I realize that I post about ‘Dune’ a fair amount in this blog. It’s my favorite movie, and this is my blog, so I feel I’m entitled. Anyway, my friend and fellow ‘Dune’ enthusiast Mark recently sent me a link to a page of concept art for one of the aborted attempts to remake the movie. While I’m personally glad that the project fell through, the artwork offers an interesting glimpse at what almost was.
Although Frank Herbert’s original science fiction novel is beloved by millions, David Lynch’s 1984 film adaptation is widely reviled. Upon release, it was a box office bomb. Fans of the novel despised it for leaving out a couple paragraphs of the author’s prose. General moviegoers who weren’t familiar with the book found the story perplexing. (The studio actually distributed a glossary of useful terms to be handed out in movie theaters.) Roger Ebert called it the worst movie of the year. (Really, Roger, in a year with both ‘Bolero’ and ‘Supergirl’?) The film has grown a cult audience in the years since, and has seen some small measure of critical re-evaluation, but is still generally looked at as a dud.
I spelled out in my review on this site why I love ‘Dune’ so much. I’m very protective of the movie, and have greeted most attempts to remake it with skepticism. It certainly doesn’t help that John Harrison’s 2000 miniseries for the Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy) was an unwatchable cheap-jack atrocity. Nonetheless, the rights to the novel keep cycling through many hands in Hollywood.
For a long time, actor and occasional director Peter Berg (‘Hancock‘) was attached to the project. This seemed like a really bad fit to me. Berg’s obsession with nauseating overuse of shaky-cam is infuriating, and most of the movies he’s directed have been pretty lousy. Due to countless production delays, he eventually dropped out so that he could go make ‘Battleship’ instead. Yeah, that’s right, the one based on the old board game, for which he has changed the concept to pit Navy ships against space aliens. (Really. I’m not joking. That’s honestly what he’s doing, and it’s coming out in 2012.)
However, you can find concept art from the ‘Dune’ project on the web site of an artist named “Jock,” who has worked on several other movies, including both ‘Hancock’ and ‘Battleship’ for Berg. Of course, it’s difficult to get a real sense of how these images would have translated to live action. Some of them are pretty nice. (I rather like the “Spice Mining” piece.) Others are very crude. Most interesting are the sandworm designs, which are very amorphous and toothy. Most pictures of the worms feature a lot of horns and spikes pointing forward. That strikes me as being quite impractical for a creature that has to tunnel underneath the sand. In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter. Once Berg put his spastic shaky-cam to it, you wouldn’t be able to tell what you’re looking at anyway.
Currently, director Pierre Morel (‘Taken‘) has taken (no pun intended) over the reigns of the ‘Dune’ remake. I have no idea what he plans for it. I doubt that matters much either. After his ‘From Paris with Love‘ bombed so disastrously earlier this year, there’s frankly no chance at all that he’ll be allowed to continue on with a big-budget production like this. I expect the remake to go back into turnaround soon. As far as I’m concerned, that’s for the best.
[Thanks to Mark for the tip. Visit the Dune – Behind the Scenes web site for more fun ‘Dune’ stuff that he’s dug up over the years.]