Can Denis Villeneuves Dune Survive in a Star Wars Universe


first_img Star Wars x Adidas Ultraboost Photos Have Leaked’Star Wars Pinball’ Has Your Favorite Brand in Ball Form Stay on target As winter continues, let’s talk about a hot and harsh desert planet.Today’s media landscape is pretty much dominated by professional fan-fiction. Instead of making movies and TV shows inspired by past franchises we love, new generations of creatives cut out the middleman and just make updated versions of those same old franchises. Nothing dies, but nothing else is allowed to be born.Star Wars is the ultimate, omnipresent example of this. We’ve been picking apart its influences for decades. However, Star Wars isn’t cool just because it references Kurosawa and Flash Gordon. It’s cool because it synthesizes those inspirations into a fresh new form. But now, instead of getting new things inspired by Star Wars, we’re just getting more Star Wars. When the movies are good, that’s fine, but it’s hard not to mourn the future creative visions that could have been. If anything, we’re just going further backward. Need convincing? They’re officially make another Dune movie.Last month, production company Legendary Entertainment acquired the rights to Frank Herbert’s landmark sci-fi novel Dune. Recently, we learned that Denis Villeneuve will direct. After Blade Runner 2049, it seems Villeneuve wants to be the Herbert West Re-Animator of important but dead sci-fi properties. The project could fall apart, but let’s imagine we could be watching a new Dune movie in the next few years. What is the value of a new take on Dune in our current Star Wars status quo?Dune, of course, had a massive impact on science-fiction, whether or not you think it’s actually any good. One of the most obvious examples of its influence is the original Star Wars movie. Both star young men from illustrious bloodlines stranded on harsh desert worlds who tap into their latent mystical powers to deal a crushing blow to a tyrannical intergalactic emperor. Plus there are giant worms.I read through Dune back when I was unemployed (a great time to read it) and half of the appeal was just seeing all of these elements that in my mind were totally Star Wars things. Realizing these connections was as illuminating as reading a history textbook. The rest of the appeal came from space witches and harvesting space opium from space Afghanistan.A lot of Dune is in Star Wars, and Star Wars is a great movie. So logic dictates a Dune movie should also be great. But history keeps proving this wrong. Kyle MacLachlan’s tweet summary of the 1984 Dune movie may be delightful, but no amount of David Lynch weirdness can make the movie itself actually worthwhile. In 2000, the SyFy Channel (spelled correctly at the time) adapted the first three books of the Dune saga as a pair of miniseries. They even snagged some good actors like William Hurt, Susan Sarandon, and James McAvoy. But are these fondly remembered? I could be wrong here, but is there a rapid, unironic fanbase for any of these Dune adaptations?To date, the best Dune adaptation is the one that failed to get made. Jodorowsky’s Dune is a wonderful documentary about eccentric director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Sisyphean quest to adapt Dune in the 1970s after bursting onto the scene with weirdo cult classics El Topo and The Holy Mountain. He tortured his son to make him a swordfighter. Salvador Dali and Mick Jagger were going to be in the film. Orson Welles was going to play an evil, cosmic, technological orb a decade before Transformers: The Movie.The documentary’s true purpose is to show how even if an artistic endeavor technically never happens (and based on the surreal scale of Jodorowsky’s ambition that movie was never going to happen) it can still have value and presence in the real world by influencing other things. Jodorowsky and his team brought a lot of ideas to the project that weren’t in the book. Most of them didn’t even read it. Those ideas, which were pitched to film studios, found their way into later movies like Alien, The Terminator, The Fifth Element, and, you guessed it, Star Wars.Meanwhile, Jodorowsky adapted some of the material into his own comic book, the acclaimed L’Incal. It has a psychedelic childbirth driven by sheer shared spiritual willpower and a bird made of concrete. What more could you want? The Neon Demon’s Nicolas Winding Refn, who very much understands the tension between the new and the old in art, tried to turn the graphic novel into a movie. However, once again Jodorowsky’s take on Dune failed to hit the big screen. It exists only in our collective creative consciousness, which seems appropriate given the man and franchise.So to recap, Dune’s legacy on film is a combination of bad adaptations that actually happened and promising good adaptations that died so other good sci-fi movies could live. With that kind of track record, what hope can we have for a new Dune movie? Maybe something good will happen. After all, Villeneuve is a great director, and in the past two years we’ve seen shockingly excellent reimaginings of similar urtext properties Mad Max and Doom. But I can’t shake the feeling Dune is the next John Carter, a foundational piece of genre media unfairly yet undeniably rendered inert by the future it helped create.Moreover, I hope we learn the lesson that Star Wars, L’Incal, and the other children of Dune did and build new art atop the bedrock of our old artistic influences. We must not fear breaking out of our creative comfort zone. After all, fear is the mind-killer.last_img