Director Peter Berg is a movie producing machine. Not only does he have the recently announced Battleship movie adaptation and a Hancock 2 sequel on the horizon, but he is still very much involved with the third version of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction masterpiece, Dune. With all those movies requiring heavy involvement from Berg, it’s no wonder he recently announced dropping another project, Red Steel.
A couple of years ago, Berg told the world he was attached to the big screen adaptation of Dune but since then the project has been bogged down in the seventh level of script writing hell. Dune may very well be a sprawling story, too complex and deep to tell in one two-hour movie. That complexity is most likely the reason why the current script is 200 pages long!
Here is a bit of trivia: One page of script equals about one minute of screen time. So if filming was to start today and with an unmodified script, then we are looking at over three butt-numbing, eye-draining hours of Dune time.
Berg sat down with MTV Movie News and reaffirmed his involvement with the project during an interview. Berg describes Dune as “a massive epic” with “definite [sic] franchise potential.” Um, yeah, I can see how a three-hour film would entertain the possibility of being broken down into smaller chunks, allowing audiences to absorb it all easier. Berg goes on to say:
“[We need to] figure out how we can beat [the script] into something manageable without offending the purists. Filmmakers have struggled [in the past] because it’s a very complicated book to crack.”
I’ll say it is; the original Dune novel was over 500 pages long, spawned 5 sequels and chewed up over 3000 pages in its entirety. The only other works of fiction that I can think that would be as hard, if not harder, to translate from page to screen would be Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and Moore’s Watchmen. Two of those works listed have been made into epic multiple movies, and IMHO, Watchmen could have benefited from at least one more film to fully explain the story and the many sub-plots.
The mind-boggling thought needed to complete a film such as Dune did not sway the endeavors of directors David Lynch in 1984 and John Harrison in 2000. Lynch’s version was a valiant attempt but it came in woefully short at just over two hours. Still, that didn’t keep him from receiving an Oscar nod. Harrison’s version was made for the Sci-Fi channel (now SyFy), and had a slightly bigger budget and a much improved run time of close to five hours. Still, it left out many details because, ultimately, Dune is just too much story to tell with such limited resources.