I will start with a not-so-hypothetical question: Is there anyone who seriously believes that another movie version of Frank Herbert's Dune is required, let alone a good idea?
It's funny how a project like this will just sort of stick in the collective creative subconscious and never quite go away. David Lynch's version had money to burn, great costumes, great sets — but wobbly-looking effects (Gene Siskel described them as "filming a paper airplane thrown over Mom's bedspread") and a Cliff's Notes version of the story. Bad for fans of the book, but great for fans of David Lynch, or cinematic excess in general, the latter of which I consider myself a closet appreciator. (Lynch is hit-or-miss, but when he hits he knocks it out of the park and puts the inning indicator out of commission to boot.)
The TV version had the depth and the length, but not the look and feel (those sets look like something out of the later episodes of the pre-reboot Doctor Who), and so both of them leave you hungry in different ways. So a third go-round seems to always be in the air, and never quite coming in for a landing.
As reported in various places, Paramount's currently looking to get a new staging of the book off the ground for about US$175M. Their original director was Peter Berg (he of Hancock, which was a lot better than I was originally going to give it credit for), but he's since walked from the project and left the Mountain scrambling for a replacement.
Here's one loony idea: Alejandro Jodorowsky should be allowed to come in and pick up where he left off with his aborted mid-1970s version — set design by H.R. Giger, score by either Magma or Pink Floyd. (See The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made for the full skinny on this dream project, which for the longest time seemed entirely too much like the kind of self-mythologizing that's entirely too easy for me to attribute to Jodorowsky generally.) Crazy, sure, but let's face it— they've trusted projects bigger than this to lesser people.
The name currently being bandied around (according to the above article) is Neil Marshall, he of The Descent and Doomsday and the forthcoming Centurion. I'm in something of a minority in that I actually liked Doomsday quite a bit, and admired how Marshall made a pretty upscale-looking movie on a small budget. He'd be a good secondary choice, but not my first, even if I have a soft spot for his work.
So who else? Peter Jackson is another obvious shoo-in; he's shown not just once but several times over than he can take a project of this scale and tame it. But does he want to? Right now he's got his hands full with The Hobbit, even if only in a supervisory role; if he said yes it would be years before he could even roll up his sleeves.
The best realistic choice, in my eyes: Guillermo del Toro. Here's someone who has entries in both the the "art" and "action" columns on the page, who can make crowd-pleasers and eye-openers in equal measure (and has). He also sports a slightly more accessible version of Lynch's sense of the grotesque, so he'd be qualified to deliver something otherworldly without it also being a nasty turn-off.
What worries me, no matter who gets slotted into the role, is the fact that there is no effective way to condense the book into a conveniently-sized movie. The only other option is to make an inconveniently-sized movie, a multi-part mega-feature along the lines of Jackson's Rings, but that comes sporting such a thicket of logistical thorns that I wouldn't blame Paramount for not even wanting that option on the table.
Do I even want another version of Dune? You know, I've asked myself this question dozens of times, and I never get a good answer. I have mixed feelings about the book to begin with — it's a landmark, and it's next to impossible to have a good grasp of SF as a genre without reading it. But it's more interesting for its world-building and its conceits about a distant future of neo-feudalism than it is for any of its characters, or the conclusions it draws about them. It's better as tourism than it is as fiction — although there's a lot of SF in general of the same ilk. Few people read Ringworld to gripe about the aimless story; they're there to marvel at Larry Niven's imagination.
Part of me is frustrated because I have several pet SF novels that have never been filmed, that would be fantastic to see on the big screen, and could be done on a whole gamut of budgets. You could film Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human (easily one of my favorites of all time) on less money than it would cost to cater most other productions. If you have the money to blow, how about Alfred Bester's Monte Cristo mutation The Stars My Destination, or his future-telepath crime-and-punishment epic The Demolished Man (which was almost brought to the screen by Oliver Stone, of all people)? Or Evgeny Zamyatin's funny and horrible and brilliant We, the spiritual godfather of all the 20th-century literary dystopias? Or Gertrude Freidberg's The Revolving Boy, a deeply unsung SF novel from an author with almost nothing else to her name save for this masterpiece?
The more I think about this, the more that comes to mind simply because nobody seems to be really digging all that deeply. You want to get really maverick and left-field? How about Daniel M. Pinkwater's books, e.g., Alan Mendelson, The Boy From Mars, where the best revenge on your high-school tormentors is to learn how to cross the various planes of existence? (Those of you who have read the book: my first casting choice for Clarence Yojimbo is Rob Zombie.) Another Pinkwater possibility: The Last Guru, which would either sit very well or not well at all with today's transcendence-obsessed populace since it pokes fun at the very things they have been told to seek so hungrily for. Or an animated version of A.K. Dewdney's The Planiverse, which takes the concept of Flatland and expands on it endlessly and magically.
You get the idea.
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