Dune is a sci-fi masterpiece. Frank Herbert’s seminal novel about intergalactic politics and the rise of a hero is highly regarded as one of the greatest works of fiction ever written. Adaptations of the novel exist in the form of David Lynch’s panned ’80s film, and a miniseries followed by the sequel Children of Dune. None of these attempts have really connected with mass audiences.
Thanks to an agreement with the Frank Herbert estate, Legendary Entertainment now has the rights to Dune. This is huge news considering how important Legendary is to the current state of large-scale genre movies. With the right development team, Dune could become the company’s biggest property to date. Now we just need to know if they are planning to turn this into a film or a show.
David Lynch’s Dune Disaster
When Dune was originally set to be made into a movie, producer Arthur P. Jacobs attempted to drive the adaptation forward while working on the sequels to Planet of the Apes. Development ended when he passed away in 1973 and the project was picked up by a French film group. This led to the fascinating yet ultimately scrapped attempt helmed by surrealist visionary Alejandro Jodorowsky.
Ridley Scott picked up the pieces after Jodorowsky’s film fell through, but after working on the movie, he shelved it and eventually made the sci-fi horror classic Alien. Around this time, producer and industry titan Dino De Laurentiis commissioned Frank Herbert to pen a film script but scrapped it due to its length and extreme budget. This is what led to David Lynch getting hired for the job in 1981.
According to David Lynch’s book Catching the Big Fish, Dune is the director’s greatest failure. Lynch struggled through the massive production, and once the film was released, it absolutely bombed at the box office. The movie has a strong cult following, but even under the best conditions, it still comes across as a bloated and convoluted mess. David Lynch would have been better off making the first of three films instead of a single feature. Dune is just way to dense a story for one picture.
In the early 2000s, the Sci-Fi Channel debuted the miniseries Frank Herbert’s Dune to a lukewarm response. At the time, Farscape was a huge property for hardcore sci-fi fans, and Dune seemed like the perfect property to tap into that market. This version of Dune made every effort to honor Frank Herbert’s story, but the finished product was mediocre and forgettable. Even the follow-up Children of Dune left fans unfulfilled and wanting something better.
Legendary has a great opportunity to finally do Dune right. The property is still beloved the world over by legions of science fiction fans. Even casual readers find themselves falling in love with the original novel. David Lynch’s adaptation has its merits, and anyone who has ever seen his take on the story knows just how striking his vision still is. It’s a shame Jodorowsky couldn’t get his version made, but maybe there’s hope for us with Legendary producing the next version.
Movie or TV Show?
Dune is such a rich story that it could easily become a fantastic TV show or series of films. With the right direction and vision, Legendary could turn Frank Herbert’s epic masterpiece into a show that lasts a few seasons or a solid trilogy. A TV series would have to be engaging and keep the momentum going better than the previous miniseries, and a movie franchise can’t survive these days if audiences aren’t hooked. Hopefully Legendary will make the best Dune we’ve ever seen.