how Dune predicted the future and invented modern science fiction


In the spring of 1978, a minor Oregon newspaper made a major charge. Eugene’s Register-Guard reported that a prominent science fiction writer claimed that a trendy new film, released the previous year, had stolen important elements from his own bestselling novel.

“I will try very hard not to continue,” whispered the writer. When asked if the director of the film had taken from his job, he replied, “I think there is reason to believe he did. Whether it’s exploitable, I’m not one to judge. I’ll leave that to the lawyers.

The film itself had “bored” him, he said. His wife, he added, had fallen asleep during it. Spicy, the newspaper illustrated the article with a large photo of the author: with his lush beard and slender hair, he looked like a missing member of the Bee Gees. He also looked very angry.

The writer was Frank Herbert. What about the movie that had caused him so much trouble? That would be Star Wars: A New Hope, the first iteration of George Lucas’ $ 10 billion galactic franchise. Poor Herbert was right: his 1965 novel Dune, an epic tale of houses at war, ancient prophecies, and giant toothy creatures, was cursed by its own success. Telling the story of a noble space dynasty, House Atreides, which is sent to a wild desert planet called Arrakis to oversee the extraction of spices, the most precious substance in the universe, it makes the right claim to to be the most influential science fiction book ever written. It is also the most defrauded.

This is particularly visible in the new adaptation of Denis Villeneuve, which is now released in theaters. Villeneuve, who directed the sci-fi darlings Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, is the third filmmaker to have fun in a feature film based on the book. And his monumentalist approach comes closest to Herbert’s broad vision. From shots of skyscraper-sized space cruisers moving heavily through deserts to Hans Zimmer’s breathtaking score, his Dune is the Great Pyramid of Giza in movie form: massive, awe-inspiring and somewhat OTT.

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