Dune, famously, is an unfilmable piece of work. It has four appendices and a glossary of its own gibberish, and its action takes place on two planets, one of which is a desert overrun by worms the size of airport runways. Lots of important people die or try to kill each other, and they’re all tethered to about eight entangled subplots. But as Denis Villeneuve, the director of the latest attempt to put Dune on the screen, says of the undertaking, “We are bound to try to do the impossible.”
Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel is more than just a story of daunting scale. What people mean when they say it’s unfilmable is less, perhaps, that it can’t be filmed and more that it’s begging not to be.
Dune is a space opera, an allegory for ecological disaster, a disquisition on power—and an unending source of inspiration for all manner of extraliterary pursuits. In the half century since the novel’s debut, its ideas and philosophies have shown up in everything from cybersecurity and modern spirituality to views on warfare. Its meaning no longer lies solely on the page; it lives in how people have consumed and transformed it, like a sandworm moving beneath the culture. Villeneuve’s movie is merely one eruption. Here, we celebrate some of the rest. And, OK, fine—we’ll deconstruct a stillsuit too. We’re still nerds, after all. —THE EDITORS
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