Dune is dead, has it had its chance?
The latest film version of Frank Herbert's Dune has died a death as Paramount have had their four year rights holding lapse before they could actually bring it to the big screen.
Richard P. Rubinstein is the current rights holder for the Herbert novels and he announced that the rights have lapsed back from Paramount, mainly because the contract they had expired and they just couldn't offer the project the amount of money that Rubinstein wanted and thought it deserved.
So is that it for Dune, and should we be satisfied that it's had two major outings already?
Richard P. Rubinstein made it clear that right now there are no attachments or commitments for Dune at the moment, that means they are a free agent and it's very clear that he wants the project picked up again, and he wants it done just right.
His comments through Deadline don't really reveal too much of what he wants, but it's clear that he does want something better than has come before.
"I know what I want, eventually, I'll find someone who'll agree with me. What I like is that talent has interesting things to say on how they would approach it."
The biggest and best chance it seemed to have was with Peter Berg at the helm, and I was amazed when he decided to drop out and do Battleship instead. Yes, Battleship. That's a board game adapted into a film, not the classic science fiction novel of Dune.
After that there was a script created by Chase Palmer and Pierre Morel, but again it never happened, the costs seemed to be US $100 million and most likely more, so you can see why Paramount passed, after all they had other mega films to make and none of them were Dune.
Can you blame them either? Considering we've seen the film version and a mini-series and audiences still aren't happy about the adaptations why would they consider taking the project on?
It's also a bit like the Halo project, the rights owners know exactly what they want and that's what they're going to hold out for, retaining the rights to agree on the key aspects of the project without the studio altering their vision and walking away with it.
The rather well cast 1984 Dune film from writer and director David Lynch was derided by many, the changes from the novel and some of the quirks that Lynch bled into the story have become things that really annoy fans of the novel, and some film fans too, although in the beginning it was received rather well.
Recently I watched the Dune mini-series that was made in 2000, and I can say that I'm on the fence about which is better, perhaps because I've not actually read the novels. The mini-series was interesting, some performances good, but the effects were poor and the story not only jumped but lacked the punch that I had hoped to have felt. Yet it tackled the story with a lot less Lynchian quirks, if only it had been longer.
So why do we need another Dune? Is it because fans haven't felt that it's not been done right just yet? Well if you haven't read the book then your exposure has been the David Lynch version and you just might have seen the mini-series (you can currently watch it on the LOVEFiLM streaming service free as an existing customer), so why would you want to see another version?
I can see two clear ways that a new Dune would work and be scooped up by audiences. The first is if it's very different to the two Dune's that we've seen so far, and I'm not convinced it could be as it would take it too far from the novel and the producers and fans might not accept that.
The other way it could work is if the studio threw everything at it; give it huge effects and huge cast filed behind a massive director and writer. It would need everything possible to make it a mammoth production and possibly build a potential franchise.
That raises another issue, there's just so much content to try and make a strong film from, how are they going to pack it all in?
Here's where the budget comes in. To deliver the second option needs a big budget, and then we're talking about a long film, or perhaps splitting it between two, and this is where the studio would get nervous.
So think about what we've seen already, how a Dune film could be made different, and what it could truly offer over the Dune film and mini-series we've already had. Is there really space for a new Dune?