Is DUNE Even Filmable?

After four years of struggling with the worm, Paramount’s rights to option the novel “Dune” have run out. Seasoned producer Richard P. Rubinstein, who owns the rights to the novel, stated that he could not reach an agreement with Paramount and he would now be deciding whether to move forward with the project or not.

Since it was optioned by Paramount four years ago, some interesting names have been attached to the project including Peter Berg and Taken director Pierre Morel – who supposedly came into a production meeting clutching his personal, weathered copy of “Dune.” Morel and collaborator Chase Palmer penned a compact script that “cut the mammoth subject matter down to a compelling story that could be told at feature length.” I call bullshit.

Before David Lynch’s 1984 Dune adaptation, several directors tried to bring Frank Herbert’s tremendous feat of sci-fi literature to the big screen. Throughout the ’70s visionaries like Ridley Scott, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and producer Arthur P. Jacobs all tried to get their own adaptations off the desert floor to no avail. Jodorowsky’s (Holy Mountain) ambitious ideas for Dune involved Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, H.R. Giger, and Pink Floyd. Slow down, you kook. Lynch himself once stated that to in order to attempt a film version of Dune “You’ve got to be either stupid or crazy…”

Lynch’s version seriously polarized fans of the novel and was an utter failure both critically and commercially. Robert Ebert called it a “mess” as well as “one of the most confusing screenplays of all time.” Lynch was forced to compromise his sensibilities ins several areas of the film and judging from the video above it’s clear the experience of shooting such a massive picture made him shit blood. Jumping from a small production like The Elephant Man to Dune is like going from crawling to a triathlon overnight.

Personally I think Lynch’s Dune is terrific even if it’s less than faithful and highlights Sting’s abs more than my taste prefers. Visually it’s a feast (the Guild Navigators are sick!) but on several points, most notably the ending, the film bends Herbert’s novel over the couch and rawdogs it. Herbert enjoyed the film, but had his share of problems with it. He stated “I have my quibbles about the film, of course. Paul was a man playing god, not a god who could make it rain.” At least the sandworms look awesome.

It’s been 27 years since Lynch’s Dune and I think a lot of the novel’s fans – including myself 0 would love to see a faithful adaption. But is that even possible? The six hour SciFi Channel miniseries was very faithful, but it was SIX HOURS and the production design was similar to that of a high school theater department.

Which (somehow) brings me to the point of this extended ramble: is “Dune” even filmable? If a film remained faithful to Herbert’s layered novel, would it be a good movie? These same questions were asked for The Lord of the Rings and somehow that worked *fans himself with pinup of Orlando Bloom* But with “Dune,” I really don’t think it would be too tedious and boring if it stuck to the story. The material just doesn’t lend itself to film – there aren’t even any helicopter chases or missiles. The book is like the New Testament of Paul Atreides and is overflowing with religion, vigilante drug addicts, philosophy, and geographical minutiae. At some points it’s like reading an anthropology book about an alien species – but with a gripping narrative and plenty of crysknife fights, of course. It’s easily one of the best sci-fi novels of all time but unfortunately would make a snoozer of a movie.

At least we’ll always have this classic meme, right guys.