The Dune Abides
Here’s to hoping the new Dune film is at least this good
The original version was the first major motion picture to suffer from over-hype
In 1984, Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street in New York City filled half a floor with sand dunes and set up sort of a Santa’s Wonderland display of Dune merchandise, before the film had even been released. Print ads and TV ads were everywhere. The buzz was engineered to be easy shoved down everyone’s throat, like sand through a sand worm. And then the film opened.
Despite Frank Herbert being involved and giving full approval, it was just okay as sci-fi movie. Most viewers found it confusing and without enough character development to actually care about anyone in it.
The truth is, it came out about 10 years too late. After the Star Wars films and others, seeing Kyle McLaughlin riding a giant worm in front of an obvious green screen was anything but epic or thrilling.
On the whole, I liked it. But the hype had been so over-the-top there was no way it would survive the critical orca pod that was happy to rip it to pieces in the press. TV shows now have spectacular cinematic special effects to the point they are taken very much for granted. So, the new film may suffer a similar fate if its producers expect a giant worm to sell many tickets after the first week.
But then, following that 1984 flop, it became the main business model of the film industry to over-hype movies so they have that tremendous opening weekend, allowing them to crow about the box office receipts before word gets out about what a stinker a film is. So, this version of Dune may sell more toys and video games, which seems to what matters most these days.
Given the arcane nature of the Dune novels, even just the first one required a mini-series length to explain on a screen just who all the people were and provide the immersive atmosphere with a fraction of the exotic detail of cultures and “the spice,” which earned the books legions of fans. Another two-hour movie version will likely skip along the surface like the original and then sink into oblivion in much the same way.
The new Dune may abide all that, since there will be all the future streaming revenue, and it is hoped some increased book sales as well.