Dunes expansive, enduring appeal – Vox

harkonnens. mortal, insect-like hunter-seeker messiahs. a secret order of female spies, nuns, scientists and theologians who are bending history to their will. a spice harvested in an arid desert that allows space travel. ‘thopters. interstellar war. giant sand worms.

the world of dune is wild, a story told by frank herbert in the tumultuous 1960s that mixes fear of authoritarian rule and environmental collapse with fascism, racism and hallucinatory imagery. the 1965 novel, which eventually gained wide acclaim, was followed by a universe of sequels for rabidly devoted fans. the trappings of her imaginary world of a distant future feel wonderful, unfamiliar, and alien.

Or they would be, if we hadn’t been mired in dune fever for so many years, even before the recent arrival of denis villeneuve’s extraordinary and resolutely abstruse film adaptation. Even the most dune-averse person can hardly avoid the long tail of Herbert’s saga, whether he realizes it or not.

The story has been mentioned by pop stars such as Lady Gaga, who gave a sly nod to Dune in the “Telephone” music video, and Grimes, whose debut studio album, Geidi Primes, is a concept album based on Dune. . fatboy slim’s song “weapon of choice”, the one with the music video starring christopher walken, is a great reference to the book (“walk without rhythm / won’t attract the worm”). Video games like Fallout and World of Warcraft contain references to Dune, as do many TV shows, from Scooby-Doo to Rick & morty to spongebob squarepants. There is a crater on the moon officially called Dune, and some of the features on Saturn’s moon Titan have been named after planets in the series.

then there’s all the original storytelling that dune has inspired. The most notable example, perhaps, is George Lucas’s Star Wars trilogy, which shares so much with Herbert’s series that Herbert and some colleagues staged the “We’re Too Big To Sue George Lucas Society” charade. If you’ve seen the Star Wars movies, Dune’s fated, petulant and reluctant hero living on a desert planet in the shadow of an impending empire and the battle for the fate of the galaxy will sound a little familiar.

This long line of descendants shows Dune’s expansive influence on a wide swath of pop culture. but it doesn’t really explain why it’s so convincing. What is it about Herbert’s books, especially the first, that exerts such a magnetic force on everyone from 13-year-old science fiction readers to mega-famous musicians?

There is no single answer to that question. but as villeneuve, who has showcased his sci-fi filmmaking chops in movies like arrival (2016) and blade runner 2049 (2017), takes a glimpse of history, new audiences will encounter paul atreides, the planet of Arrakis and the unnaturally blue eyes of the Fremen. so the question of dune’s staying power is once again up in the air.

As a dune newbie (a dune-bie?) this year, I researched Herbert’s novel, previous attempts to make a good movie out of it, and the way people interact with the sprawling world around it. Imagine. what i realized is that there is no single reason why dune fans love the world that herbert created. its enduring significance goes back to its history as a cultural phenomenon, its hard-to-adapt history, its sheer complexity, and perhaps more than anything, the space it leaves for the audience to have an experience of their own.

the story of frank herbert is an imaginative and sweeping epic

dune predates star wars by over a decade. The first installment of Herbert’s story was published in 1963 as a serial, then collected into a novel in 1965. (The version I read this summer was 896 pages long, including a long, limpid appendix). Herbert wrote five more novels: Dune Messiah (1969), Children of Dune (1976), God Emperor of Dune (1981), Heretics of Dune (1984), and Chapterhouse: Dune (1985), and His Son and Other Science Fiction Writers they have continued to build the narrative for enthusiastic fans. that’s a lot of dune.

However, most people have just read the first novel; fans sometimes notice the quality drops precipitously afterwards. so that’s the one to know.

dune is set in the year 10191, which is actually about 20,000 years from our future; the year is roughly calculated from a time when mankind overthrew and destroyed all intelligent human-made machines such as robots and computers. People now live an interstellar existence, with no AI to threaten them, and the extinction of man-made intelligence is so far in the past that it appears as no more than a distant historical fact to the characters of Dune. it’s as if the Roman empire fell 10,000 years ago, instead of just under 2,000.

The novel begins the epic saga of Paul Atreides, a 15-year-old son of a duke. House Atreides, one of the “Great Houses” in the Padishah Galactic Empire, was recently tasked by the Emperor to relocate from his lush, green homeworld of Caladan to the desert planet Arrakis. Arrakis is colloquially known as Dune, and more recently overseen by the ruthless House Harkonnen; Harkonnen has been mysteriously ordered by the Emperor to step down from ruling Arrakis, and Atreides is poised to take control.

arrakis is a barren and seemingly barely habitable planet, but it’s important for one big reason: it’s the only place to mine a spice called melange (or simply “spice”), which among other things makes precise interstellar travel possible. A fierce people called the Fremen live in the desert there, wearing “stillsuits” that harvest precious bodily moisture to drink. however, they do not control the spice; Until recently it has been harvested by the cruel Harkonnens.

unsurprisingly, sending house atreides to arrakis instead of harkonnens doesn’t exactly make harkonnens fond of atreides. but the possibility of violence between those houses is part of the emperor’s grand plan.

meanwhile, there’s paul. His mother, Jessica, is the longtime mistress of the Duke Atreides, and they love each other passionately. But there’s a deeper story here, too: Jessica is one of the Bene Gesserit, an ancient sorority of women who pull the strings of history. (this part of the story is unbelievably cool). For thousands of years, they have been cultivating the conditions necessary for the rise of the Kwisatz Haderach, a male leader who can bridge space and time with his mind, heal the divide between the Houses of Atreides and Harkonnen, and ascend to the Emperor’s throne. . most importantly, it would be under bene gesserit control.

the efforts of the bene gesserit have involved 10,000 years of careful breeding to create a young man whose genetics will enable him to become the Kwisatz Haderach; they have also planted the belief in a future leader, comparable to a messiah or savior figure, within the ancient religion of the Fremen. As part of this long game, Jessica was supposed to bear the Duke a daughter, who could then interbreed with a Harkonnen male and produce the Kwisatz Haderach, bridging the feud between the two houses.

the complicated thing is that jessica loved the duke, who was not aware of the bene gesserit’s plan, and he wanted a child. so she gave him a son in her place: pablo. (Among the many powers of the bene gesserit is the ability to decide such things.) From childhood, Paul learned the ways of the Bene Gesserit from his mother, and Jessica has convinced herself that he is, in fact, fit to be. the kwisatz haderach.

When house atreides moves to arrakis, there is palace turmoil and betrayal. Jessica and Paul meet in the desert outside the palace walls, among the Fremen. It seems that the path has been laid for Paul’s ascent. But to really take the reins of power, he will need to harness the power of the Fremen, and that path will not be easy.

It’s all very exciting and comprehensive, at least in plot summary form. Herbert’s writing is another matter, pretentious and ponderous at times; it’s obvious that dune was originally published as a series. but the story, and the mystical web it weaves, has been immensely engaging for readers for decades. the novel has sold over 20 million copies and is often cited as one of the best science fiction books ever written.

getting a good version of dune on screen has been incredibly difficult

Despite the popularity of the world of dune, film adaptations of the novel have, up to this point, failed, and in rather legendary ways. In the mid-1970s, Chilean-French filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky was selected to direct a version of the story, to be produced by Michel Seydoux (the great-uncle, by the way, of actress and later bond girl Léa Seydoux). . Jodorowsky’s vision for the film was psychedelic and wild and entirely unfilmable in the 1970s before CGI, if not today. As he told an interviewer in 2013, “I wanted to make a movie that would give people who took LSD at the time the hallucinations that you get from that drug, but without hallucinating.”

jodorowsky hired amazing artists to create frame-by-frame storyboards and concept art, and had crazy plans to change the story in various ways, from depicting duke atreides as castrated to filming a totally different ending to the novel. He also had incredible casting ideas, envisioning Salvador Dalí as the Emperor (Dali wanted to be paid $100,000 an hour) and Orson Welles (the director of Citizen Kane) as Baron Harkonnen. Jodorowsky’s teenage son was slated to play Paul. He trained for two years in martial arts and other fighting techniques to prepare for the role.

everything came to nothing, as expected. the big studios weren’t going to make a movie that was so expensive, unwieldy, and hugely risky. all that remains of jodorowsky’s grand plans are several huge copies of the art book and storyboards. But in 2013, the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune told the story of the film that never was, with Jodorowsky’s full participation, and weaves a mystical tale of its own. The movie is worth seeing, if only to spend some time with a man who embarked on a Don Quixote-like mission and is still filled with passion for finding him decades later.

Unsurprisingly, Hollywood’s desire to cash in on Dune’s literary popularity did not wane. Through some typical industry twists and turns, the film rights came into the hands of producer Dino De Laurentiis, who tried to figure out what to do with them. . Initially, he hired Herbert himself to write the script, but the result was too long. then ridley scott joined, but ended up deciding to do blade runner instead in 1982.

finally, david lynch got a call about the project, and although he had offers to direct other movies, including return of the jedi (go figure!), lynch agreed. At the time, Lynch was a young director with a knack for the surreal and bizarre, and had made two films: Eraserhead (1977) and The Elephant Man (1980). (Jodorowsky says in the 2013 documentary that he was surprised and even delighted at the news of the hire, as Lynch seemed to fit the material well.) so lynch got to work.

Dune, Lynch’s version, was released in 1984 and starred new face Kyle Maclachlan as Paul. (Mclachlan would go on to frequently collaborate with Lynch, most notably on Lynch’s SeminalTV Twin Peaks.) It also stars Patrick Stewart, Dean Stockwell, Virginia Madsen, Linda Hunt, Max von Sydow, and Sting, among others, with music by Toto.

the movie is… bad. it’s cumbersome, overloaded with explanations, and not particularly well-acted in many places. now a cult classic, it has certain charms and is not as bad as lynch seems to think it is; he disowned the movie after it was released, even removed his name from some versions, and he hates talking about it. it bombed at the box office and became a joke. and apart from a professional but forgettable 2000 miniseries on the sci-fi channel, dune would never be adapted again.

until now. denis villeneuve is an ideal match for the material, and the film she has made, which covers only a little more than half of the first novel, is, on the whole, excellent. it is like the novel in many ways, chiefly in that it shrouds much of its terminology and mythology in mystery. this dune is not interested in explaining herself to the audience. you have to pay attention and accept that some of what’s happening on screen isn’t going to make much sense, at least not at first, especially if you’ve never read the book. (It is not necessary to read it before watching it, but knowing part of the plot helps).

It’s also one of those pure cinematic experiences that reminds you why you go to the movies. Expert Cast: Oscar Isaac as Duke Atreides, Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica, and especially Timothée Chalamet as Paul and Zendaya as Chani, the daughter of a Fremen leader, the film feels like the book has come to life, but without some of the more of herbert. ornate and purple prose. Instead of following Lynch’s lead and using voiceover to let us into his characters’ internal monologues, an important part of the novel allows the actors to give us clues through facial expressions and body language.

and the images are, frankly, pretty impressive. With Herbert’s puffy flourishes removed, the stunning imagination of the world of Dune can be brought to life. Never mind that the characters, with the possible exception of Jessica, are essentially cogs in a machine without much of a rich inner life. Villeneuve knows how to shape that kind of story and fill it with wonder and awe. the movie moves slowly at times, and that’s totally on purpose. Film is primarily a visual medium, and Dune provides an excellent opportunity to lean in and experience what it really means.

The long, long, long history of bringing Dune to the screen has been, in a sense, exactly what the film adaptation needed to put some wind in its sails. People have been talking about adapting dune for so long, or trying and failing, that its legend has grown. Even if you’ve never read Dune, or have no real idea what it’s about, you may have considered reading it at some point. the buildup is part of the appeal. And that’s a big part of why some people are so into the new movie.

dune is a complex and complicated story that doesn’t easily align with anyone’s politics

But there’s still more to the allure of Dune than just all the pent-up anticipation for a good movie. dune seems like a story about a chosen one, a hero, who will save the world. that’s a common trope in science fiction and fantasy.

Of course, as with many stories, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Paul, for example, is not the de facto Kwisatz Haderach; throughout the novel, there is a distinct sense that a failure might turn out, and the bene gesserit make it clear that they have other candidates waiting elsewhere. They’ve been hedging their bets. After all, Paul is not a messiah chosen from the universe, at least not by some transcendent deity; he is the product of a eugenics program.

More importantly, however, Paul’s success as a Kwisatz Haderach will in no way guarantee a promising future for the universe, a fact of which he is well aware. he can see the future, or the possible future, and talks about seeing people waging a bloody “jihad” (the novel’s terminology) in his name. (Villeneuve’s version chooses to call it “holy war”). Future books recount the aftermath of his rise to power, revealing the staggering fact that the “holy war” will claim the lives of 61 billion people. planets are looted and sterilized. Entire religions and groups are eliminated, all in service of Paul’s vision for the future of humanity.

That’s all very complicated and has led some to argue that now is, if nothing else, a terribly weird time to adapt a novel with this kind of hero. Add to that Herbert’s characterization of the Fremen—typical of the time, but no less uncomfortable to contemporary ears—in purely Orientalist terms, as well as the possibility of interpreting Paul as a “white savior.” Many contemporary fascists and far-right figures (including prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer) are avowed fans of the book, perhaps viewing it through a distorted lens as a triumphant story about a leader who violently overthrows a depraved empire and creates an ethno-state. . . meanwhile, a lot of people on the left love him too, for entirely different reasons and sometimes in spite of himself.

Herbert’s personal politics were complex and often reactionary, which probably explains the various messages people have taken from her. Herber, a distant relative of Joseph McCarthy, opposed the Vietnam War but supported Richard Nixon; he aided anti-worker efforts, was openly homophobic (which is clear in the novel) and racist, and espoused, above all, crude individualism. dune has been regarded as a supporter of a variety of ideologies, from anti-authoritarian conservatism to fascism and neoliberalism, and the entitlement-of-everybody kind of thing. Herbert, for his part, explained that his books were meant to criticize authoritarianism, declaring that “superheroes are disastrous for humanity.”

“even if we find a true hero (whatever or whoever he is),” he wrote, “eventually, fallible mortals take over the power structure that always arises around that leader.”

all that means there are many different ways to think about the book. you can read it as a cautionary tale about fascism or, if you like, a story about the inevitability of the triumph of fascist ideology in any world. you can read dune as a rule about the uselessness of religion, or as an argument about its incredible usefulness. it is a book about the cost of fixing environmental disasters and about individual destiny taking precedence over the collective.

so much malleability certainly adds to dune’s appeal. science fiction tries to give us ways to face our own world from another angle; dune provides that in abundance. the idiosyncrasies of its author and his politics leave plenty of room for swimming. so dune is still relevant, if you’re willing to wade through a bit of narrative mush.

dune’s world building is so expansive that the audience feels like they’re a part of it

the main reason dune endures may simply be built into its structure. the novel’s chapters are introduced with quotes from texts on world history, written by a character we haven’t yet been introduced to, and we slowly realize that she, whoever she is, may be playing an angle of her own. the novels are among the pantheon of science fiction and fantasy novels with a rich historical imagination, stretching into the future and the past.

and in the world of dune, readers (and viewers) exist. Our often imagined future, in which the machines take over and we have to fight them, is in the very distant past of the Dune characters. They give us a way to project ourselves into the future, as a species, and think about what might happen.

That’s a common storytelling technique in fantasy and science fiction. think about how the lord of the rings universe hinges on j.r.r. Tolkien’s exquisitely detailed stories from a world that long predates our own. or how star wars unfolds “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” or how my personal favorite (and another classic of the genre), a song for leibowitz by walter miller, mixes past and future in his explosive and apocalyptic story. (someone needs to make that into a movie!)

dune, and stories like it, weave a legend that extends long before and after the events of the book, and makes the reader feel a part of something. in that sense, these types of stories are no different from the sacred texts and oral mythologies that form the basis of religions. perhaps that explains why they have spawned such rabidly engaged fans. dune deals, in a way, with the dangers and powers of religion, and how it can be manipulated to achieve dubious ends. but it is also, in a sense, its own religious text. who wouldn’t be excited to see it come to life?

dune opens in theaters on October 21 and airs on hbo max.

Content Creator Zaid Butt joined Silsala-e-Azeemia in 2004 as student of spirituality. Mr. Zahid Butt is an IT professional, his expertise include “Web/Graphic Designer, GUI, Visualizer and Web Developer” PH: +92-3217244554

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