Title: DUNE: beneath the sands
Directed by: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Dune not only can and should be given a trilogy of movies, but would also be very effective as a series, either as spinoffs or as a slower-paced telling of the main story.
For my pitch I’m treating Dune as a trilogy.
We start by showing Arrakis (Dune) and the extensive mining operations there. The procedure and equipment is efficient and customized for the desert planet and its indigenous dangers. The machine noise is muffled and programmed to have erratic timing, and is guarded by the Harkonnen army. Then we see a handful of Fremen, the planet’s human inhabitants, attempting to sabotage a mining vehicle. They are caught, strapped with thumpers, and flung into the desert. The Fremen, glowing blue eyes wide in panic, attempt to flee, but giant sandworms emerge and eat the saboteurs whole. One Fremen is left, visibly older than the others, though his eyes are brighter. His hands are out, as if ordering the worms to a halt, and for a brief moment they obey. Then, one of the Harkonnen soldiers shoots the man in the leg and he falls to the sand in pain. The worms’ hesitation is over, and they eat the old Fremen man as they descend back into the dunes.
As we track the freshly-mined melange spice back to the processing facility, we discover that spice harvesting is behind schedule and the emperor is becoming impatient with constant delays. This information goes through the Harkonnen chain of command, showing us the key figures in the Harkonnen house (Feyd, Rabban, and finally the Baron). The Baron is seen beating a Fremen servant at the palace. We see that many timid-looking Fremen are working as servants at the palace. The Baron explains to his nephews Feyd and Rabban that their post on Dune is in no way guaranteed. If they are to be the one and only caretakers of the spice, then they must create a royal union in marriage to the Emperor’s daughter or to take it by force. The Baron kills the Fremen servant to prove they are the rightful rulers of Arrakis.
We go to another planet, an outpost on the shores of an arid lake. Paul Attreides is staring at the pool of water at the center of the once-grand body of water. He is approached by his teachers and caretakers, the Mentat Thufir Hawat, and Gurney Halleck (I’m merging Duncan Idaho into Gurney’s character). They discuss how planets can change, sometimes taking life, sometimes making it, but change is both inevitable and necessary. We learn that Paul is in self-proclaimed exile from the royal Attreides compound, but has actually been sent away for his own protection from the bitter Bene Gesserit witches who loath his existence as being against their plans. Only his mother, Jessica, also a Bene Gesserit, is able to keep his whereabouts secret and safe from her witch sisters.
As word comes in that another attack is underway, Gurney argues that Paul’s mother would be unhappy to discover how involved the Duke’s son is in the planet’s skirmishes. Paul says he refuses to be useless to his people, and that Gurney would be there to protect him anyway. The two go into battle with other Attreides soldiers, easily defeating the local uprising. Paul, however, is brought to the ground in combat, losing his weapons. He shouts in anger and the ground rumbles beneath his attackers. Other soldiers come to aid him. When the war is over, Paul is summoned back to his parents at the Attreides palace. His journey over Caladan shows us that the planet is lush and the waters are plentiful. Paul admires it all with an optimistic grin.
At the royal house we learn that Paul’s mother Jessica is pregnant with his sister. Since this girl is what the Bene Gesserit desired from Jessica all along, she felt it was safe for Paul to return. In addition, Paul’s father the duke, tells them all that the emperor has selected house Attreides to take over spice mining from house Harkonnen. They are excited for the opportunity and what it may mean for their house’s future, but worry the Harkonnen’s will not give up control so easily.
Feyd and Rabban are visiting the baron Harkonnen, now back on their homeworld of Geidi Prime. The nephews are angry over the loss of their rule on Dune. The baron assures the boys that he has plans to regain their place on Arrakis, but can see the bloodlust in their eyes. He sends them back to Dune to aid the Attreides in quelling the Fremen resistance to the mining operations.
Paul and the family adjust to life on Dune. Paul is often joining men in the operations, obsessing over the spice, the worms, the desert, and the Fremen people. He befriends a servant named Chani. She tells him how the Fremen have lived on Dune for centuries, given long life by the spice, a gift in exchange as caretakers of the worms who some of their people can control through a union of the mind. The mining operations are a disruption to the harmony of the planet, which is why they are desperate to see it halted, though they lack the power to do so. Given their weakness against the royal houses’ armies, the Fremen are forced to either live in hiding or directly work for their lords. They are happy that the Attreides treat them better than the Harkonnen, but they would still prefer an evacuation of the planet so the Fremen can return to life before. Chani sees Paul’s obsession with her people and appears to be using it to gain knowledge of the Attreides and sway Paul to the Fremen cause. She repeatedly asks that he arrange a meeting between the Duke and the Fremen leader so a peaceful agreement can be found.
The Duke hears that a Fremen battalion is making its way toward several miners, and that Feyd and Rabban are on their way to intercept. Chani begs Paul to go so he might negotiate a peace or see that there is little bloodshed. There, Paul manages to stop the outright slaughter of the Fremen by the Harkonnen nephews, resulting in a scuffle between the royal houses instead. Paul is injured and returns to his quarters. Jessica looks after Paul, but is often called away by the Benne Gesserit as they are caring for her during her now advanced pregnancy. Chani fills in, and while Paul heals, they become lovers.
More attacks take place. Miners are killed. The duke is furious at the Fremen, but with Paul’s council, requests the Fremen leader to come to the palace. Preparations are made for the visit, with a focus on security. The Baron Harkonnen tells his nephews that his plan is coming to fruition and that Harkonnen assassins will intercept the Fremen party and go into the palace in their stead to kill the Duke.
Jessica and the other Bene Gesserit detect and foil the baron’s plans, but only know that the Fremen men were there to kill the duke, not that they were actually Harkonnen in disguise. The Duke, now certain that the Fremen are only violent animals, declares war on the Arrakis people and expels all the Fremen servants from the palace. Paul is conflicted, angry over the faux Fremen assassination attempt, but has fallen for the Fremen servant. In a surprise to everyone, the duke proposes an alliance with the Harkonnens to defeat the Fremen once and for all, and the Baron agrees. Paul reluctantly goes to war.
Initial battles demonstrate the Harkonnen and Attreides fighting styles, and show scenes of unified attacks. Paul even saves Feyd from an explosion, and they both bring down a sandworm (not knowing it was just a baby), forming a loose comraderie. The Bene Gesserit see the coming together of the houses as part of their vision, and it must be solidified by the marriage of Jessica’s unborn daughter to one of the Harkonnens. This was initially to be Feyd or Rabban, had Paul been a girl as they expected, but the time table has to shift somewhat to have Jessica’s daughter take Paul’s place. They inform Jessica that they can speed the growth of the child if Jessica consumes unrefined spice, something only her people can withstand. Jessica complies, knowing that she might be carrying the Kwisatz Haderach, the ultimate being who will fulfil a destiny of bringing universal power to the Bene Gesserits.
The Fremen have gone into hiding. Spice production is meeting demand, and there is relative peace between the royal houses, but Jessica’s new power has allowed her to revisit her thoughts around what she perceived as the Fremen assassination attempt on the duke. She realizes now that they were Harkonnen men, not Fremen. She wants to tell the duke the truth, but the Bene Gesserit insist that such news would ruin their plans. Jessica tells them their plans are wrong, and she’s worried for her family. She goes to tell the Duke, but news comes in from Harkonnen scouts that a massive Fremen army is assembled far away, shouting for the Duke’s head. Arrogantly, the Duke gathers all of his troops on the coordinates they were given, but it is empty.
They discover too late that thumpers are set all around them underneath the sand. Worms from all directions show up and consume the majority of the Attreides army. Meanwhile, the Harkonnen troops attacks the palace, taking it with ease. Paul had stayed behind to protect the palace and his pregnant mother, but they are overrun. Then Chani emerges from a secret entrance and Paul is forced to believe the former Fremen servant, that she is here to help them escape. She and some of the other Fremen had been hiding out to eavesdrop on Attreides troop movements so her people could avoid detection. Before disappearing, Feyd confronts Paul, and ends up looking the other way so he can leave.
A handful of troops escape with Paul and Jessica, and they eventually emerge in a cave system among thousands of Fremen, far more than anyone knew existed. The Harkonnens have complete control of the palace, their rule over Arrakis renewed. Paul learns of his father’s death and meets the true Fremen leader, all now aware that the fake Fremen leader was a Harkonnen assassin. They form an alliance, Paul swearing vengeance on house Harkonnen. He shouts in anger and the walls of the cave rumble.
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Nicholas Holt, Lena Headey, Christian Bale, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Skarsgård, Jennifer Lawrence, John Goodman, Caleb Landry Jones, Ethan Suplee, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Foster
My pitch is pretty simple this go-round. The main theme is REBOOT. Try it again, with updated technology, a new cast and GET TO IT!
We spend the first few minutes in this reboot of DUNE, showing a very similar explanation of the planets and main characters included in this adaptation, then we get going. Storytelling, graphics and simple on-screen prompts can help tremendously in education the audience about when and where we are.
This new REBOOT will start a little earlier in Paul Atreides’s life, to show the training he went through and progression of his character in the film. The best stories told (especially in an unknown setting) are the origin stories of the characters and that is something that the original Dune (1984) skimmed over. That lack of character development caused us to not REALLY understand Kyle MacLachlan’s version until well into the time jump on Arrakis.
The same can be said for his love interest in the film, originally portrayed by the gorgeous Sean Young. The only reason we had interest for her character in the ‘84 Dune was her beauty and the fact that Paul had dreams about her in advance. While we should retain those premonitions in this reboot, we need to get a rundown of her character and the other inhabitants of Arrakis upon Paul’s arrival on Arrakis. This can be done with a simple explanation from Chani (played by Jennifer Lawrence in my version) while flashbacks of their evolution show on screen.
The other big opportunity that can be updated and corrected with a reboot is the story of the Baron and his nephews. Once again, we were expected to understand and detest the Baron immediately in the ‘84 film, but the only thing we had to go off of was his looks and a few completely random acts of violence after his treatment. Let’s see a bit of backstory about this character and show a bit more about why he has evolved into this beast. His nephews could still remain nearly silent in the film (still not sure why they made that choice with Sting playing Feyd), but why. Let’s see some character development for all of them and let the audience have some feelings before we are expected to hate them.