Is 'Dune' Destined to Become the Next Great Film Franchise?

dune franchise mobile
Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures

Whether your local arthouse or indie film buff will admit it or not, franchises have long been the backbone of the movie industry. They are the primary moneymakers for studios. If something has the potential to become the next 'Marvel Cinematic Universe,' you better believe those movie executives will jump at the chance to emulate Disney's success.

To a degree, those film snobs are correct, though. There is an oversaturation of blockbuster film franchises; from Marvel to the Fast & Furious series, it seems as if there is always one of these serialized movies on screen at any given time. Some would say it is a recent phenomenon, but the fact is that this has been the case for decades. One need only look back to the James Bond and Planet of the Apes franchises to see that the film industry has seen enormous success since the 1960s, thanks to big-budget behemoths.

Dune, the 2021 adaptation of Frank Herbert's novel of the same name, is the latest entry that could potentially be the next big earner for studios. With a star-studded cast led by Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya, Dune was recently released with mostly positive reviews, solid box office success, as well as strong viewing numbers on the HBO Max streaming service.

After a brief period of uncertainty about whether or not the movie would get a part two, Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures officially greenlit a sequel last week.

Following the first entry in the series, Dune, there are five books written by Herbert and 20 other books composed by Herbert's son Brian Kevin J. Anderson. With that knowledge, there is certainly no shortage of source material for filmmakers to draw from if they choose to make more movies or TV series beyond Dune: Part Two.

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Warner Bros./Legendary

Set thousands of years in humanity's future, we have long escaped the confines of planet Earth thanks to the development of faster than light travel. Society has established colonies on various worlds across the galaxy, which are mainly controlled by a central empire known as the Imperium.

Ruling over the planets are several great houses, including the Atreides, Harkonnens, and Corinos. In addition, a religious group known as the Bene Gesserit seeks to control and influence the direction humanity takes in the future.

At the center of the first film and book is the planet Arrakis, the galaxy's leading supplier of a resource called melange, or "spice," that gives humans enhanced abilities such as increased mental capacity. In the world of Dune, computers and artificial intelligence have been outlawed, and in their place are the Mentats, people that use melange to function as "human machines."

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Warner Bros./Legendary

With a stellar first entry into the film franchise, a novel that has been touted as one of, if not the best sci-fi novel of all time, and lore that has plenty to draw from, that begs the question: Why isn't this a franchise already?

Writing for The New Yorker almost ten years ago, Jon Michaud asked the same question. And despite the lack of a level of fandom and obsession that equals say Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, the themes and legacy of Dune remain all the more prevalent.

Michaud said:

"The conversion of Dune into a franchise, while pleasing readers and earning royalties for the Herbert estate, has gone a long way toward obscuring the power of the original novel. (I gave up after the fourth installment, God Emperor of Dune.) With daily reminders of the intensifying effects of global warming, the specter of a worldwide water shortage, and continued political upheaval in the oil-rich Middle East, it is possible that Dune is even more relevant now than when it was first published."

While political and religious allegories might not be the first thing to consider when establishing blockbuster movie franchises, they do lay an interesting foundation for how Dune could set itself apart from its contemporaries. Marvel and Star Wars are no strangers to real-world metaphors (the theme of government surveillance and oversight in Captain America: The Winter Soldier comes to mind), it is obvious that most of these movies are focused on the action first.

Perhaps it is here that Dune steps in. It's clear the franchise aims to bring a more serious tone to the traditional blockbuster, thanks in no small part to Denis Villeneuve's style of directing. A movie like this that takes itself seriously is nothing new, but it is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise crowded marketplace.

It's no secret that the Star Wars franchise was inspired heavily by Dune. The concept of religion and its potential to permeate every layer of society, influencing those in control, and directing the path forward is present in both works.

So, if Star Wars can become the titan of pop culture that it is today, why can't the same be said for Dune?

Will it become as big as Star Wars? No.

Will it earn as much money as the Marvel films? No.

But there is no reason why Dune should not be able to carve out its own piece of pop culture pie, and if that is its destiny then I'm certainly ready for it.

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