On Sunday night, the movie adaptation of “Dune” will be released, and many will no doubt be stunned by it. As a flick, it looks fantastic. The new teaser trailer gives away absolutely nothing except a short glimpse of the dystopian desert setting and the appearance of McGregor as Paul Atreides.
But despite how good the movie looks, there is a part of me that is amazed that it is being made. Like most people, I am puzzled by the prospect of seeing a remake of the noble Frank Herbert novel that has been turned into numerous films over the decades. In the news, a number of authors and scholars have expressed serious reservations about the choice to dramatize the classic work.
But if “Dune” is such a great novel, why did it take this long to make a film? Because the film company working on it, Legendary Pictures, is part of an international company — Legendary Entertainment — which is headquartered in Hollywood and Singapore, and is owned by an Italian company, Abu Dhabi Media Corporation. All of those places, and others, that figure into the story’s settings.
Legendary’s connection to Ontario is particularly interesting. And it is a connection that dates back to at least 1998, when the original “Dune” was being developed by DreamWorks. It was the Weinstein Company (a division of the Miramax Motion Picture Organization, founded by Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who married in 1990 in Ontario) that ultimately acquired DreamWorks, and the state of Ontario and its film program helped give the movie, and its promotion, a boost.
As it turned out, “Dune” continued to attract attention from those in the entertainment industry. It is, after all, a tremendously ambitious book (in both its original story and its very long 1966 sequel “The Lords of the Shadow”), and one that required a lot of research and attention to detail. So the film’s production team was smart to enlist a good amount of Canadian help. As well as screenwriter David S. Goyer, who went on to work on “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” several others involved in the production are also Canadian. Such ties must have opened doors for the company that led to its current appeal.
These ties may be especially welcome now, when the desire for the fiction to be adapted into movies has never been greater. According to a 2016 survey, nearly 80 percent of British adults want to see “Dune” or at least a “sneak peek” before the film opens.
And it would seem that being Canadian and associated with an international company has been an asset to Legendary. “Dune” will be distributed in multiple markets by Universal Pictures. In Spain, it will be distributed by EuropaCorp, and it will be distributed in Belgium by Vermut. Its Internet presence, too, is international: “Dune” and its cast have been posted online on a variety of avenues.
This will be a truly international production — not the typical fare that studios are used to. But as an exceptionally ambitious novel that includes interstellar travel and the collaborative realm of the Devonian world, “Dune” should have no trouble making the leap from page to screen.
* * *
Learn more at “The Frank H. Herbert Collection,” a new book by David Kipen that explores the multifaceted life of Herbert, the author of “Dune.” The book was released in August.