The track record for Dune adaptations has been dubious at best, but perhaps that’s been because they’ve been biting off more spice than they can chew. Now that Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve is taking a crack at it (and splitting it into at least two films), perhaps Frank Herbert’s vision can finally be faithfully realized on the big screen -- better than David Lynch or Alejandro Jodorowsky’s bonkers takes.
At least, that’s what Herbert’s son Brian is hoping now that he’s received a fourth draft of the script from Legendary Pictures. Brian, who’s written plenty of Dune books in his own right, was excited to dig into the screenplay with his collaborator Kevin J. Anderson and send back notes to the studio, according to a post on Twitter a few days ago:
“I have just received Draft #4 of the DUNE screenplay from Legendary Pictures,” Herbert wrote. “This is for the first movie, covering approximately half of the novel DUNE. I’m very excited and pleased about this, and I’m beginning to burn the midnight oil.” So not only are they splitting the huge series into two films (if indeed they’re including material past the original novel), they’re splitting it along the book’s narrative.
This could prove very interesting as a two-film series, because the first half of the novel involves the intense, galaxy-spanning political battle between House Atreides and House Harkonnen. If the film is adhering to the structures of the novel, it will likely culminate with a betrayal, a battle, and the death of Duke Leto Atreides -- all as his son Paul escapes into the desert. Not a bad set-up for a sequel.
That the mini-series adaptations from John Harrison were better received than any of the feature film versions should only bolster fans’ hopes about the two-film series. Splitting a story up is a hard thing to do, but it’s often easier than jamming everything into two hours.