I remember when I saw my first sandworm. It’s vagina dentate maw seduced me from the cover of The Dune Encyclopedia at the public library. I was hiding from a homeless gentleman who wanted to “choose my own adventure” while my mother worked on her dissertation, and the hefty volume fell from the top shelf, breaking my propeller beanie. I didn’t know anything about Dune at the time, but I tore through Frank Herbert’s masterpiece within a week. It had everything that stroke’s a young man’s fancy: spice addiction, wizened old crones, withcraft, Fremen tits, tooth-knives, and preternaturally intelligent young girls. Not to mention fat roll levitation disks.
The biggest problem Peter Berg will have in creating a new filmed adaptation won’t be the touchy Muslim themes. True, it might be a little difficult to maneuver a major Hollywood production around a protagonist who literally leads a Jihad and whose army is named after the elite Christian-killing guards of crusader Jerusalem. But I’m sure they can dodge any controversy by planting an Assassin’s Creed-esque disclaimer in front of the film. “This movie is a work of fiction created by people of all religious backgrounds, praise be to Allah, we have wives and children.” Fine. Plus, Berg could always pull another The Kingdom and show us how Paul Atreides and the people who try to stop his galaxy-wide slaughter are, like, totally the same.
And as long as he doesn’t stage the movie in a high school auditorium with actors hired through Prague’s local Craigslist site, there’s not much threat the Sci-Fi channel miniseries will upstage him.
No, the most daunting comparisons will be with David Lynch’s masterful 1984 version. There’s just something the world can’t help but love about the image of Kyle MacLachlan drinking his own poop juice from a pouch on his thigh. In addition to the book’s myriad novelties, Lynch had the genius to add cat milking machines, Brad Dourif, voice activated thought guns, and internal monologues. Lots and lots of internal monologues.
There are a few edits of Wonder Years episodes on YouTube with all the narration removed. The show ends up looking like a documentary about a middle-class family from the 1970’s quietly waiting for the apocalypse. Sure, voiceover narration is the hallmark of a lazy screenwriter, but Lynch mixes it up a bit. This isn’t voiceover, it’s whisperover. Watching Dune on a decent surround sound system, you can hear the steady drips of Patrick Stewart’s saliva as he marvels at Muad’Dib’s way with Weirding. After ruining so many gym socks thinking about Mr. Stewart marveling at my Weirding, this is the closest I’ll ever get.
Who knows how Berg will approach his version of Dune? Obviously Paul will be played by Jason Bateman, but everything else is up in the air. I can’t help but feel tingly thinking about the kinds of shots that could be achieved with today’s special effects. Lynch was limited to the sets he could build using only the carcasses of contract midget actors from the ‘40s. With CGI, Berg could deliver an iconic image of the Teen Wolf (Too) bravely mounting a giant worm as it glides through the digitally enhanced desert sunset. But if we can hear every little thing that passes through the mind of the Kwisatz Haderach and it doesn’t sound like he’s licking our earlobes? Count me out.