“Dune,” A Video Game Adaptation Done Right?

November 4, 2021

Dune is one of those franchises in the sci-fi community that is a time-honored classic. Over the years, there have been attempts to adapt it to long-form media. Unfortunately, they haven’t always been successful or even well-received by fans. The newest iteration of Dune looks to be the antithesis of this trend, as excitement for this film has gone through the roof. So what is Dune? And why is this film such a big deal? Join us as we unpack and answer those two very essential questions. 


What on Earth is Dune?

Let’s roll back the tape a bit here. Dune is actually a little more than just a video game. In its inception, Dune was a book authored by Frank Herbert. The story follows Paul Atreides, the heir to one of a few noble Houses that hold dominion over other planets. His story begins when “[Paul] and his family relocate to the planet Arrakis, the universe’s only source of the spice melange” (IndieWire, 2020). The franchise would first make its debut in theaters in 1984, the film was titled Dune and it was directed by David Lynch. Unfortunately, critics of the time such as Roger Ebert wouldn’t receive the movie very well, calling it “a real mess” as it had “one of the most confusing screenplays of all time” (Roger Ebert Reviews, 1984). According to IndieWire, the film would become something of a “cult classic” but suffice to say, it isn’t the best adaptation of the franchise… and that’s coming from fans and critics alike. It would later become a game developed by Cyro Interactive in 1992. There would be more games after this, not all by the same developers, but the gem of this roster is Dune II. This game alone would revolutionize strategy gaming as well as PC gaming in general. For more on this topic, we invite you to check out IGN’s review of the gaming classic. All in all, it is without question that the Dune franchise is near and dear to gamers and readers alike, which is why the new adaptation is so important. 

A still from the movie Dune (1984)
A still from the 1984 David Lynch adaption of “Dune”

Hiccups in Adaptation

As history has shown, adapting various kinds of media to the big screen, especially video games, doesn’t always have the best track record. Take Mortal Kombat for example. The Netherrealm classic is without a doubt more than ten games strong and a pretty popular title. When it comes to the movies… not so much. Like Dune (1984), Mortal Kombat has its own slew of not very well received movies, turned cult classics, these being Mortal Kombat (1995) and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997). To speak plainly, they’re the kind of movies that invoke an odd degree of nostalgia yet are fun enough to enjoy laughing at every now and again. This is a trend that one often sees with video game-to-film adaptations, and sometimes, depending on the property, some book-to-film adaptations. In Dune’s case, this has been an issue plaguing fans of the franchise for a couple of decades now. Granted, you had the pretty well-received Dune shows on Syfy in the early 2000s, but aside from that, no one has been able to crack the code for translating Dune’s complex story to the big screen. The stakes are especially high here since Dune is not only successful as a book but as a video game too. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way from the 1990s, and video game adaptations are starting to deviate from the campiness they were once associated with. But that begs the question… 

Where Does This Leave Us With Dune?

Well, if you like spoilers or being informed about what you’re getting into, the title for the New York Times review of the film reads, “The Man Who Finally Made A Dune Fans Will Love”, that man being Denis Villeneuve who directed the film (NYT, 2021). If that’s any indication of how good it is, it seems like there’s been a step in the right direction in terms of adapting the material. In addition to that nugget, it appears that the new film is being accompanied by a brand new TV show set to come out on HBO Max. According to Variety, Dune: Sisterhood has a showrunner and still appears to be a work in progress. The new Dune is now in theaters and on HBO Max.