I was flipping through the 4 channels that we got in our apartment in Sao Paulo. I was in the throws of being a super awkward middle schooler. I came across this very odd movie on the all-movie channel that our apartment complex managed. It took place on a desert planet and had these crazy giant worms that created electrical storms. It also had strange voice activated guns, cool outfits, and a mystic supernatural religion. As I was already a huge Star Wars nerd, this seemed like something similar. I was hooked. I had no idea what I was watching, but I watched it a few times as the all-movie channel would just loop movies throughout the day. Like all good science fiction, it contained a language all of its own and I slowly started learning this language:
I found the movie at our local video rental place down the street. I would rent it and watch it again and again. At my school library, I stumbled across a book that had the same title as the movie: Dune. It’s a novel also? I started reading it and was amazed at how complex this universe was–there was as much back story and supplementary text as there was actual narrative.
Dune, like Star Wars, both have formulas that have always appealed to me: a young person discovers a gift that allows them to become someone greater than what they were. They are aided by cool gadgets and weaponry, and realize they possess a force that grants them power to overcome the evil dark side. Both stories create a massive universe that welcomes you in and allows you to wrap yourself up in the mythology and get lost. There are other stories–Harry Potter, Ender, Red Rising–that would follow this same formula that would impact me just as much but Dune and Star Wars are the originals.
As I got older I realized how much Dune lived in Star Wars shadow and had failed in the theatres. It had also been reviled by critics. According to many reviews, the narrative was messy and hard to follow, it didn’t stay true to the books, it was too big of a novel to encapsulate into 2 hours. I also read that the director was so embarrassed by the movie that he didn’t even let his name be attached to it. To me, though, that didn’t matter, I loved it. And it made perfect sense to my 7th grade brain. And as I had discovered the movie before I read the book, I was OK that they were not the same. I incorporated the story into my life. I printed out and memorized the Litany Against Fear and would recite it when I thought it was appropriate.
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
I liked to pretend that I could use “the voice” to get people to do what I wanted. I enjoyed quoting lines from the movie. I was able to live in the movie in my mind.
Unlike Star Wars, and maybe due to its lack of success in the theatres, Dune never broke through in the toy industry. There weren’t any Paul Atriedes or Baron Harkones or Feyd Rautha action figures. No Arrakis SandWorm play sets, no models of spaceships that could bend space. And, truth be told, I was fine with this. When I discovered Dune, I was out of the Star Wars action figure phase of my life–I didn’t feel the need to play out the story with toys. I could see it–which was better than playing it.
As I got older, Dune has always been on my top list of favorite movies. It is the movie that if I were channel surfing and saw that it was on, I would stop and watch it. I grew up searching for both “versions” of the film–the official version and a longer, cut together version that was done later to better explain the story. My sister got me the official Extended Version Special Edition DVD that came in a stylish tin case. I was reading the novel when I met Zain for the first time. I was excited when it was announced that the SciFi channel was creating a miniseries of the novels–but I was equally disappointed in how bad it was (and this is from someone that loves the supposed “bad” movie).
More than 20 years go by with me loving this movie. I thought, for sure, the novel is so big, the original movie so cursed, the attempt to do a miniseries failed so no one would attempt to try again.
I was wrong.
Amidst the global pandemic last year, I read that there is going to be a new version. I was very cautiously excited. This seems like a bizarre thing to say, but in my mind the 1984 movie is the definitive version. I was excited to see other actors take on iconic roles and was excited that movie technology could make an excellent retelling of the story. But at the same time, the characters from the 1984 movie are so imprinted on my mind, I thought it was going to be weird to see others portray these beloved characters.
Then I watched the trailer. I was blown away. By the trailer.
I am now super excited to see this movie, and while I won’t be seeing it on the large screen (well, larger movie screen–our 55in TV will have to be big enough), I’m ok with that. I get to see it when it comes out in 2 weeks and relive this experience for the first time since that time many years ago when I first watched the 1984 version. I have to be honest, I am rather scared to see this new version–this version has very high expectations to live up to.
And I really hope they still have a creepy little girl end the movie saying “And how can this be? For he is the kwisatz haderach!”
(I will write a follow up once I see the movie. 🙂 )