It’s too late to stop Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. The project already has Dave Bautista, James Brolin, Jason Mamoa and many other big sweaty Hollywood stars attached. Considering the Canadian’s resume it will probably even be really good, I’ll definitely go see it. But to be completely honest, I’m not looking forward to it.
This will be the third screen adaption of Dune, the fifth if you count Arthur P. Jacobs and Alejandro Jodorowski’s aborted attempts in the 1970’s. David Lynch’s 1984 Dune, did a great job capturing the visuals while butchering the sci-fi, while SyFy’s Dune and Children of Dune told the story better but with a lot lower special FX budget. So why Dune again? Why is this particular sci-fi epic getting another bite at the apple ahead of so many other candidates in the canon?
Part of it is of course familiarity and the risk averse nature of big studios. Getting a famous property on the big screen is a lot easier than an obscure one, especially if you want big stars and big budgets and the big profits that hopefully follow. Dune has also developed a cache over the years as the classic sci-fi book most people are familiar with, especially since Frank’s son Brian has continued churning out new books with regularity in the years since his father’s death. The Dune section at your Barnes & Noble is a pretty enticing lure to anyone thinking about the next big movie franchise. And there is definitely a whiff of directorial machismo behind attempts to get Dune right, especially in the eyes of hardcore fans who have lambasted the previous attempts.
I don’t buy it though. We live in an era where an obscure band of Marvel misfits led by Chris Pratt and a talking raccoon of all people are getting at least one more big budget blockbuster. Luc Besson got a French comic book turned into Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. I really think we can do better than yet another visit to Arrakis. Off the top of my geek head I could name at least 10 old dead white dude sf/f books that deserve a chance. Heck, there are Frank Herbert books that would be a better choice for a feature film. Let alone the amazing number of women, people of color or sexual minorities whose speculative visions deserve a big screen treatment.
So that’s the new Friday feature. Starting next week we’ll start diving into some overlooked sci-fi and fantasy works out there and make a pitch for them to at least show up in your Netflix queue. If you have any suggestions, drop them in the comments or share them on Facebook. Everyone can play.