Paramount Pictures has found a new director for their adaptation of Frank Herbert’s landmark science fiction novel Dune. Director Pierre Morel (Banlieue 13, Taken) replaces Peter Berg who had been attached to the project for some time. This will be the second film adaptation of Dune, the first being David Lynch’s abortive 1984 attempt. The Sci-Fi channel also made two decent TV miniseries based on the novels.
Morel is an action director, his version will probably become a tentpole sci-fi action vehicle and have none of the heady themes or political drama that were present in Herbert’s novel. Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert, authors of the more recent Dune novels are also said to be consulting on the production. Given the quality (or lack thereof) of their novels, Anderson and Herbert’s involvement does not get my hopes up for the film.
The Dune franchise has had a storied history being brought to the screen. David Lynch’s Dune was a financial disaster, a ballooning budget and creative differences with producer Dino de Laurentis resulted in the director losing control and subsequently disowning the project. However, Lynch’s version wasn’t the first attempt to bring Herbert’s work to the big screen; in the mid-1970’s Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, Santa Sangre) teamed with surrealist Salvador Dali to make a ten hour version of Dune. The film was well into pre-production —with a team that included legendary sci-fi artists Moebius and H.R. Giger—when it fell apart due to differences (both financial and artistic) between Jodorowsky and Dali. Jodorowsky has written about the Dune film he never got to make, which would have included Orson Welles, Alain Delon, Mick Jagger and music by Pink Floyd.
After Jodorowsky’s effort collapsed, producer Dino de Laurentis bought the rights to Dune and hired Ridley Scott to direct the film. Scott’s version went deep into pre-production, H.R. Giger was even doing designs for this version. However, Scott eventually quit the project to make a little sci-fi film called Alien, which Giger also did design work for. Producer de Laurentis hired David Lynch to replace Scott, the end result was an ambitious but rather unfortunate film.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that many people have attempted to make a movie of Dune, all of them more talented than Pierre Morel. That’s not meant as a shot at the guy, merely a statement of fact. He’s a competent director and I’ve enjoyed his films. I just don’t think he’s cut out for Dune, or at least the version of Dune that I’d like to see.