I find most films dull, boring, and cliché these days. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become a non-entity to me, churning out the same cookie-cutter plot lines, overusing bland CG graphics, and doing its best to anger its fans. But there is one thing I cannot take away from them: when seen on the big screen they are a cinematic moment, an experience.
This goes for any film. Watching your favourite films on the big screen, with the speakers booming, and a scale that draws you into the world are all fundamental to the experience of watching films, especially for the first time.
This is doubly so for an epic film. Films like The Lord of the Rings (of which The Fellowship of the Ring has its 20th anniversary later this year) and the upcoming adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune are certainly examples of films destined for the big screen.
The director of Dune, Denis Villeneuve, is hence rather angry with the decision to release his film on HBO Max at the same time as cinemas in the US. As he said, Dune is “a movie that has been made as a tribute to the big-screen experience”.
When Warner Bros originally decided to release all their 2021 films on HBO Max and in cinemas at the same time, Villeneuve was a vocal critic
When Warner Bros originally decided to release all their 2021 films on HBO Max and in cinemas at the same time, Villeneuve was a vocal critic. He said “Warner Bros might just have killed the Dune franchise”. He said that “there is absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience here”. Now that we have seen how this has panned out, he is still very much not pleased with the idea. He said recently: “Frankly, to watch Dune on a television, the best way I can compare it is to drive a speedboat in your bathtub. For me, it’s ridiculous. It’s a movie that has been made as a tribute to the big-screen experience.”
Hyperbolic, yes, but from someone who read Dune many years ago and is eagerly awaiting the chance of a proper adaptation, I can say in full confidence, if done right, Dune is a film for the big-screen – definitely not for a TV or laptop screen.
In 1973, avant-garde director Alejandro Jodorowsky started work on a cinematic adaptation of the sci-fi classic. The script reached 14 hours in length. Unfortunately, and probably inevitably, it was scrapped due to financial reasons. Then we had the 1984 David Lynch cinematic adaptation. Though it has since gathered a cult following, it was an absolute disaster on release. It is rather telling that Lynch’s name is sometimes replaced by the name Alan Smithee in some cuts, a pseudonym used when directors don’t wish to be associated with their film.
The Sci-Fi Channel made a couple of miniseries adaptations of Dune in the early 2000s. I have not seen them barring clips, but they apparently do a much better job at adapting the book. The two series adapt the first three novels in the Dune series – Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune. They even managed to win some Emmy awards and are some of the Sci-Fi Channel’s most successful creations.
Dune is the perfect example of why the cinematic experience is so important
The 2021 adaptation of Dune is but a film, with a much shorter run time than a TV series. What the film will have over the TV series is the spectacle and experience of a cinema release and the budget that comes with it. Not only will it look better than the early 2000s adaptation, it will also sound better, and hopefully will be a much more faithful adaptation than Lynch’s attempt. At first, I was worried that the film may rush and cram in the whole massive book and be another failure. Fortunately, Villeneuve seems to understand the art of adaptation and the story will be split into two parts. A massive relief. But I feel Dune is the perfect example of why the cinematic experience is so important.
After being locked inside for so long and with cinemas struggling to stay alive, rather than being lazy and getting maybe ten per cent of the film experience on our laptops, we should be eager to watch a cinematic masterpiece in its rightful place.
Dune’s previous cinematic adaptation attempts have both failed due to the story’s scale, while the TV series managed success on a low budget. Combining the latter’s faithfulness with the experience of the former is the true experience needed for Dune, and cinematic epics.
With direction from Denis Villeneuve and some amazing actors like Oscar Isaac, Stellan Skarsgård, and Josh Brolin we should be in for a treat, one that needs to be seen on the big screen. When it comes to the music, it’s composed by Hans Zimmer. A great Hans Zimmer soundtrack is made exponentially better when experienced in the true cinematic form, and is yet another reason why Villeneuve is right when he says Dune is a big-screen experience.
I don’t often get excited about films, but Dune is an exception
It’ll take some convincing to see if Timothée Chalamet can pull off Paul’s character, but one thing I need no convincing of is that this film must be seen in cinemas. As I said before, I don’t often get excited about films, but Dune is an exception. It is coming at the exact time as the perfect parcel to entice people back to the cinematic experience. We just must hope Villeneuve has managed to create something timeless and gives us what could be one of the best book-to-film adaptations yet.