As you may have heard by now, Legendary Pictures just announced that they have acquired the film and television rights to Frank Herbert's equally as legendary sci-fi series Dune, and they plan to turn the series of rich novels into a film franchise.
While some fans of the original material might have turned panicked at this news, as we do so often do when material we love is exposed to the Hollywood eye, this may not yet be a case for alarm. The most famous adaptation of the series, #DavidLynch's 1984 movie #Dune , wasn't exactly heralded as a great version, though it certainly has its merits.
The Dune universe (or "Duniverse") is sprawling as it is. Originally consisting of six #novels by Herbert, the saga was picked up by his son Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson after his death in 1986. They created the Prelude to Dune, Legends of Dune, Heroes of Dune and Great Schools of Dune series. Starting back in 1965 with Dune, there've been 19 novels written in this universe, as well as a number of companion books, short stories and #comicbooks.
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Adapting the Dune saga is as ambitious as attempting to adapt the #Marvel or #DC Comics universe, and the major success of such superhero narrative universes likely has had some effect on Legendary's decision to bring it back now. But its a tough legacy to live up to — the original epic Dune is the best selling sci-fi novel of all time, and the series itself is also heralded as one of the greatest sci-fi series ever created. Take that Star Wars.
But Dune's popularity doesn't just stem from epic space battles — it boasts a 50-year history wrapped in carefully laid examinations of the religion, socio-politics and science of the Duniverse. And such complex creations are often very difficult to adapt, as evidenced by the numerous attempts over the years. So what do we absolutely need to see in the series? Here's our top picks, taken in particular from Herbert's original series of novels.
Dune was doing Game of Thrones-esque politics before George R. R. Martin had even begun dipping his pen into bloody ink, and the fact that the HBO adaptation has gone on to become one of the most popular TV series ever proves that there's a modern market for politics wrapped in violence.
This is one of the things that the Dune saga — especially Herbert's original six novels — does really well. From the get-go Herbert weaves a complex political tapestry, which draws in many great Houses, religious sects, smugglers and the unforgettable Fremen into a ruthless power struggle over the planet Arrakis. And, most importantly, there's always enough at stake that it never gets boring.
2. A Hero Trapped By Fate
It's pretty likely that Paul Atreides/Muad'Dib, the hero of Dune and Dune Messiah, and driving force in everything that comes afterwards, will pop up in whatever adaptation Legendary makes. But even if he doesn't, his nature still should.
When the Duniverse is born, Paul is a mere child, an unexpected pawn in a centuries old breeding scheme. His very birth was a defiance of the manipulative Bene Gesserit by his mother, Lady Jessica, and in many ways Paul's path follows the traditional Hero's Journey. But Herbert always intended for him to be fallible, and for his character to serve as a warning against the way in which society puts their decisions in the hands of charismatic leaders. As he himself famously said:
"The bottom line of the 'Dune' trilogy is: beware of heroes. Much better rely on your own judgment, and your own mistakes."
Because of the manner of his birth, Paul is a vessel of fate, and no matter how he tries to fight it, he will always lose to it in the end. His ability for foresight shows him the paths that will ultimately lead to his destruction, and his attempts to avoid the war he unleashes as a religious figurehead are doomed to fail. His only way of escaping is to hand over his destiny to his children, and his sister. Which brings us to another important thing we need to see.
3. The Weirdness Of The Abominations
When Paul's sister Alia is born in Dune, her birth is just as ill-fated as his was. While in her mother's womb, she becomes an Abomination — gaining access to centuries of memories of the Bene Gesserit while still a fetus when Jessica undergoes the spice ritual to become a Reverend Mother.
Thusly, when Alia is born she is born with the Other Memory, and possesses a consciousness vastly older than her years. Having a child who acts and thinks like an adult is seriously unnerving, and she grows up to become an incredibly formidable character. As she ages she also struggles with being taken over by the Other Memory and losing herself to her ancestors, something which is also interesting to explore.
Paul and Chani's children — Leto II and Ghanima — also share this name of Abomination, and become vessels through which Paul can "see" after he loses his sight. It's one of the most interesting things about the original trilogy— especially when it comes to digging in around the weirder effects that the spice melange has on human physiology and consciousness.
4. The Middle Eastern Influence
Given the current socio-political climate of the world we live in, Western media has to tread carefully when it comes to the Middle East. But without such an influence upon the Dune saga, it wouldn't be what it is. Herbert drew heavily from Middle Eastern influences — specifically Islamic and Arabic — from nomenclature to the vast desert of the planet Arrakis itself.
You can read a more extensive breakdown of terminology over at the Baheyeldin Dynasty, but here's some of our favorite Middle Eastern nomenclature that Herbert drew from for Dune.
- Bene Gesserit: the name of the sisterhood to which Jessica belongs, is drawn from the Arabic phrase meaning "Sons of the Island."
- Crysknife: the sacred knife made of sandworm teeth wielded by Arrakis's Fremen takes its name partially from a Malaysian ceremonial dagger called a Krys, which features a similar wavy blade to the Crysknife.
- Fremen: the Fremen themselves were modeled after desert nomad warriors.
- Gom Jabbar: the poison used by the Bene Gesserit takes its name from the Arabic "Jabbar," meaning powerful, and "Al Jabbar," a name for God.
- Muad'dib: Paul's religious nickname is taken from the Arabic "Mu'adib" which means "teacher."
Many other influences can be pointed to in Dune, from the Hijab-like clothing worn by Alia, to the Semitic practice of having concubines, which features politically in relation to both Lady Jessica and Paul's Fremen love, Chani.
5. Worm Riding, Of Course
This one almost goes without saying really, as the most iconic image of the entire series is that of the massive sandworms who protect the spice of Arrakis. Not only that, the moment when Paul first lands a sandworm is one of the best of the book. It marks the instance when he goes from a royal hiding amongst the Fremen to a true Fremen himself, and proves worthy to lead the tribe as Muad'Dib. Also it looks really fun.
This is one thing in particular that modern technology can really help out with. With the advances in computer generated imagery, hopefully any remakes of this scene will look a little more convincing than the 1984 version did. You did your best Lynch, you did your best.
What do you want to see in the Dune remake? Sound off in the comments below!