this here is the original order of books in the Dune Chronicles in order:
• Dune Messiah
• Children of Dune
• God Emperor of Dune
• Heretics of Dune
• Chapterhouse: Dune
If you haven’t read these, you’re missing out. Dune has been described as the Lord of the Rings of sci-fi, a comparison that I cannot apply to it since I can’t get past the first ninety pages of LoTR before putting it down. The series is expansive and spans thousands of years of human history. As a matter of fact, the first novel takes place in the year 10,191 AG. The AG stands for “After Guild”, the guild meaning the Spacing Guild which makes interstellar travel possible, and there is no reference to the relevance of the years before that other than labeling the years before that as BG, “Before Guild” much as we use the BCE label. The last book of the original series takes place in the year 15,240 AG so you can see we’re dealing with a huge amount of history with just these six books.
History is the problem with Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson’s Dune novels. They have written nine Dune novels in the last ten years and they have all been terrible. I read the first of his prequel trilogy, the ‘House’ series with bemusement and slight annoyance at the mishandling of established characters, previously unmentioned alliances, unsubstantiated additions that were only added to justify future works, and outright continuity errors. Frank Herbert wrote dryly but was terse enough to keep you enraptured; Brian Herbert writes like someone saying “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” It’s painful for a fan of the series to go though them, I don’t know how many times I stopped myself reading in the ‘House’ series and thought to myself “Wait! This was mentioned in Dune and this isn’t the way it happened according to ‘insert character.’” You think that they would have employed someone to go through their work whose job it is find continuity errors for them and send notes that they should be corrected. There is a person who holds that job title and that is the editor, who is also in charge of making sure that things of this poor quality do not reach the general public without extensive revision.
So what is an author to do when faced with a problem of this magnitude? Why go back so far into the past where continuity isn’t so much of a problem of course! The original Dune novel makes short references to an event called the Butlerian Jihad, described as the war against the thinking machines that had enslaved humanity and the basis for Dune’s status quo. It’s the reason that there are no computers in the Dune universe, the war was so devastating that they added a religious commandment to ensure that it did not happen again: Thou shall not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind.
This could have been fertile ground for a great series of books. The elements are there: a war for the survival of humanity, a fight for freedom from tyranny, the restructuring of society to ensure it never happens again, et cetera, et cetera. This was a war based one mother’s grief, Jehanne Butler (or Serena Butler, I’m going with the Dune Encyclopedia on this one) whose child was murdered by the thinking machines. How did they mess it up? Oh I have the answer, and it’s not pretty.
After the Butlerian Jihad trilogy was finished, Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson tackled the fabled Dune 7. You see, Frank Herbert died after Chapterhouse: Dune was published and it ended on a cliffhanger. Word around the campfire eventually got around about ten years ago that the Herbert estate had found some previously unknown files that had been a safety deposit box since the death of Frank Herbert and it was let slip that a nearly complete Dune 7 was among those effects. As I understood the rumors at the time all that need to be done was for some minor editing, almost to the point that only they needed to dot the is and cross the ts.
This was not so, when the book came it wasn’t one book, it was two now. That’s when Lucy and Ethel came out and did some explaining to Ricky. “Oh and we didn’t have a nearly full text, just some discarded ideas that we used” Even without this explanation, you realize that what they were doing in the previous six books was setting up for the last two books of the series. Hunter of Dune and Sandworms of Dune are the result of that and let me tell you, this is Dune as envisioned by a Dragonball Z fan on cocaine. There are events in this book that have no basis in a sane mind, let alone a Dune novel. Dune has gone from being a cerebral rumination on humanity, its path through time, science of addiction and any number of other themes to extended dance remix of Return of the Jedi.
It only gets worse. There were certain things that never happened in the original Dune novels that needed to happen for Brian and Kevin’s Sandworms and Hunters to make sense. Thus they have brought us Paul of Dune, the first in a series of new Dune novels which take place in between Dune and Dune Messiah. These retcon books are out there, I’m sure they suck, but I’m not going to read them but I will let you go with Shakespeare’s personal description of Brian and Kevin’s Dune novels.
“It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
[tags]literature,movies and tv[/tags]