Dune, also know as Arakis, the desert planet, was a place I encountered in a book. I was 15 years old. It’s a harsh and barren place, which triggered my imagination. Despite the dangerous environment it was a planet that was the center of a battle for dominance, for which people were prepared to kill and die. The story that happens in Dune is epic in that way and in the 80’s that epicness was almost captured in a film. Almost, because it’s difficult. So in 2022 a new director took another shot at it. Was that any better?
Duin, the book
Dune is a science fiction book. The main character is Paul, a 15-year-old boy who, as the heir of his father, Duke Atreides, will eventually take his place among the noble families in the universe. The family is ordered to move to Dune, where they are tasked with providing the Emperor of the universe with a valuable drug called spice. Spice can only be found on Dune and is guarded by monstrous worms. But that is only a small part of a larger plan. Does the Emperor want to strengthen his position, or do the Sisters of the Bene Gesserit Order also have secret plans?
Not many science fiction books are translated into Dutch, and Dune (by Frank Herbert) was one of the few books in the library that could be read in Dutch. I ended up switching to reading English books quite quickly. As a science fiction book, Dune is interessting because it employs brilliant technology, but the emphasis lies in how history is told and how political power is wielded. Add a handful of free will versus destiny, with mythology and ecology as side dishes, and you have excellent reading material.
Duin, the 1984 film
In the 1980s, it became clear that there was an audience for science fiction films. “Star Wars” (1977) was such a success that it even had two sequels. And if you look at the story of “Star Wars,” it does resemble Dune (there are theories about how much was “borrowed”). At the time it seemed like a good move to make a film based on Dune. And I think it’s a decent film, but it falls short compared to the book. But listen to that soundtrack! Beautiful!
Dune from 1984 certainly disappointed many fans, despite having Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation) in the role of Gurney Halleck. There were more attempts to retell the story, but it only became truly interesting when Denis Villeneuve announced his intention to give it a try.
2022: Dune – part 1
Denis Villeneuve understands science fiction and storytelling. When I heard that his vision of “Dune” was coming to the big screen, I knew it would turn out great. The cast list gradually emerged. Gurney would be played by Josh Brolin: perfect (although Stewart also played a more “gentlemanly” version). But it was the role of Duncan Idaho – miscast in 1984 – that really clicked this time. Jason Momoa (Ronon Dex from Stargate: Atlantis) is exactly how Duncan exists in my mind. Everything fell into place. It’s a fantastic film.
But it was only in the cinema that I realized it was Part 1. It’s also impossible to tell the whole story in one film. So, I’m looking forward to Part 2 now. And who knows… Frank Herbert wrote a total of six books, and his son continued writing after his death. Who knows? Dune: Part Two is bound to be amazing as well.