The Importance Of Dune, Part 1: The Sleeper Has Awakened

Last year I wrote two editorials for the Newsletter in sympathy with Denis Villeneuve’s film, Dune, originally suppose to come out last DecemberThis one was published in the September 2020 issue when the election was the dominant issue of the day. The movie is now out but won’t come to the U.S. next month and I think it appropriate to publish it now with everything happening in the world today. It’s been edited slightly to bring it up to date.

There are few things I’m more looking forward to than the first of two films by Denis Villeneuve bringing to life Frank Herbert’s classic science-fiction novel Dune.  And it isn’t just because I’m a big fan of the book, which is an intricately-plotted treatise on religion, gender, power and politics, but because its ideas are perfected suited for this period of history.

Because this story, unlike a lot of recent blockbuster films, should scare the pants off our political leaders as they will see themselves onscreen in their various guises.  And that fear may be enough to waken the sleeper, in the parlance of the book, the silent majority now staring at a bleak future post COVID-19.

In the hands of Denis Villeneuve, a film-maker perfectly suited to the material, we could be looking at a movie which becomes a turning point in the culture war.   Villeneuve is one of the few people working today who can marry bold visual storytelling with complex narrative while not browbeating his audience. Watch The ArrivalSicario or, my favorite, Blade Runner 2049 (see my original thoughts/review here) to get a sense of what we’re in store for. 

He reminds me of Ridley Scott at his best, which Scott hasn’t been at for decades.

Dune is the story of a space-faring humanity at a time of crisis whose entire civilization, thanks to previous periods of barbarism, is dependent on a single commodity, the spice.  And spice can only be found on the planet Arrakis, or Dune. 

The metaphor to oil is obvious since Herbert published the book in 1965.

Dune is a pastiche of a number of genres, a classic hero’s journey from adolescence to adulthood for its protagonist, Paul Atreides, told in ways both intensely intimate but keenly aware of these events’ historical importance.  It is an intense political drama with six Houses vying for control against a rising religious jihad against their rule.

Looking over our world as we approach the end of 2020 [sic], Dune is especially relevant because it shows us exactly where we are in the cycle of empires.  It will be hard for people to miss these things when they see the movie.  

The film will make very clear, if told properly, what happens when the concentration of power in the hands of the few at the expense of the many becomes toxic.  The corruption of the Houses, their plotting and scheming against each other for control of the spice drives all the external action.

It’s a deep look at a society coming unglued at the seams, where the political structures, in place for centuries, have become sclerotic.   But it is also a linear narrative that if stripped of its excesses tells a streamlined story about the rise of a new world on the ashes of the old one. 

It’s a story about a desert world which is the source of life itself and whose unforgiving environment forges mere men into forces of nature.

Because, ultimately, Dune is about the limits of power and how it corrupts everyone.  It reminds all of us that fear is what drives men to make desperate plays to maintain power.  Told mostly through Paul’s eyes as he grows into the man who will lead a revolution, it is the growing unrest of the people which forces the hand of the Emperor to set things in motion and who exists as a vague threat to come in an crush anyone stupid enough to cross him and his near unlimited power.  

And yet he too, like every other tyrant, falls.

After years of Dune languishing as a nearly dead property Villeneuve’s film will have to answer the most important question if it wants to succeed, “Why Now?”  It isn’t just because someone in Hollywood had the rights to it.  Those rights were tied up by Herbert’s son who had managed them into near irrelevance.  That’s how the project gets started.   

They tried to tell this story back in the eighties with David Lynch’s unfortunate film, but it was the wrong time. 

There was no resonance with current events during the height of the Reagan reboot of America when optimism was rampant and Ridley Scott had failed not two years earlier with Blade Runner, now a classic but hated on release.

That’s the big fear they should have going into release.  And conquering fear is the key thing Paul must do to survive the task in front of him.  His story should become ours as we enter 2022 and, if that happens, that should scare the would-be tyrants of this world to death.

*  *  *

Since this was written a number of things have happened that validate my fears then. It was a call to action for us to begin hardening ourselves against a bleak and terrifying future. It was also a warning for us not to put our faith in the institutions we think protect us from them.

Back then I was worried about the sequel to the Coronapocalypse, now confirmed for me as the rollout of the vaccines against COVID-9/11, as much as Trump being deposed through obvious and under-handed means. It’s why I was so adamant about the election being the inflection point for the world.

Everything came down to it. It was a singularity where one world ended and another began. The sleeper awakened that day and those that didn’t see it or refused to see its importance are now complicit in the violence that has come since and is yet to come.

The collapsing narrative surrounding the COVID-9/11 vaccines, their efficacy and honestly the dangers they represent to those in low-risk cohorts, it makes sense to see the headlines chocked to the gills with announcements of escalating stakes for us, the unwashed, unclean, unvaxxed and ungovernable.

Biden is threatening dishonorable discharges for U.S. military. From what I’ve heard from military men I’ve talked to, that would be 90% of them.

New York governor, Kathy Hochul is threatening medical workers with replacement by ‘foreigners’ if they don’t get the jab. It’s like she thinks her job gives her that power?

In Australia they are now just shooting protestors in public.

Tomorrow I will publish the companion piece, written after the stolen election. It’s called The Jihad. Tomorrow is the day the results of the election audit in Arizona are released. What happens if it proves fraud and Sen. Mark Kelly is recalled due to a decertified election?

Authored by Tom Luongo via Gold, Goats, ‘n Guns blog