Last night, for our second-ever movie night, Gina, Mike and I watched the David Lynch original Dune version. Afterwards, Mike told me it had been one of the biggest box-office flops of all time. I was shocked and amazed. A flop? Dune? The wonder of Frank Herbert’s genius? No way! Of course, when I first saw it myself, I remember it being boring. Perhaps disturbing as well, but primarily boring. The director ended up hating it, and the cult crowd that loves it now I am totally unsure of. Why had I even suggested we watch this thing?
And then I realized that even the first time I’d seen the thing, I’d probably already read the book. Or else, more paradoxically, when thinking back to the original boring movie, I’d confused both the book and miniseries versions with the older David Lynch version. And besides David Lynch being disturbing and weird, the movie isn’t really bad, for what it is. It’s just so much less than the book, rather than more. Of course, the miniseries had 5+ hours to say what the Lynch movie had to do in 3, so of course there had to be some skimpings on things like character development. But the book – the book had everything. Politics, religion, business, biology, environmentalism, history, poetry, arts, morals, drug addiction, relationships, you name it, it was there. There was even some economics, though its outlines were vague. Pretty much every modern problem was allegorized in the book, and done well, and somehow all compiled into a master work. War in Iraq and Muslim extremism? It’s in the book. Human impact on the environment? It’s in the book. American supremacy? It’s in the book. Religious indoctrination? It’s in the book. Political and corporates maneuvering? It’s in the book. That’s why I love the book – it has everything.
People always say all kinds of things about The Martian Chronicles, and how they’re really about life in the 50s, and what that environment was like. Dune was written in 1965, just 15 years later. Of course the world had changed significantly in those years, but Frank Herbert was writing something more than a distillation of his time. He was writing a classic, because his work has become timeless, as the cycles of humanity make his work still applicable today (whereas I have difficulty relating to most of Bradbury’s stories). Yay Frank Herbert!