Dune Retrospective

Dune has a special place in my heart. I picked up the novel at just the right time, when I was starting to see the deeper machinations around the surface of things that happened in the world. I couldn’t have been better prepped for the series, and I devoured it. I have read the whole thing once a year since, and it usually takes me about a week. I hole up and just tear through it, enjoying the complexity and truthfulness of the writing. So when I recently decided to watch the Dune movie for the first time from beginning to end it was with the kind of trepidation that a true fan always has toward another take on a story they love. I knew the movie was bad, but how bad I didn’t know. I figured that, as with the Lord of the Rings movies and the Star Wars prequels, it was my job to know them. So I sat down with the movie Dune, and the miniseries Dune and Children of Dune, a few beers, and watched. Here is what I learned.

Dune the movie

There is a lot to like about this movie. I am serious. Faced with the challenge of taking a cerebral movies that is explained through so much internal dialogue they did an okay job of trying to recreate the world and the ideas of the book. There was one fatal flaw, they didn’t understand the book. This book is all about the complexity of human life as it progresses through time, and the face that at this point in history the universe of humanity is so complex that it is hardly understandable except to people bred with the reasoning capability to understand it. In order to make it understandable, they took things out. But that makes the whole movie fall. Paul isn’t a superhuman, he is just a super-leader. That takes away from the story.

Dune the miniseries

This is good. I mean it is really good.  I felt at almost every point that the story was held to in a real way. With a few tinges at editorial choices, I enjoyed this series, and it’s sequel Children of Dune. It makes everything understandable in a way that I think muggles can connect with. The relationships, the religiosity of it, the design and execution of the worlds. But you cannot translate a story like Dune into film without  losing some of the complexity, and that is true here too. We lost some of the importance of Paul’s fulfillment of prophecy by not seeing more of the Jihad. The reality of the experience of the precooks and preborn was lost. But I think that this series is as good as can be done with the book.


I don’t want another Dune movie. I started off this post thinking how it was time for someone to tackle the project again. Make a new real movie that works for a new audience. But it isn’t possible. I have had this argument with too many people to count, books are a higher order of storytelling than film. You cannot do with film what you can with writing. I am sorry, but that is just the way that it is.

One Response to “Dune Retrospective”

  1. RDaneelOlivaw

    Having only seen the original Dune movie and not the mini-series, and having read the books as a teen (long before the movie) I didn’t grasp the disconnect between written word and movie to the degree you did–but I still remember a vague feeling of disquiet when I saw the movie that something was wrong. Your conclusion is one that I think applies pretty much across the board–you just can’t replicate the richness of ideas in a well written book in a film, no matter what you do. It’s why I will, as a rule, avoid movie adaptations of books I’ve enjoyed. I know in advance I’ll be disappointed.

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