The Better Adaptation: A Dune Movie or A Mini-Series

paul-atreides With the news that Legendary Entertainment has acquired the rights to make a new movie based on Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction novel Dune, there has been much speculation as to how this new adaption will be done. Dune has been adapted twice before. Once as a feature film by David Lynch in 1984, and later in 2000 as a TV mini series on the Sci-Fi Channel. Both projects had positive and negative aspects that fans continue to debate. Lynch’s film had the grand and epic feel of the novel, but also added new features to the story that were not in the original(ex: the weirding modules). The Sci-Fi mini series was more faithful to the book since it had more time to adapt the story, but suffered from a limited TV budget, and the look and feel of the set pieces and costumes were not at the same level as the movie.
dune-mini-seriesThis brings to mind the question of what new adaption should be done by Legendary Entertainment. In terms of adapting just the first Dune novel, a big budget, multi-part movie series similar to The Lord Of The Rings is something I think would be great. The story itself is very complex and needs many hours to tell. Trying to squeeze it into a single tow-or three-hour movie will inevitably lead to significant reductions in the many layers Herbert’s story has to offer. This is exactly what plagued Lynch’s version. He got the basics right, but was still unable to touch on many plot points and had to condense everything. The book itself is divided into 3three parts which would fit nicely into a trilogy of films that can do the whole thing justice. All of the plots and schemes of the various feuding houses and galactic intrigue can be explored, as well as the hero Paul Atriedes’ journey from merely a ducal heir to a full blown messiah. Having all of this with a big budget would seem to merge the positive aspects of the previous movie and the miniseries, plenty of time to tell the story and the resources to create Frank Herbert’s rich and diverse universe.

god-emperor-of-dune-coverHaving said that, if Legendary was feeling bold, they could attempt to adapt the entire original Dune Chronicles, which includes six books. If this was the case, then the only way to do this would be a Game of Thrones-style show hopefully on a cable network like HBO or Showtime. Books two and three (Dune Messiah and Children of Dune) were adapted by the Sci-Fi Channel in 2003 and was well done. Unfortunately, the other books were not adapted and the story came to an abrupt end just as it was getting good. The fourth novel God Emperor of Dune takes place 3,500 years after the original book and features Paul Atriedes’ son Leto II still alive due to his body merging with the desert planet’s massive worms. Subsequent novels take place thousands of years after this book and feature warring factions of matriarchal institutions and more galactic politics and intrigue. All of this would be very difficult to adapt in any meaningful way in theatrical films. Only the long commitment of an ongoing TV series could hope to truly bring all of these fantastic tales to life.

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Legendary Entertainment has a rich portfolio of films under its belt (Godzilla, Pacific Rim) and the fact that they are now in charge of the Dune franchise is definitely a positive development. The fact that talented director Denis Villeneuve wants to take on the task of making a Dune film is also a very good sign. He directed the well received sci-fi film Arrival and was entrusted with directing this year’s Blade Runner 2049. This shows me he has the skill to develop high-quality genre films. Hopefully, whatever they decide to do, it will be something that will do justice to Frank Herbert’s epic tale.
C.S. Link

The Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2017 & More

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By looking at the 2017 films coming out, it’s clear that we fans are in a golden age of genre films. There are many sci-fi, superhero, fantasy, animated and horror films coming out this year that are quite tantalizing. These are the most promising looking of the bunch. However, it’s a guarantee that some of the films on this list will be colossal disappointments while there will be films that weren’t even mentioned that will defy low expectations. With that said, let’s look at the coming 2017 films; remember the release dates are still subject to change.

10. Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7): Marvel Comics’ flagship superhero has his first solo film in the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  Fingers crossed that this Spider-Man reboot will resonate.

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9. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21): Director Luc Besson’s adaptation of the French space opera comic book looks as colorful as its printed counterpart. Based on this teaser, Besson’s directorial eye for the grandiose and colorful could augment this film and prove that space opera films are back.

8. Kong: Skull Island (March 10): King Kong returns to the big screen and we can’t wait to see the gigantic ape on a rampage as pesky folks arrive on his island. We’re also eager to see the big fight scenes between Kong and prehistoric beasts and oversized animals.

7. Wonder Woman (June 2): Frankly, after the mixed results of last year’s Extended Universe (DCEU) films, DC and Warner Bros. need a DCEU film to hit it out of the ballpark. With Patty Jenkins directing and Gal Gadot starring as the Amazonian superheroine, perhaps this will be the one.

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6. Justice League (Nov 17): The only reason why this DCEU film is more anticipated than Wonder Woman is because of its potentially epic nature. The major players in the DC universe team up for the first time…can director Zack Snyder pull this off and turn the film into the DCEU version of The Avengers?

5. Blade Runner 2049 (Oct. 6): The teaser released last month wasn’t the most captivating trailer. But this long-awaited sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic is being directed by Denis Villeneuve, the next hot genre director, who directed last year’s acclaimed Arrival. His visual flair should be a good match for this film.

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4. Logan (March 3): Hugh Jackman’s swan song as everyone’s favorite mutant looks like it will be a fitting conclusion to Wolverine’s saga. Taking place in the near future, Logan is now older, battered and bitter but still up for one final fight against the forces of evil.  The trailer promised a film full of woe, violence and reflective character moments, hopefully that will be the case when Logan finally premieres.

3. War For the Planet of the Apes (July 14): The third film in the reboot/prequel Apes trilogy looks just as spectacular and provocative as the first two films in the series. Andy Serkis returns to mo-cap Caesar the ape leader defending his kind against antogonistic humans. The winner of the conflict will inherit the battered Earth. We know who wins (it’s not called Planet of the Apes for no reason!), but getting to the conclusion is half the joy of these recent Apes films.

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2. Star Wars Episode VIII (Dec. 15):  No subtitle, footage or even a publicity photo are available at this time, yet the episode number is enough to get many of us excited. The next saga film will feature the further adventures of new Star Wars heroes like Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron, as well as old favorites like Luke Skywalker and General Leia. While many questions will be answered about the characters and situation, hopefully Episode VIII won’t emulate Star Wars: The Force Awakens and be a rethread of previous films.

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1. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (May 5): The eagerly anticipated sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy looks like a blast as director James Gunn and the original cast return to play the MCU’s beloved and whacky space pirates. This time around Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord meets his father who is Ego, the Living Planet and played by genre legend Kurt Russell! What’s been shone so far of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2  with the too-cute Baby Groot, Quill and Drax’s hysterical interplays and space opera visuals promises the same dazzling action, thrills, and comedy that the original delivered back in 2014 and won many fans’ hearts. BTW, can’t wait to buy the Baby Groot toys!

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Other Films: The Space Between Us (Feb. 3), a Martian teen comes to Earth, finds love, goes on the run, perfect for tweenies, The Lego Batman Movie (Feb. 10), after his scene stealing antics in The Lego Movie, the Caped Crusader gets his own solo film, Beauty and the Beast (March 17), Disney looks to extend its winning live-action adaptation streak with this one about the animated classic, Life (March 24), astronauts aboard the International Space Station discover alien life, what can go wrong?  Power Rangers (Mar. 24), well there are fans of this property and it looks better than Transformers: The Last Knight!

alien-covenantGhost in the Shell (Mar. 31), Scarlett Johansson stars in the live-action version of the manga franchise,  The Circle (April 28), Tom Hanks and Emma Watson headline a star-studded cast in this film about a nefarious Internet company with futuristic technology,  Alien: Covenant (May 19), Ridley Scott returns to the Alien universe with this horror-themed prequel,  The Mummy (June 9), Tom Cruise stars in this horror/action remake which hopes to launch Universal Pictures’ shared monster universe films.

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 The Dark Tower (July 28), Stephen King’s epic saga about a mythical gunman finally comes to life, It (Sept. 8), is another Stephen King adaptation of his epic horror classic featuring Pennywise the killer clown,  Geostorm (Oct. 20), producer Dean Devlin makes his directorial debut in this action piece about weather controlling satellites, God Particle (Oct. 27), interest in this film went up after it was revealed to be the third film in the Cloverfield film series, Thor: Ragnarok (Nov. 3): the third solo film for the MCU’s God of Thunder will actually be a buddy flick as Thor teams up with the Hulk to fight the forces of evil, Coco (Nov 22), this Pixar entry about a magic guitar and the world of the dead sounds unique.

José Soto

 

Top 10 Films and TV Shows of 2016

For 2016, superheroes continue to reign in film and TV, while other genres like sci-fi, fantasy, horror and related combos offered refreshing alternatives. Many of the best films and TV shows on this list were very profound and pushed the envelope, while others were just plain fun to watch.

Films

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10. 10 Cloverfield Lane: The spiritual sequel to Cloverfield was a tense and suspenseful thriller with a great performance by John Goodman as a doomsday prepper.

xsuicideTIE: 9. Suicide Squad/X-Men: Apocalypse: Despite their flaws both superhero (and supervillain) films were enjoyable romps with unforgettable characters (Harley Quinn, the Joker, Deadshot, Magneto, Quicksilver, and more) and eye popping action-packed moments.

8. Doctor Strange: With the big-screen debut of Marvel Comics’ Sorcerer Supreme the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to remind us why their superhero films are currently the best of the crop compared to Fox’s X-Men Universe films (Deadpool aside, of course) and the DC Extended Universe movies.

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7. Zootopia: The best animated film of the year dazzled us with eye raising animation and a clever script that highlighted important social messages about tolerance and prejudice.

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6. Star Trek: Beyond: The film’s back-to-basics approach with Star Trek’s iconic characters paid proper homage to the TV show while having a genuine adventurous tone.

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5. The Jungle Book: Even though the CG-created animals and environment were flawless and stunning, the film to its merit emphasized story and characters, which left a bigger impression.

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4. Deadpool: As a faithful adaptation of the irrelevant and violent comic book, Deadpool proves that it’s possible to be true to comic book source material and still be an entertaining film.

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3. Arrival: A provocative, well-acted and beautifully shot film about first contact with aliens smartly emphasized the communications hurdles humanity would face. The film’s ending was a true surprise and was just one of Arrival’s highlights.

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2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: The first Star Wars spinoff not only neatly ties in with Episode IV but is a great and exciting film in its own right with more nuanced characters and situations than seen in a typical Star Wars film.

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1. Captain America: Civil War: The Avengers are torn apart from within as Captain America and Iron Man philosophically, then violently disagreed over allowing the government to supervise their team. Featuring strong performances and the best superhero fight scenes ever filmed, the film was an emotional ride for viewers.

TV Shows

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10. Ash Vs Evil Dead: Grossly fun and action-packed as everyone’s favorite deadite fighter Ash Williams and his gang continue delighting horror fans.

redhats invade9. Colony: Unexpectedly well done look at life under alien domination and that “big, beautiful wall” separating American cities is a chilling portent of what lies ahead.12 Monkeys Cole time travels8. 12 Monkeys: Of the many time travel themed TV shows out there, this is the best of them as many episodes explored the convoluted nature of time travel.

dareflashTIE: 7. The Flash/Daredevil: The two best superhero TV shows were on the opposite ends of the tonal spectrum. The Flash is pure Silver Age awesomeness, while Daredevil reflects a more gritty and grounded mood, especially with the introduction of the brutal vigilante, the Punisher. Both shows  featured intense and enjoyable comic book adventures thanks to well written scripts and engaging lead actors, plus supporting characters/actors.

6. The Walking Dead: The megahit series about brutal life after the undead destroy civilization has  hit a creative wall and is past its peak according to many fans. Yet, for the most part The Walking Dead is still delivering more than adequate thrills, gross out moments and entertainment, even if the show went to far in Negan’s introduction and certain character deaths.

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5. Black Mirror: A dark anthology series about the downside of technology offered many disquieting episodes about technology’s impact in our lives today and tomorrow.

El confronts monster Stranger Things4. Stranger Things: A wonderful ode to ’80s sci-fi movies featured terrific child performances, geeky Easter eggs and an intriguing mystery revolving around a missing child and an interdimensional monster.

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3. The Expanse: This well-crafted series about a brewing war among human colonies in our solar system during the next century could wind up being the next great TV space opera.

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2. Westworld: HBO’s potential successor to Game of Thrones went way beyond the original Michael Crichton movie about theme park robots running amok by presenting a thought-provoking series about existentialism and ethics.

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1. Game of Thrones: Even though the fantasy series is drawing to a close, the sprawling epic continues to captivate viewers with its visceral tale of power struggles among kingdoms. One of the highlights was the epic episode  “Battle of the Bastards” that put rival films to shame with its gut wrenching fight scenes.

 

Carrie Fisher Passes Away As She Leaves a Legacy In The Stars

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Unfortunately, 2016 is not done with taking away another beloved celebrity. This time, the passing of Carrie Fisher is hitting genre fans directly being given her genre creds in Star Wars.

princess-leiaFisher was truly a trailblazer in her role as Princess Leia Organa in the very first Star Wars film 39 years ago in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. These days it may be easy to overlook Leia’s (and Fisher’s) influence not just in the world of science fiction but in popular culture. As the spunky and strong-willed princess from the planet Alderaan, Leia defied the stereotype of a hapless damsel in distress. Although she was held prisoner onboard the Death Star for most of the film, from the start she was someone who could stand up to Darth Vader. In future Star Wars films she more than held her own with her male co-stars and proved beyond a doubt that she was a strong woman while being kind and gentle during special moments. Undoubtedly, Leia as portrayed by Fisher paved the way for other legendary women in science fiction like Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor, and much more.

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Of course, Fisher showed different facets of Leia (as well as iconic hairdos and outfits) in other Star Wars films, especially a more romantic (The Empire Strikes Back) and even sexier side (Return of the Jedi). We last saw the former princess as a military leader in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Fisher will appear for a final time as Leia in the upcoming Star Wars Episode VIII. What will happen to the character for the unfilmed Episode IX is anyone’s guess but most likely she will be written out of the film. Even though Rogue One: A Star Wars Story showed that it is possible to digitally recreate the character using the actress’ likeness it may be seen as poor taste given her recent passing.

Outside of Star Wars, Carrie Fisher struggled with fame and postcardshad problems with drugs and having a bipolar disorder. But she channeled the pain from those experiences to write several well received fiction and non-fiction books, the most famous one being Postcards From the Edge. She also appeared in many other films like The Blues Brothers, When Harry Met Sally…, and The ‘Burbs. She also wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of Postcards From the Edge and contributed to other screenplays like Hook, Last Action Hero and even the Star Wars prequels. Before she died, Fisher was returning from a book tour promoting her latest book, The Princess Diarist, which was a memoir of her time filming the original Star Wars films. As we all know, during her flight home to California, she suffered a cardiac arrest and sadly never recovered. Her passing away hits many home given her relatively young age (60) and her resurgent fame with the renewed interest in Star Wars. Even though Carrie Fisher is no longer with us we can and must still celebrate her contributions to sci-fi and pop culture, which will always be there.

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On the whole, the tragic passing away of too many people this year, whether famous or personal, reminds us to cherish them and their contributions to our lives as we continue on our journeys.

José Soto

Rogue One: The Most Pivotal Star Wars Film To Date

star-wars-rogue-one-characters-names-vehicles The very first Star Wars spinoff film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is scoring big in theaters and with audiences. Despite its faults, the film is a rollicking success not just in terms of box office dollars but for its many merits. This is critically important considering that a lot was riding on this particular Star Wars film that many do not realize, at first.

Of course, with its Star Wars credentials Rogue One was bound to open huge and have its own core fan base. The question before it premiered was would it not just resonate with fans, but establish its own identity without relying (for the most part) on the central tenets of a Star Wars film: the Skywalker clan, Jedi and Sith, lightsaber duels and some overreaching multi-film storyline. Rogue One is largely self-contained with its main characters making their only appearance in a Star Wars film. So no, you won’t see Jyn Erso or K2S0 popping up in future films. That is a huge gamble for the Star Wars juggernaut since this limits its marketing potential, at least with some narrow-sighted marketing heads.

Pushing The Envelope

Furthermore, as those who have seen the film will agree, this isn’t a typical Star Wars film. There isn’t an opening crawl, the film’s tone is distinctly more mature and feels more like a war film with actual consequences and has many characters with shades of grey. Honestly, this was to the film’s benefit because this shift in tone helped set it apart from Star Wars and pushed the envelope for what can be done with Star Wars in general. At the same time, it is clearly a part of the established Star Wars lore and serves as an important link not just to the Prequel and Original Trilogies but to the animated TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels. Doing this last linkage now establishes both TV series as part of official canon.

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Storywise, the events in this film were extremely critical to the Star Wars universe. Think about it, the main story is about Rebel spies trying desperately to steal the plans to the Death Star. If they failed there would not be A New Hope. C-3P0 and R2-D2 would never have fallen into the hands of Luke Skywalker. He would never have destroyed the infernal Death Star and set off events leading to the Galactic Empire’s demise.

For these reasons, Rogue One was a huge test, a proving ground, for the Star Wars film franchise. erso-andor-and-droidBeing that it is the first spinoff that is quasi-independent of the “Saga” trilogies, there was a question if audiences and fans would accept it. If it failed either in ticket sales or not have excellent word of mouth, the fate of future Star Wars spinoffs would be in question. Of course, Lucasfilm would not abandon the spinoffs altogether, but the film studio might have only concentrated their spinoffs on established characters like Han Solo. The fact that the swashbuckling space pirate is the focus of the next Star Wars spinoffs is evidence that Lucasfilm was hedging its bet and planned on playing it safe in case Rogue One faltered.

Thankfully, Rogue One is a hit, partly because it did not play it safe while at the same time it took advantage of the rich Star Wars backstory. It’s the same formula that worked for the Star Trek spinoffs. The first one, Star Trek: The Next Generation, followed the same premise, a starship exploring the unknown except with new characters. Its success allowed for future spinoffs to try different tones, plots and characters, the best example being Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

What Lies Ahead

Now that Rogue One has proven that a Star Wars film doesn’t have to rely on established tenets to tell a riveting story that resonates with fans, what other stories can be told? After the Han Solo prequel, there is rumor that an overdue Obi-Wan Kenobi spinoff will follow and at one time a Boba Fett film nearly went into production before its assigned director Josh Trank blacklisted himself with his dismal Fant4stic debacle.

dash-rendarThose films sound intriguing since they’re about popular and intriguing characters with the potential to carry their own films. However, Lucasfilm should take heed of Rogue One’s success and tell stories with new characters and situations. Or adapt popular ideas from other media. Live-action versions of Knights of the Old Republic or Shadows of the Empire would make terrific films. Perhaps, as C.S. Link suggested in his Rogue One: A Star Wars Story review, a film taking place in between Episode IV and V could be done. This concept of filling in the gaps between films or trilogies can be done with several films and there are many questions about what happened after Return of the Jedi and before The Force Awakens that are worth exploring.

rogue-one-on-the-beachRogue One: A Star Wars Story has opened up many possibilities in future Star Wars films. It passed the hurdle of not relying on classic characters and situations to tell a compelling story. And it liberally and skillfully took elements from other films and TV shows without overdoing it or aping the same story beats and characters. This is why Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the most pivotal Star Wars film for now.

José Soto