The new Denis Villeneuve movie Dune was adapted from the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert. TV writer Andrea Kail says the new movie is vastly more successful than earlier adaptations of the story.

“It lived up to every single one of my expectations,” Kail says in Episode 491 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It was exactly what I was hoping for in an adaptation of one of my favorite books of all time.”

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley agrees that Dune is a first-rate adaptation. “It’s just so nice to have science fiction movies made by people who actually respect the source material,” he says. “In contrast to the ’80s, where so often they would take a book and the director would just be like, ‘I have so many better ideas than this stupid book,’ and they would change everything.”

Fantasy author Rajan Khanna enjoyed the film, but wishes it had included more of the novel’s rich worldbuilding. “A lot of the weird stuff got skipped—a lot of the stuff about the mentats, and Dr. Yueh and his whole conditioning, and more in-depth on the Bene Gesserit and the Kwisatz Haderach, and the guild navigators,” he says. “That stuff being given minimal exposure in this film was a disappointment to me, because I think one of the great things about the novel is the weird stuff that he comes up with.”

Science fiction author Matthew Kressel is hopeful that an extended edition of Dune might restore some of his favorite scenes from the book. He’s also excited to see more of the Dune universe in the upcoming sequel Dune: Part Two. “This was the Dune film that I’ve wanted for so long,” he says. “And I’m excited about the sequel. It’s a long time to wait, but we waited long enough for this one, so I can wait another year or two.”

Listen to the complete interview with Andrea Kail, Rajan Khanna, and Matthew Kressel in Episode 491 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Rajan Khanna on adaptation:

“I’m not the target audience for this film. Even though I love Dune as a novel, film adaptations are mostly not necessary to me. I have a book that I can read, and that book has certain things, and a film adaptation for me is always going to be an exercise in ‘Oh, they changed that’ and ‘Oh, interesting how they handled this.’ Sometimes it can be amazing, but I’m not one of the people who is like, ‘I really hope they remake Dune as a movie and make it really good.’ So that comes into play in terms of my expectations. If this was a terrible movie, I would have been disappointed, but I wouldn’t have felt betrayed in any way, or that it ruined my one chance at having a good Dune adaptation.”

Matthew Kressel on pacing:

“There was a part in the film, maybe two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through, where I felt like we were just playing ‘chase the mouse.’ It was basically like, chase scene, pause, fight scene, chase scene, pause, fight scene. There was a point, right around the time where they go to that research station, and Dr. Kynes shows them the plants and explains that she wants to make a green Arrakis, where I was like, ‘This is cool,’ and then immediately there was another fight scene … All those scenes were really great, but there was a moment where I was a little less invested in it because it went on for a so long. I think I wanted, in those moments, just a beat more story.”

Andrea Kail on characterization:

“It’s a coming-of-age story. [Paul] is becoming a man—not only assuming his father’s role as Duke, but also breaking away from his mother’s control. Because she says, ‘We have to get off-world,’ and he cuts her off and says, ‘No. Our path is through the desert,’ and she just has to accept it. There’s a shot, right near the end, where he and Chani are looking at each other, and then he looks at his mother. She knows he’s been having these dreams, and she’s figured out that this is the girl he’s been dreaming about. They smile at each other a little, then Paul walks off, and you see this very subtle change in Jessica’s face from ‘happy’ to ‘stony.’ And the implication is, she doesn’t want him with her.”

David Barr Kirtley on Hollywood:

“I always just assumed that every two or three months there would be some big, blockbuster science fiction movie coming out that we could talk about, and there really haven’t been for the last two years, because of the pandemic. I never really appreciated how much of a loss that would feel to me, and how difficult it would make it, honestly, doing a weekly science fiction podcast. … So I appreciate all the more how precarious Hollywood actually is. It seems so powerful, but it could all go away if people don’t watch these movies and go to theaters. So I have a newfound appreciation for directors like Denis Villeneuve and movies like this, and I just hope everyone does what they can to support them, if you want things like this to keep existing.”

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