Dune, Frank Herbert’s epic 1965 novel, is both a science fiction classic and, based on empirical evidence, one of the most difficult works of fiction to film. This based on the many (many) unsuccessful attempts, some of them by so promising and with results so bad, it has become the stuff of legend.
Herbert’s novel is set 21,000 years in the future and is breathtaking in scope and sheer brazen storytelling. It was also the work of deep genius, going far beyond entertaining narrative to weave a tale of intense political, social and personal commentary. It is a remarkable novel and so it is no surprise that so many filmmakers have tried to give it some kind of life on screen. The results have been, at best, unremarkable. At worst, extreme stinkers, despite megawatt star power on both sides of the camera. Deadline Hollywood sums up those earlier projects:
There were many attempts to do so in the early 1970s, but all those failed. There was a movie adaptation, written and directed by David Lynch in 1984 that starred Kyle MacLachlan and was produced by Raffaella and Dino De Laurentiis, but it bombed and was not anything like the high quality of work we have seen from Lynch over his career. Too many cooks? At one point even Ridley Scott thought about bringing this wide-ranging tome to the screen. There was also a three-part TV mini-series adapted and directed by John Harrison in 2000 that starred William Hurt.
The trouble, as The Hollywood Reporter notes, is the breadth of the material that Dune presents:
The problem is that Dune is far too large to fit into a movie. Ignoring the fact that Herbert himself wrote an additional five sequels, with his son Brian co-writing more than 10 other novels based on the property with author Kevin J. Anderson, just the first Dune novel alone is more than 500 pages of dense writing that struggles to be parsed into a movie of any reasonable running time, especially considering the many new concepts that require introduction in the process.
And now we can anticipate yet another attempt, as the rights have just been acquired by Legendary Entertainment (The Thinning, Dead Rising, Warcraft) whose track record indicates that, if anyone can pull off a successful Dune adaptation, these cats can. From Variety:
Legendary Entertainment has acquired the rights from the Frank Herbert estate for his iconic novel “Dune,” granting the production entity the film and television motion picture rights to the work.
The agreement calls for the development and production of possible film and TV projects for a global audience. The projects would be produced by Thomas Tull, Mary Parent and Cale Boyter, with Brian Herbert, Byron Merritt and Kim Herbert serving as executive producers.
We’ll see how where it all goes from here.