Dune: part one and its sequel Second part Will likely go down as unforgettable, must-see pieces of sci-fi cinema for future generations, but for all their value, some fans of Frank Herbert’s book might feel that this adaptation could have worked better as a series.
The idea is of course far from revolutionary because the early 2000s did not see one buy two Dune adaptations of series entitled Frank Herbert’s Dune and Children of Dune by Frank Herbert, both of which have been very successful even though they haven’t done the books full justice. Associate that with the giant Game Of Thronesshaped like a hole that David Benioff and DB Weiss left on HBO, it would almost be natural for Dune to get the show’s treatment again.
Enter Denis Villeneuve. The Canadian director has built his reputation on some of the most breathtaking and scenic films of the past decade, with Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 proving his sci-fi blockbuster credentials, to create a style that definitely struck most people as Dune continues to amaze critics and viewers alike, so what’s the deal?
Well, like the first images of Villeneuve Dune tell the audience, his film is only part of two and if Dune Often times looks like an incomplete movie, that’s certainly because it was conceived that way from the start. Villeneuve is first and foremost a director, although he has directed a few short films earlier in his career, it is clear that he feels his best when he does things meant to be seen on the biggest screens possible.
And yet, in the end Dune, Villeneuve the filmmaker decides to embark on his first television project to direct and produce Dune: brotherhood, a prequel series to Dune centered on the story of the mysterious Bene Gesserit. This decision, while still intended to produce serial content for HBO Max, was probably motivated in part because Villeneuve must have thought that the Dune the universe simply has too many stories to tell in the limited runtime offered by a movie.
It is not at the expense of Dune because the art and visuals of the film elevate him enough that he doesn’t really suffer from the lack of a suitable third act; in short, and to paraphrase Christopher Nolan, the film because it signifies the perfect marriage between photography and CGI effects. However, if Villeneuve Dune the movie is so big, so what heights can a series directed by the same man reach?
A simple person’s summary of Dune would be something like Game Of Thrones in space there are many houses, sand worms replace dragons, the lord of house Atreides (Starks) is summoned by imperial order to fulfill a certain duty, and finally Duke Leto is betrayed and killed with his family who ends up being persecuted. However, unlike Game Of Thrones, Dune misses all that extra time to give many of his characters greater and better exposure in a film all about the subtext.
Game Of Thrones as a series has omitted and altered many of its countless storylines to make the series exist as a more cohesive and engaging television, one of the most notable being Lady Stoneheart. Dune does the same under the premise of arriving at the same place but by a different route, but along the way it leaves behind some elements of the lore that might intrigue viewers unfamiliar with the lore of the series.
One example is the Thufir Hawat (and his counterpart Harkonnen), whose place in novels is basically the closest thing to a computer. Dunes world has to offer. Instead of getting a proper explanation of what exactly happens when Thufir Hawat rolls his eyes back, they just have to assume he’s using some unexplained form of power.
Another example of this is found in the betrayal of Doctor Yueh, whose marking on his forehead (much like the one on Thufir Hawat’s lips) is meant to denote a specific role in Dunes societal structure. Yueh is said to be unable to exercise free will to harm others, only subverted by the reconditioning of the Harkonnen, but all that the film lacks.
It might seem like small details, and so does Duncan Idaho’s foray into Fremen territory, but in a world-building movie, the little things matter. Make no mistake, Villeneuve manages to squeeze as much Dune as possible within 2 hours and 36 minutes of the movie, and the director even has a plan to Dune: part two already, but it still calls for wondering what he could have done in six to ten episodes in a typical series execution.
A TV series would obviously have robbed Villeneuve of the extra greatness he so wonderfully achieves in Dunes biggest and most impressive scenes, and still imagining such an experience is quite intriguing. Now, thankfully, Arrakis lovers for the first time after leaving theaters (or watching from home) won’t have too much to fantasize about a Villeneuve series because Dune: brotherhood will be one thing.
Villeneuve has clearly established the style he wants for his Dune universe and Brotherhood will result in a smaller screen, although only time will determine the success of this transition. If all goes well, then the question of what could have been for Paul Atreides pronounced in Game Of Thrones the portions will age even more interestingly.
Dune is currently available in theaters and on HBO Max.
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