The Sleeper has Awakened

The Sleeper has Awakened

I feel like I am destroying much of my geek cred with some of the admissions I am doing lately. This is probably a big one. I didn’t read the book Dune till about a week ago. I know, I know, that’s crazy right. But here’s the thing, I saw the movie, the original David Lynch movie in the theater several times when it first came out. I have also seen that movie again and the SyFy version (before they became something not quite science fiction themed anymore).sleeper has awakened

Sure, I know, the book and the movie are not the same thing. We can argue this till we are all blue in the face and complain about the errors of either or and blah blah blah… but something not being the same as the book doesn’t automatically make it bad. What we are looking at is differences of medium and how they affect story overall. Each one will be true to the original to the best of its ability and from there it will tell a slightly different story than what might have originally happened. Thought for the day… maybe this isn’t a bad thing. This is something that takes us back to our oral traditions of storytelling. No one is going to tell the exact same story the exact same way. We are all influenced in different ways by the world around us.

Still with me? Good, my view on stories will not be your view on stories and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. At the same time, we will fight tooth and nail for our view because it is of course vastly superior to everyone else’s (and really there isn’t anything wrong with that either.). We agree to disagree and sometimes even come to a point where we accept the validity of someone else’s viewpoint and carry on being geeks and enjoy the geekitude in harmony and phasers. But I digress…

And so this brings us back to the original point. The original David Lynch movie (Dune 1984) was one to stay with me all these many years. Aside from the epic nature of the film there were a few things that really stood out to me then and still do today. The first of them being the lexicon.

As a matter of branding the movie with the book, theaters at the time had a sheet of terms you could look over while watching the film. Though it wasn’t as prolific as the indexes featured in the book it still had that connection to the book to allow the viewer to feel like they were watching an extension of the story they loved in words. I kept my copy of this lexicon folded up inside a taped interview with David Lynch about the production of the screen play and the final film. The things you kick yourself for later in life; The only thing I remember about that tape is the lexicon from the movie and the cover on the tape (same as the movie poster).

I know this seems like a small thing, but really it is the small things like this that can bridge the gap between the book and the movie for many fans. I mean when you look at it all now, branding like that is pretty much expected throughout our consumer driven economy. I know this isn’t really story related but it can be amazing the things that stick with you from an experience like this.

The other driving bit of memory I have from my viewings so many years ago is the phenomenal way Lynch chose to portray the story. This was the first movie I had even witnessed internal thoughts from the characters. It gave an added dimension to the story as it unfolded before us. The man had us head hopping like mad but because we could see the characters in front of us we were able to stay tuned to the thoughts and feelings of each individual character.

This memory came full circle when I finally read the book. The movie had captured so well the way the characters thought and behaved that I didn’t feel cheated. The book did what you can expect a book to do with such things. It brought it all into a more detailed vision. The way this worked in either version of the story gave me a stronger connection to each of them.

But, you had to expect that eventually there would be a but, there were a few things about the movie that lost out a bit compared to the book. At the time when the book came out it was fairly large (489 pages for the copy I currently have 533 when you add in the appendices). This is an epic story with quite a bit going on within it. The question becomes how do you fit all of that into a single movie. I mean seriously, imagine all the sets that would have to be built and strange locations to be shot at.

And this is where the movie gets a little hurky jerky. The time flow is a bit different for the movie than it is in the book. Basically it was a condensed version of the story with connections made at a few odd places. But when you look at this more of a difference of the people telling the stories it actually fits in better with the overall scope of the novel.

In the novel we encounter a different tidbit of knowledge from either the Princess Irulan or information from Mau’Dib’s personal journals. These are used as an introduction to each chapter and give the reader a bit more insight to what is going on within the story world. The movie gives us a glimpse of Princess Irulan toward the beginning of the movie in order to set the stage a little for what happens within the story itself. It’s a clever way to share exposition that the viewer might never have gotten without first reading the book.

Which, speaking of Princess Irulan, her relationship to the story itself isn’t really brought into play within the movie (this is rectified in the version made for the SyFy channel). With as much ground as the movie covered there were a few story threads that were not woven into the tapestry. Chiefly among those would have been Paul’s personal thoughts about his place within the greater empire. This in turn gives good reason to leave out the section directly tied to Princess Irulan but it is a nuance that would have added even more depth to the original film.

Having read and watched the movie again so close together I did feel that the movie rushed through the story a bit. Many of the key moments were represented but at the same time there were the nuanced moments that were glossed over. And again when we look at this through the eyes of various storytellers we realize that each storyteller will focus on a different aspect of the overall story.

In the end, I still love the movie and still love the book. They both have different aspects of a huge story to share with us and maybe in another 40 or 50 years we will find another storyteller that will give us yet another aspect of the story to focus on. Oh ya, I don’t think I mentioned this earlier. But this year marks the 50th anniversary for the book. I hadn’t realized that when I read it. But it is a mark of the longevity of the work that after the film and TV adaptations the book itself still holds true. There is a good chance it will carry forward another 50 years and still be going strong then.


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