How do you compress a book that spans (depending on the edition) nearly 1,000 pages and took Frank Herbert six years to write into coherent cinema? Badly! That’s at least the way it’s gone so far for Dune, Herbert’s trippy 1965 sci-fi classic about intergalactic politics, the evolution of religion, and powerful worm excrement. Adapting the story is such a task that an entire documentary was made about a failed attempt—2013's Jodorowsky’s Dune offered a peek inside a late ’70s version by cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky that would have featured Salvador Dalí, Amanda Lear, and the designs of H. R. Giger (perhaps best known as the creator of the monster in Ridley Scott’s Alien). David Lynch’s 1984 crack at Dune is not without its charms (a young, badly dubbed Alicia Witt proclaiming, “For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!,” for one), but it was a famously convoluted telling of an intricate story that prompted the studio to prepare handouts to theater patrons explaining the vocabulary and concepts of Herbert’s universe. At any rate, it flopped. In 2000, the Sci Fi Channel ran the miniseries Frank Herbert’s Dune, which also has its fans but... was a miniseries on the Sci Fi Channel.
The thing is that Dune needs a lot of space for its space. It should really be a TV series a la Game of Thrones. But the latest iteration is not that—it’s yet another film adaptation, this one by the visionary director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049). With its October release imminent, a three-and-a-half minute trailer has dropped and... it looks good? Zendaya plays the pivotal role of Chani, who is one of the oppressed Fremen people indigenous to the desert planet of Arrakis (aka Dune). She narrates the trailer’s opening, which positions her people’s plight at the forefront of the story. It has a real cast-of-thousands feel (Timothée Chalamet plays protagonist Paul Atreides, Oscar Isaac is his daddy/our zaddy, Duke Leto Atreides, and Jason Momoa is Duncan Idaho), the kind of haze that a bunch of sand blowing in our eyes can produce, a floating Baron Harkonnen, and a giant sandworm that looks like a butthole. What could go wrong?
I guess we’ll see in October. It is fun to imagine a world in which something as nerdy as Dune is actually cool.