Legendary Pictures announced last Thanksgiving that they had closed a deal with the estate of Frank Herbert which granted the studio the rights to the Dune franchise, both for the silver screen and television shows. By the end of 2016, director Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049) had come on board the nascent film project. Now Variety is reporting that screenwriter Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) is attached to pen the Dune movie.
This would be fine, if Dune had ever shown itself as capable of being tamed into a single film. Spoiler: It hasn’t. Neither the 1984 classic by David Lynch or the three-part TV mini-series in the early aughts accurately captured Herbert’s world. And for good reason.
Frank Herbert’s Dune is one of the most seminal works of science-fiction ever created. The novel took six years of research before coming to fruition, and that shows in the densely packed and vividly realistic world of Arrakis. The first novel in the series clocks in at over 185,000 words. A saga so long it was originally published in two eight-part installments. Herbert would go on to write six more novels in the Dune universe before passing the baton to his son Brian Herbert and author Kevin J. Anderson, who expanded the saga with another thirteen novels and several short stories. It makes Game of Thrones look like a book series for children. Trying to trim Dune down to a manageable film script is a fool’s errand. If the aforementioned Game of Thrones has shown Hollywood anything, it should be that epic science-fiction and fantasy properties with huge fan bases deserve slow-burn television series, not “cut out whole chunks and Frankenstein it back together” films.
If Legendary Pictures really wants Dune to soar, the spice must flow on the small screen.