Finally, a new Dune movie is reportedly in production and is slated for release in 2020. It may seem not that far into the future, but for long-time fans of the 1965 sci-fi epic, it can’t come soon enough. The Verge reports that this ambitious new film adaptation of one of the greatest novels of all time is being helmed by Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, and Sicario director, Dennis Villenueve. What’s more is that Villenueve has already revealed his goal of directing two Dune films – a statement that was backed up by Dune author Frank Herbert’s son, Brian, who explained that the current screenplay covers just around half of the first novel in the acclaimed series.
For the uninitiated, Dune is one of the most iconic and influential science fiction narratives devised in the last century. In 1966, the novel tied with This Immortal by Roger Zelazny for the Hugo Award. Dune was also the inaugural recipient of the Nebula Award for Best Novel, awarded by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).
It’s such an iconic novel that it’s influence can still be seen in both low-key and high profile science fiction media, particularly in the portrayal of bleak, dystopian, and/or space-faring futures. No less than George Lucas himself has admitted that the Star Wars films were part of several sci-fi movies that had been directly influenced by the novel, a list that includes other classics like Alien and Blade Runner.
Even the Hunger Games series borrows heavily from the feudal, dystopian themes in Dune.
At the other end of the spectrum, online gaming giant Slingo has several titles based on dystopian science fiction, including Incinerator and Shogun of Time. Meanwhile, even popular post-apocalyptic role-playing games like the Wasteland and the Fallout series contain elements that can be traced back to Dune, Arrakis, “the desert planet.”
There are several reasons why Dune became such an overarching influence in modern fantasy and sci-fi. The plot itself deeply tackles broad themes including feudalism and the misuse of power, the limits of human potential, key principles of ecology, the nature of political dynasties, and the many ways in which ideologies can be manipulated. Author Frank Herbert masterfully puts it all together through incomparably succinct and flavorful prose, a fast-paced unraveling of a prophetic space epic the likes of which hasn’t been written since.
All of this is why long-time Dune fans are not surprised to see such big names being involved in the new film adaptation. Apart from Dennis Villenueve and Brian Herbert, David Dastmalchian of Ant Man and Wasp fame is reportedly also joining the cast as Peter De Vries, a mentat (human computer) who serves the Baron Harkonnen, who will in turn be played by Stellan Skarsgård. Meanwhile, rising star Timotheé Chalamet will be taking on the lead role of Paul Atreides, son of Duke Leto Atreides – to be played by Oscar Isaac – and the Bene Gesserit, Lady Jessica – to be played by Rebecca Ferguson. There are even rumors that Jason Momoa of Game of Thrones and Aquaman fame will be cast in the movie as one of the Fremen, the indigenous people whose mastery of the desert planet’s terrain plays an integral role in how the entire Dune series is shaped.
All things considered, 2020’s Dune seems to be shaping up quite nicely – but only time will tell if the end result will deliver as promised. The ambitious list of the movie’s current cast and crew is already somewhat reminiscent of the ill-fated Jodorowsky’s Dune, which ended up not as a feature film adaptation as intended, but as a documentary tribute to the greatest sci-fi movie that never was. On the other hand, SCI FI channel’s Dune miniseries has already proved that a satisfying screen adaptation of the novels is not impossible to accomplish. One this is for certain – A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. This every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows. We can only hope that director Dennis Villenueve takes the author’s words to heart.