The big-screen Dune reboot is on the way — but wait, there’s more.
The film’s director Denis Villeneuve has signed on to helm Dune: The Sisterhood, a series set in the same universe, which has received a direct-to-series order from streamer WarnerMedia. (via Variety)
The surprising move comes as production on Villeneuve’s cinematic version of Frank Herbert’s iconic 1965 novel is in full swing. WarnerMedia’s series will focus on the Bene Gesserit, a mysterious all-female order whose deft navigation of the politics and inner workings of the Imperium — the all-encompassing empire at the heart of the novel — will lead them to the planet Arrakis, where much of the book’s action takes place.
Villeneuve is nothing if not committed to the material. His big-screen version of Dune is a massive undertaking, telling a story so dense — and set in a world so detailed — that it will take two films to cover the events of Herbert’s novel. Although Variety‘s report didn’t come out and state that the series will tie into the project, this is virtually a foregone conclusion considering that Jon Spaihts (Doctor Strange), who co-wrote the screenplays for the movies with Villeneuve and Eric Roth, will handle scripting duties on the series. So far, there’s no word on whether the series will seek to bring any of the acting talent from Villeneuve’s films on board.
In yet another example of the synergy surrounding the director’s Dune world, Legendary Television — the TV arm of Legendary Pictures, which is producing the films — will field the series. While no time frame has been announced for the show’s production, the first of the films is slated to hit theaters on November 20, 2020 — so the smart money is on WarnerMedia dropping the series right around that same time.
Villeneuve’s decision to focus the series on the Bene Gesserit is an intriguing one. In the novel, the members of the order — who all hold the official title “Reverend Mother” within the organization — are described by the Princess Irulan in one of the writings that serve as the book’s narration. “The Reverend Mother must combine the seductive wiles of a courtesan with the untouchable majesty of a virgin goddess, holding these attributes in tension so long as the powers of her youth endure,” the passage reads. “For when youth and beauty have gone, she will find that the place-between, once occupied by tension, has become a wellspring of cunning and resourcefulness.”
In a statement, Villeneuve alluded to the growing (and welcome) trend of diversity in genre fare as an influence on the series’ creation. “The Bene Gesserit have always been fascinating to me,” the director said. “Focusing a series around that powerful order of women seemed not only relevant and inspiring, but a dynamic setting for the television series.”
WarnerMedia faces a bit of an uphill climb in attracting a significant subscriber base, since its subscription fee — $17 per month — is quite a bit pricier than comparable services. The streamer will boast content from HBO and DC (which may be one of the factors leading to the possible extinction of the DC Universe streamer) as well as popular TV series like Friends and blockbuster flicks such as the Lord of the Rings series. But so far, there has been very little noise about original productions in the works for the streamer — and a property with such a large and dedicated fan base as Dune could be just what the doctor ordered, especially if the feature films deliver.
Of course, the material has proven notoriously difficult to adapt. David Lynch’s 1984 feature Dune was widely and deservedly pounded by critics and fans alike, and a 2000 SyFy miniseries adaptation — while better-received — was seen as being just a touch too ambitious for the cabler.
But if anybody can get a handle on the novel’s wildly complex narrative, it’s Villeneuve. The director has come to specialize in sci-fi works that successfully grapple with weighty themes and ideas of the type that aren’t easily broken down into two-sentence synopses. Cases in point: 2016’s Arrival, a brilliant picture for which Villenueve was nominated for a directing Oscar, and 2017’s Blade Runner 2049, which took home a pair of statues for its cinematography and visual effects.
Fans of Herbert’s novel (and his five, count ’em, five sequels) have every reason to believe that the property is in excellent hands. The movies are set to star Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name), Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible: Fallout), Oscar Isaac (Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi), Josh Brolin (Avengers: Endgame), Stellan Skarsgård (who portrays Thor’s scientist buddy Erik Selvig in the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe), and Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy).
Considering that the first big-screen offering is knee-deep in production, it may be awhile before we get any casting news for Dune: The Sisterhood. But we’ll be keeping both ears to the ground, and we’ll fill you in as soon as there’s breaking news.