Art of Games

Blending Spectacle and Cultural Erasure

Blending Spectacle and Cultural Erasure
Written by Noah Roy

It’s been nearly two decades since I last time Dune It has been adapted to the screen. Sci-Fi Channel Productions, 2000 Frank Herbert Dune and 2003 Frank Herbert Children of the Dunes – Basically two films of four and a half hours each – They tried very hard to capture the full picture of the novel but changed aspects of the story and characters and failed to provide the depth of storytelling that fans demanded. David Lynch’s adaptation of the 1984 film was fictional but deeply flawed in many ways, and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s famously failed attempt departed from the novel further than Lynch and was such a failure in production that it became the subject of an acclaimed documentary. With no news of further plans to adapt one of the 20th century’s most popular science fiction scripts for filming, it came as a welcome surprise to fans of Herbert’s fantasy saga when the film’s director, Denis Villeneuve, was praised. AccessHe was hired in 2016 to try it again.

Of all the adaptations from novel to movie over the years, Dune He might take the prize because the person who approached him with the greatest fear. There is something about DuneScope – and discretion – environment and history that never seem to make its way onto the screen. Not that her depiction of humanity’s turbulent past and the role humans might play on an interstellar level in the future is perfect—not to mention the novel’s problems with white saviors and gender—but her dream is compelling.

And Dune It is just the first book in a series that spans over two decades of writing. science fiction series Dune kids It collected the events of the second and third books of the series, beyond the scope of either Jodorowsky or Lynch in attempting to tell the “complete” story of the Atreides family and their descendants. But it is important to note that there was no “complete” storyline when any of these adaptations were made to film or television, as Frank Herbert died before he could write the seventh and final novel of the series. Although witnessed in 2006 and 2007 dune hunters And sand dune wormsWritten by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson using Herbert’s notes for the final novel to bring the story to a somewhat satisfying if too late ending, the franchise at the time had already extended beyond novels to include video games, comic books, and other forms of story media. .

While the first novel could stand on its own as a complete story, something about the unfinished nature of the series lends itself to exploration by other artists with different visions. And while these new formats may certainly not have lived up to the expectations of audiences and critics, as they did with Lynch’s film, and certainly would have done with Jodorowsky’s overgrown dream, Dune Franchising as a shared endeavor invites the artist community to adapt and transform again and again. After all, although the novels by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson are based on Frank Herbert’s observations, they are interpretations in and of themselves and do not necessarily represent the specific vision that Herbert had for the final novel.

Starting a Villeneuve Restaurant Dune It was done with unreserved fanfare. Although this was definitely somewhat expected, we didn’t know how far beyond our expectations – just star Wars The sequel trilogy from 2010 and Avengers: Endgame It stands on the same level as the year before Villeneuve was released and the stars who made up the cast. One can’t help but feel a little sorry for Timothée Chalamet, who plays the lead role of Paul Atreides, standing alongside actors like Javier Bardem, Jason Momoa, Oscar Isaac, Stellan Skarsgård, and the rest of the film’s award-winners list. Despite being talented, Chalamet’s performance has almost always been outdone by legendary performers whose supporting roles are worth just minutes of screen time.

The film is a mostly faithful retelling of the book’s first three-part retelling, occupying that least resistance space between providing just the right amount of scene and story from the novel, while lacking some of its cultural and historical essentials. Beginning with the departure of the Harkonnen from the ruler of the planet Arakis – informally known as Dune By Those Inside the World – The film follows the events of the film House Atreides, led by Duke Leto Atreides, as they take charge of the planet by order of the Emperor. As the sole source of the spice blend, a substance that expands human physical and mental capabilities to superhuman levels, Arrakis is the most valuable planet in the universe and a source of ultimate wealth – and danger – for those who control it. Although it lacks some of the palace plot in the novel and adaptation of the miniseries, a fair amount of the film centers on the Duke of Leto’s knowledge – knowledge shared by his advisors – that this circumstance can only be a trap set by their enemies and that they are only a short time before to pulsate. In the short time they spend on the planet, Leto tries to rule with justice and equity, unlike the Harkonnen butchers who have mistreated the population. The almost oppressive anxiety of waiting for spring to trap is sure to explode when the combined forces of Emperor and House Harkonnen attack and defeat Atreides, due in large part to the betrayal of the family doctor, Dr. Yueh, who betrayed him under duress. Paul and his mother escape into the deep desert, where they encounter Freemain and Paul takes the next steps on his transformative journey.

Like the Sci Fi mini-series, giant sandworms appear in only several appearances in the film, and the relationship between them and spice production, though largely implied at this point in the novel, is only hinted at in the film. Through its introduction, we gain a degree of understanding provided in the novel, which contains more exposition on the subject of giant creatures than any film can. But while the public is not provided with some of the less important facts about the sandworm, we do learn both its Fremen name – Shai-hulud – and their reverence for it. Freeman believes that the sandworm is a physical manifestation of God, and that its life cycle on the Arrakis is a divine one. When Jessica chooses Shadout Mapes to be in charge of taking care of her home, the woman presents her with a crysknife knife, a sandworm tooth that has been turned into a sacred weapon of Fremen. Mapes’ emotional realization of the prophecy that would come true, combined with the use of a crysknife in the scene, quickly reinforce the sandworm’s importance in Fremen culture. Like many Freemen, Mapis believes in the prophecy of the absent tongue, the voice of the outside world, that identifies Paul and his mother as messianic characters. The Freeman refers to Paul as the Mahdi, a divine figure who will lead the Freeman spiritually.

In this regard to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) culture, religious history, and prophecy where the film differs from its physical source in important ways. when writing DuneFrank Herbert has ventured deeply into the society and culture of the Middle East and North Africa in establishing Fremen and other peoples and cultures within the broader framework of the novel. This is not to say that he presented it with complete accuracy, but he was one of the first Western writers to use the science fiction genre to address the realities of the exploitation of natural resources and the colonization of those exploitative spaces. Although some writers may not feel the need to gain insights into cultural and spiritual beliefs from the societies they quote in their work, Herbert’s research notes show a careful reading of these histories and spaces.

But whether or not the novel provides an accurate adaptation of the Mahdi’s prophecy or an accurate depiction of the traditions of the Persian and Turkish dynasties at the emperor’s court, does not mean that these things can be casually removed from the story. After all, Herbert’s decision to create a story that was not centered on the West and that imagined the ways in which Middle Eastern and North African cultures would emerge thousands of years into the future demonstrated a belief that they are an important part of a common human heritage. By deliberately removing the most obvious references to Islamic cultures and traditions from the story—perhaps most conspicuously changing the word “jihad” to “crusade”—and leaving a symbolic trail of it that matches the aesthetic of the desert, Villeneuve takes the story back to the West. Perspective, a perspective that American and European audiences can easily understand and recognize, something that is underlined by continuing to choose actors from all backgrounds – as did the Lynch movie and his mini-series. Except Middle East and North Africa to play the roles of Freeman.

Although apprehension is a reasonable stance when starting a novel full of Islam-inspired themes and references written by a white, male American author, and published in 1965, Herbert’s portrayal of those themes and references remains more thoughtful and comprehensive than the filmmakers’. who tried to adapt his work in subsequent decades. For example, the Fremen society in which many of these cultural markers are placed in the novel is depicted as not only worthy of respect, but also possessing a unique stamina and strength to resist the oppressive forces in the story. Only through the transformation of Paul into a chaplain – his name is Freeman – through the tutelage of Fremen can he fulfill his destiny. And while we’ve only seen part of the story that Villeneuve intends to tell, at this point it doesn’t look like Fremen from the novel has made its way into the movie. Although they still possessed the ‘Desert Force’ that would undoubtedly play a role in overthrowing Harkonnen’s returning powers, mystery has simply replaced the quiet reverence that was a hallmark of their charm in the novel.

However, filmmakers and storytellers today may not feel comfortable having access to the same repository of cultural knowledge that Herbert did more than half a century ago, and that is at least partly rooted in the history of war and occupation of the lands of the Middle East and North Africa as well as texts showing the cultures depicted The Middle East and North Africa in ways that are offended by their inaccuracies and negative portrayals. But it tells a story Dune It requires more than just a desert environment and the occasional Islamic reference; This rich cultural and religious history needs to be woven into the story in a way that, if removed, will diminish or undermine it. Unfortunately, with Dune: Part Onewe have a film that ignores those challenging and exciting parts of the narrative, and chooses to minimize the contributions of the MENA region to Herbert’s saga to those allegorical gestures common in Western storytelling.

There may never be Dune A film that achieves all of these narrative goals. But this does not necessarily mean that Villeneuve’s film, or any other film and television film, was a failure. There is clearly something about Dune That pushes art and artists to reconsider the story in new ways, some unspeakable quality or power that inspires writers and filmmakers to bring the saga to new audiences and generations. Perhaps someone – perhaps Villeneuve’s second film, if he finds a way to change course – will find a way to honor Islamic themes and the narrative’s core MENA heritage, rather than replace it with something easier and Western. Maybe then we’ll see what a file Dune The movie could really be.

I hope we don’t have to wait another 20 years.


Judge Hagan is a lecturer in the Department of English at Marquette University.

About the author

Noah Roy

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