Frank Herbert’s touchstone 1965 sci-fi novel (and its many sequels) Dune was adapted to the big screen by David Lynch in 1984, then as a mini-series on what was then the Sci-Fi Channel (now known as the Syfy Channel) in 2000. Lynch’s film, in particular, is infamous for being an inaccessible adaptation of Herbert’s source material that came up short at the box office; then again, given that there are more Dune film adaptations that never even made it to the big screen than did (including, abandoned versions from Alejandro Jodorowsky and Peter Berg), perhaps it’s impressive enough that Lynch finished his movie at all.
Denis Villeneuve, the director of the critically-acclaimed sci-fi film Arrival, has expressed a desire to adapt Herbert’s novel to the big screen himself – though he also expressed doubt that his passion project would ever become a reality. Well, it now appears that a new big screen version of Dune isn’t necessarily as far out of reach as Villeneuve may have believed it to be.
Legendary has officially announced that it has reached a deal with the Frank Herbert estate for the film and TV rights to Dune, with Legendary’s Thomas Tull, Mary Parent and Cale Boyter, as well as Brian Herbert, Byron Merritt and Kim Herbert, all lined up to produce any and all future Dune-related projects. The Legendary press release confirming the news even includes a useful synopsis for Herbert’s novel (for those who are unfamiliar with it):
Set in the distant future, Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides whose family accepts control of the desert planet Arrakis. As the only producer of a highly valuable resource, control of Arrakis is highly contested among the noble families. After Paul and his family are betrayed, the story explores themes of politics, religion, and man’s relationship to nature as Paul leads a rebellion to restore his family’s control of Arrakis.
Dune, as noted in Legendary’s press release, was a predecessor to and influence on not only the Star Wars franchise, but the sci-fi work of the Wachowski Sisters’ – not only The Matrix and its variation on the ‘Chosen One’ trope, but also the siblings’ space opera Jupiter Ascending, especially when it comes to the latter’s story about warring dynasties and intergalactic political power struggles. The acquisition of the movie/TV rights to Dune thus provides Legendary with yet another well-established intellectual property to add to its belt, to go along with franchises such as Jurassic Park/World, Godzilla, and King Kong. Dune is also an IP that is rather different than the other major properties currently under Legendary’s umbrella.
A Dune movie adaptation would seem the most likely next step for Legendary to take, though a TV adaptation isn’t out of the question either. Longtime Dune fans no doubt have their preferences about which they would like to see happen, in part based on the previous Dune adaptations that have been made – and those that have not been made, too. As for Villeneuve: the prospect of the acclaimed Sicario and Arrival filmmaker taking on Herbert’s source material (its rich themes and captivating visuals alike) is certainly enticing, but the director has already indicated that his to-do list is full, even after he completes Blade Runner 2049 next year.