Can Dune become the next great sci-fi franchise?

Frank Herbert's 1965 novel Dune is one of the most influential sci-fi novels of all time, laying the groundwork for the world's favorite sci-fi franchises.

Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune is one of the most influential sci-fi novels of all time, laying the groundwork for the world’s favorite sci-fi franchises. While the premise and characters of Star Wars and Star Trek are known and loved on every continent, the stories of Dune are yet to command the same level of recognition. That could all be changed by Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming movie adaptation of Herbert’s work, with the first of two parts slated for a December release.

 

It might not have ‘star’ in its title, but Dune has a whole galaxy of stars in its cast. Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Josh Brolin, and Javier Bardem all feature in this sci-fi epic. While ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek’ have been responsible for propelling new faces into superstardom, Dune has thrown its budget behind bringing some of Hollywood’s hottest names on board.

Villeneuve and Legendary Pictures are clearly keen to ensure that this is the production that truly puts Dune on the map of popular culture, something that a 1984 movie and a 2000 television miniseries failed to accomplish. From its iconic source material to its sterling cast, Dune has all of the ingredients to become the next sci-fi franchise to take the world by storm.

The influence of Star Trek and Star Wars can be seen in a range of media. That crossover appeal is what elevates a work of cinema into a worldwide phenomenon. Star Trek and Star Wars might not have existed without Herbert’s novel, but here are three key areas where the Dune franchise can emulate the success of these sci-fi giants.

 

Books

Star Trek fans have been treated to a string of novels since Mack Reynolds’ 1968 work Mission to Horatius, with these books expanding on characters and environments introduced on screen. Star Wars has demonstrated how literature can inspire on-screen content, with book characters like General Thrawn since admitted into the franchise canon.

If Dune the movie is a hit, these portrayals will become the definitive takes on these characters. New novels will be required to explore breakout minor characters or to give deeper context to events. Herbert’s son Brian has collaborated with Kevin J. Anderson to produce a string of prequel and sequel novels, but new books will be needed to build on Villeneuve’s interpretation of Dune.

 

Gaming

Modern board games have been developed in tribute to the world of Dune, but conquering the field of digital gaming is essential in establishing a franchise. There are several video games based on Star Wars, with the 2019 release Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Over proof of the series’ continued appeal. From the Battlefront shooter series to the role-playing Knights of the Old Republic, games have been crucial in building the Star Wars universe.

Star Trek has made similar waves in the world of iGaming. When libraries feature thousands of free and real-money slots, the prestige of a brand like Star Trek helps a slot to stand out. Skywind’s The Next Generation uses real images lifted from the series, including visuals of Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard. Other sci-fi slots include releases inspired by RoboCop and Terminator – if Dune is to match the fame of these franchises, it will need a presence in the worlds of slots and video gaming.

 

Parodies

Being the subject of parodies can be a reflection of success. Galaxy Quest and Spaceballs paid homage to the sci-fi genre, leaning heavily on Star Trek and Star Wars respectively. Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons are among those to parody Star Trek, while Family Guy retold the entire original Star Wars trilogy. If Dune can become worthy of parody for the right reasons, it can solidify its fame and generate a stronger affinity from fans. 

Right now, the story of Dune is not well known enough among casual sci-fi fans to justify parodies. That will all change when the first part of the film adaptation hits movie theaters. There is no doubting the epic nature of Herbert’s narrative, given the book’s long-standing appeal and its influence on the sci-fi industry. Villeneuve’s movies should give us a new name to place alongside Star Wars and Star Trek in the pantheon of great sci-fi franchises. 

Ian Cullen is the founder of scifipulse.net and has been a fan of science fiction and fantasy from birth. In the past few years he has written for 'Star Trek' Magazine as well as interviewed numerous comics writers, television producers and actors for the SFP-NOW podcast at: www.scifipulseradio.com When he is not writing for scifipulse.net Ian enjoys playing his guitar, studying music, watching movies and reading his comics. Ian is both the founder and owner of scifipulse.net You can contact ian at: ian@scifipulse.net
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