Frank Herbert’s epic space opera novel series began in 1965. Published by a printing house primarily known for publishing auto repair manuals, the first book in the series, Dune, became an almost instant hit, winning the very first Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1966 and becoming a staple of modern science fiction and fantasy fiction. Herbert wrote five sequels to the original, creating a large and bizarre world with a colorful lineup of characters that fans still adore today.
Since the mid-eighties, the Dune the series has been the subject of countless failed adaptations. Everything from video games to a cult adaptation of acclaimed director David Lynch’s debut novel has been released, but none have lived up to Herbert’s classic. However, with the release of Denis Villeneuve’s big screen adaptation and its first rave reviews from critics and fans alike, it looks like readers will finally see Paul Atreides’ epic story brought to the big screen. With a series known for its mind-boggling concepts and sometimes questionable content, however, fans are wondering how well Herbert’s distant vision will fit into what will hopefully be a new film and television franchise.
Warning! Spoilers for the set Dune the series are ahead.
The First Last Jedi
With the release of 2017 Star Wars: The Last Jedi, fans of classic space opera were divided into two ranks. One side loved Writer / Director Rian Johnson’s take on the franchise and applauded his new take on Luke Skywalker, and the other side of the fandom announced The Last Jedi like the worst movie in the Skywalker saga. The main problem fans had with the eighth Star wars The image was how Luke had been transformed from a hero with a positive outlook on life to a shriveled old man of depression who refused to help the struggles of the galaxy.
A similar transformation from hero to semi-villain occurs in the second Dune novel, Dune Messiah. After Baron Harkonnen’s triumphant defeat in the heyday of the first book, readers speculated that Herbert would take his hero on other adventures that portray Paul in a positive light. Fans were horrified to find that Herbert instead portrayed an oppressed and desperate man who is unable to stop the violence he inadvertently created. For fans of the books, it is hoped that future film adaptations will stay true to Herbert’s vision, but given the extreme response Star wars the fans had to The Last Jedi may deter filmmakers from taking such a dark path.
The spice orgy
Halfway through the first volume of the series, after a ceremony in which Paul’s mother drinks the poisoned Water of Life in order to become the new Reverend Mother of the indigenous people of the planet Arrakis, the Fremen, a strange scene and psychedelic ensues. Simply a celebration by the Fremen, the event is called a “spice orgy” due to everyone present starting to hallucinate and have their inhibitions reduced by the LSD-inspired narcotic spice blend.
The scene itself is not of an overtly explicit nature, although Herbert does mention that there is a savage frenzy of sex and dancing. Seen as the first Dune the movie has a PG-13 rating, this orgy scene is unlikely to be included. He can be portrayed to some extent due to his appearance halfway (and because the movie is apparently the first half of the book) in the novel, but he certainly won’t include any nudity or sexual situations.
The Jihad of Muad’Dib
Twelve years after the events of Dune, Paul reigns as Emperor and Messiah of the Fremen. The religious extremists he is revered by have spread throughout the universe and conquered all planets, killing billions of innocent people along the way. Paul is powerless to stop the jihad or renounce the mythological deity he has become.
There are two reasons why this massive and bloody jihad might not be included in the movies. First of all, twelve years in a hurry in a movie or even a cut would be overwhelming for audiences, and an epic galaxy-wide war seems better suited for a TV series. Second, moviegoers may not like to see their helpless hero and the rebel Fremen turn into bloodthirsty fanatics.
When creating a believable sci-fi universe, writers should absorb readers into their work with detailed, layered world construction. This can include the creation of new religions, new languages, different planets, and advancements in science and / or technology. One of Herbert’s strengths as a writer is his construction of the world, and the universe of Dune is both fascinating and strangely familiar.
A tiny little piece of worldbuilding, however, likely won’t be featured in future film adaptations due to the fact that it’s downright ridiculous. Introduced in the fifth book in the series, “chair dogs” are special pieces of furniture that are bio-designed dogs shaped into chairs. They serve as massage chairs for the occupant.
Messiah of the dunes gave Paul’s pre-born sister (a child who is aware of her existence and past lives while still in the womb) Alia a definite character that readers immediately fell in love with. She was no longer the strange child who had helped outsmart the Harkonnens. Instead, she was a confident, rebellious young woman who would claim the role of regent of the Atreid Empire at the end of the novel.
Whether or not Messiah will never be fully adapted for the big screen is in the air, but one thing fans can be sure of is the fact that a scene in the second Dune the book will not be presented. In a private training room, Alia dons her birthday costume and brutally battles a training dummy to prepare for close combat. His brother Paul interrupts the training, and Herbert’s description of the scene reveals disturbing and slightly incestuous undertones.
Leto II becomes a god
Paul Atreides’ children, like their Aunt Alia, are strange beings with premonitory abilities to see into the future. Leto (named after Paul’s father) through his visions discovers the Golden Path (an ideal timeline of events revealed only to the Bene Gesserit fraternity and the hero known as Kwisatz Haderach). Unlike his father, Leto understands the Path and the sacrifices necessary to follow it closely.
To achieve such an understanding of the future and of time, Leto undergoes a frightening transformation. Accepting the sand trout on his body, he is slowly mutated into a sandworm / human hybrid that would fit perfectly into the works of directors like Guillermo del Toro.
The new dune
The planet Dune (technically named Arrakis) is undergoing several environmental transformations through the Dune series. Beginning as a barren and inhospitable world in the first novel and gradually becoming a verdant place filled with life, Arrakis undergoes a drastic and violent change in the fifth volume, Heretics of Dune.
In an unsuccessful attempt to rid the universe of Duncan Idaho (who was once a good friend of Paul and his staunch servant / combat trainer), the Honored Matriarchs destroy the planet of Arrakis, turning it into a blazing plain where nothing cannot grow. The Bene Gesserit successfully escape with the last remaining Sandworm and transform their Chapterhouse homeworld into a new Dune. Not only is it far in the Dune timeline, it’s also one of the most exaggerated and campy moments of the series.
The Honored Matriarchs
Herbert later Dune novels divide fans, with some readers claiming he went beyond some of his bizarre concepts and at times his perverted imagination. A perfect example is the all-female group known as the Honorées Matriarches. Derived from an offshoot of the Bene Gesserit, this organization believed in obtaining full control over all others, and their primary means of achieving this hierarchy was through sexual slavery.
In the two thousand years between the death of the divine Emperor Leto Atreides II and their arrival, the Honored Matriarchs transformed sex into a form of narcotics, making men servants of their cause through addiction. A strange and perhaps outdated concept, it would be easy to see why filmmakers would avoid the Honored Matriarchs in the future.
Clones exist in the Dune the universe, but not in the way Star wars portrays them. In Dune, Paul’s faithful companion, Duncan Idaho, encounters his unfortunate fight against a team of Harkonnen soldiers. Later, when Paul ascends the throne as Emperor, Idaho returns, now a “ghola” created by the Bene Tleilax.
Idaho is again killed (this time by his wife and Paul’s sister, Alia), and he is again reincarnated as a clone of himself. During Leto Atreides II’s reign as Emperor, Idaho returns time and time again to serve Leto. This constant cloning will probably not be included in the future. Dune sequel to the fact that Jason Momoa (who plays Idaho in the next film) probably won’t want to play the same role for what could be a dozen more films – however, never say never.
The Butler Jihad
It is currently unknown how many Dune expanded universe that Warner Bros. intends to include in his new cinematic universe, but one piece of history in the books that probably won’t be included is the Butlerian Jihad.
Mentioned only a handful of times in Frank Herbert’s original series (and later developed by Herbert’s son Brian Herbert and acclaimed science fiction writer Kevin J. Anderson), this conflict between artificial intelligence and humanity is much more action packed than the rest of Dune and, to some fans, it just doesn’t feel like it fits the rest of Herbert’s world.
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