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Friday, August 31, 2007

I Dune Know If This is Such a Great Idea

Conservative film-blog Libertas pointed me to this article on the C.H.U.D. movie site that reports that a new film version of Dune might be forthcoming.

Having seen the David Lynch version and the recent Sci-Fi Channel version, I have come to the conclusion that the book is unfilmable. Both versions have good points, but I consider both of these adaptations to be failures. For a new film, the effects will be there, but Dune has so much stuff going on, and Herbert created a very complex world with very complex politics, that adaptation for a 2-3 hour movie seems an insurmountable task.

If the new film is an attempt to launch a franchise with sequels, ala Lord of the Rings, I think the first film will have to be perfect. I think Dune Messiah and Children of Dune(I haven't seen the Sci-Fi version of that one) are more conventional stories(and shorter) and therefore adaptable, but without hitting Dune out of the park those films won't be made.

I have similar feelings about the often mentioned film adaptation of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. Ender's Game is populated with dozens of characters, many of whom are children.

Finding enough quality child actors to fill those roles will be impossible. One solution would be to age the characters to rectify that problem, but it would greatly diminish the impact such young characters, and the things they are asked to do, within the story.

I have heard it suggested the characters could maintain their youth if the film were animated, and that is probably the best solution I've heard for Ender's Game. My prediction is that if Ender's Game is made as a live action film, it will be a huge disappointment (especially to fans of the books).

Some books are probably better off without being adapted to film. So often the magic of a book falls flat on film, simply because of the time constraints involved.

On another side of the adaptation coin, I like the Harry Potter films quite a bit, but they aren't without problems. So many little character things have to be discarded, character roles combined, subplots abandoned etc. The Potter books are each, on the surface at least, mystery stories and they lend themselves to reasonably successful adaptation because the mystery is at the heart of each story.

As an aside, the first Potter film is a great example of the child actor problem of Ender's Game. The Ender characters are even younger than Harry and company in Sorcerer's Stone.

Ender Wiggin and Paul Atreides, in their respective stories, have so much internalized conflict, lots of inner dialogue, and more philosophical struggle going on that doesn't translate to film as readily as the mystery plots of Harry Potter. Harry does have a fascinating and complex philosophical and internal struggle over the course of the seven novels, but each episode stands on it's own as a complex, but filmable, mystery plot.

If Dune and Ender's Game do make it to film, I hope I'm wrong about the adaptability of the material. I really like both of those books. I once thought the Lord of the Rings was an unfilmable property as well, but Peter Jackson understood the material and managed to make some of my favorite movies of all time. Maybe that will be the case once (or twice) again.

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