It was directed by Denis Villeneuve, who received an Oscar nomination for helming the 2016 SF film Arrival, which was based on a Ted Chiang story. The film is expected to concentrate on the first half of the 1965 novel, with a future sequel covering the second; a similar strategy drove the recent two-movie version of Stephen King’s It. It will be the third adaptation of Dune after a 1984 movie, directed by David Lynch, and a 2000 miniseries on the Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy). An early, failed attempt to film the book in the 1970s is the subject of the 2013 documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune.
Herbert’s novel, which won a Hugo and a Nebula award, tells a complex story of an interstellar conflict thousands of years from now, centered the desert planet Arrakis, also known as Dune. The world is the home of the Fremen people—as well as giant sandworms—and is the source of a powerful substance called “the spice,” and its use is a key element of human longevity, scientific advancement, and religion. Teenage Paul Atreides of the House Atreides is sent to Arrakis by his father, Duke Leto; he lives among the Fremen and, later, displays superhuman abilities while fighting against the rival house of the evil Baron Harkonnen.
Dune has long been a source of controversy, due to its use of Arabic terms and aspects of Islamic culture in its portrayal of Fremen society, which some critics have seen as cultural appropriation. Some have also made the case that Paul’s plotline can be interpreted as a “White Savior” narrative. The new film, which doesn’t appear to include any Middle Eastern or North African actors in its main cast, is likely to spark similar discussions. (Hanna Flint’s takes on these topics at Syfy.com, published last year, make for compelling reading.)
Herbert wrote five more novels in the series before his death in 1986, with the last being 1985’s Chapterhouse: Dune. His son, Brian Herbert, continued the series with co-author Kevin J. Anderson, starting in 1999; their 13th novel, Navigators of Dune, was published in 2016.
David Rapp is the senior Indie editor.