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Paramount Waiting for the Worms to Come


In a move that should surprise no one, since new ideas are few and far between these days, Paramount wants to make another Dune.

First made into a film in 1984 by David Lynch (although Ridley Scott and others had been eyeing the project at one point), it changed up a bunch of stuff from Frank Herbert’s book. I hadn’t even read the book when I first saw the movie, so I had no dog in the fight of how well the film worked as an adaptation. But it rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, apparently. Looked freaking cool, though.

Anyway, then in 2000, a much more true to the book adaptation hit the Sci-Fi Channel, followed by a sequel. This was so true to the book it shared the book’s weakness: a great setup, a great world, a great build up to… not much. But nevertheless, it was enjoyable on a different level. (My review; Doc’s review.)

[ad#shortpost]Now Peter Berg is attached to direct a new big screen version. This is apparently not new news, but the fact that they’re talking to a scribe now–Josh Zetumer–is. All this according to Hollywood Reporter.

Before we get too bent out of shape, some perspective: bear in mind that I’m seeing films hit cinemas today that I originally wrote up for Corona about eleven years ago. Hell, it took about that long for the first feature film of Dune to materialize. So no sense being concerned. Yet.

Although here’s a notion: Dune: The Bollywood Musical? Who’s with me?

Found via io9.

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  • build up to not much?? What about the final battle between the Fremen and the Sardaukar in the plains outside Arrakeen….that’s in the book an it’s pretty epic I think (I didn’t see the mini series)…

  • Mike: The battle may have been nice but the build up was for a lot more, IMO. I got more out of Herbert’s appendix on the planet than I did the book itself. I realize I’m in the vast minority on that, but what can I say? :)

  • There is this common perception that fans of Frank Herbert’s original novel universally vilify David Lynch’s film adaptation, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I am a fan of both novel and film (being a big Lynch fan), but unfortunately Lynch’s quest to adapt Herbert’s epic for the big screen is, in retrospect, one of the more tragic minor chapters in cinematic history.

    Everyone who knows this story is aware that, in the best of all possible worlds, Lynch might have truly succeeded, in the same way Peter Jackson succeeded with “The Lord of the Rings.” Given true artistic control over the project, Lynch might have given us a truly brilliant, if lengthy, film. Lord knows he shot enough footage! Instead, what we are left with are both the tantalizing, albeit abridged, theatrical release, and the horrifically inept “extended version” that was cobbled together so shoddily that Lynch had no choice but to completely disassociate himself from it.

    Lynch has made it abundantly clear that his involvement with this project is not one of the most well-remembered episodes of his filmmaking career. According to the Dreamers of Dune website, “The film … ended up at being more than three hours in length. Unwisely the decision was made to cut it down to just over 2. However this cut hurt the film’s exposition, and thus made it nearly incomprehensible to anyone who hadn’t read the book.” Personally I loved the film when it was released in theaters. A truly faithful adaptation would have to have been at least a couple of hours longer, yet if anything I felt that David Lynch had succeeded in giving us a rich taste of the Dune mythos, dropping us into an almost incomprehensible universe ten thousand years in the future.

    Years later, when the Sci-Fi Chanel scheduled a broadcast of the film for the first time, there was a great deal of anticipation over news that it would include a lot of extra footage not seen in the theatrical release, and I was psyched. As the broadcast began, my enthusiasm quickly turned to confusion. Directed by Alan Smithee? Who the hell was THAT? But it got worse. Gone was the ethereal introduction by Princess Irulan (Virginia Madsen), replaced instead with lousy illustrations and a potted history of the Galactic Empire as read by some cheesy male narrator. Gone were some key moments of Lynchian weirdness, such as Baron Harkonnen’s dispatch of the meek slave boy (the famous “heart plug” scene) and the baron’s spitting in Lady Jessica’s face. Hmmm, I guess THAT wouldn’t do for TV, now would it?

    Other aspects of this “extended version” are simply wrong. The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam is shown being escorted to Caladan by … what, the same Harkonnen henchmen who later take Paul and Jessica out into the desert? Spacecraft are supposed to be landing on Caladan or Kaitain, yet we are shown spacecraft approaching Arrakeen? And that music! What did they do to the music? It’s all punched up and melodramatic, not used sparingly and effectively as in the theatrical version. Sure, there’s some extra footage here that is fascinating enough in its own right, but overall this “extended version” has been pieced together so badly that it’s no wonder David Lynch disavowed it.

    Well, this is all water under the bridge now. What’s done is done. David Lynch has gone on with his career and learned his lessons about artistic control, giving us sublime films like “Blue Velvet,” “Mulholland Drive,” and “INLAND EMPIRE.” He can’t be expected to return to the editing room to give us the version of “Dune” he should have given us to begin with. Meanwhile, as mentioned in this article, the Sci-Fi Channel eventually went on to fund a couple of admittedly auspicious “Dune” miniseries while relegating the “Alan Smithee” version to an occasional broadcast once in a blue moon. Older DVDs of Lynch’s original theatrical release gather dust on the shelves of stores, and those of us who still admire that version are left to lament what might have been. Oh well.

  • Chuck: Excellent comment, sir. And my thing about fans of the book not liking the film is just based on my perception, so maybe if with time it’s grown on folks, so be it. Like I said, I thought it was pretty keen myself. Thanks for stopping by.