DUNE proves that the book is NOT important for the spectacle, and the director’s cut won’t change that

The director of “Dune” seems to be saying between the lines “screw the book, screw the director’s cut—trust my vision.”

Jakub Piwoński

9 March 2024


As the sandy dust settles after the premiere of the second part of Dune and one can finally breathe freely, it’s a good moment to take a look at the spectacle from a slight distance. First and foremost, it’s appropriate to openly discuss the film in the context of its box office success, which has become a reality. The $80 million opening figure is impressive, and it will surely get even better when the worldwide results are tallied. So, one can draw the conclusion—we were curious about this film, we went to see it in droves, and apparently, everyone liked it. Well, maybe not everyone.

The discontent under the banner of “book vs. movie” – time to start!

I myself have made several critical remarks about the film. We are not dealing with a flawless spectacle here. However, I have had several discussions after sharing my thoughts, and what I noticed was that the criticism of the film mainly revolves around the fact that it loosely (to put it mildly) adheres to the book material. Moreover, critical comments about my text also revolved around the notion that “he didn’t read the books—so why bother?” I decided to respond. I must admit that I am already tired of discussing why the film is not the book and that the existence of differences between the vision hidden in the letters and that presented in the live image is something natural because the differences between the two media, based on completely different methods of impact, are entirely natural.

I could end on this conclusion, but I will use the occasion of Dune to address this issue once again. Here we go again—so.


I recently spoke with a certain journalist (whom I highly respect, by the way), who, after seeing the second part of Dune, openly said that—quoting—”Denis Villeneuve butchered this book.” End quote. I will add that the journalist is a huge fan of Frank Herbert’s work, having read the first Dune book, I don’t remember the number, but one could say multiple times. Just as he openly criticized the film, through this text, I would like to openly disagree with him and at the same time address the suggestion that Villeneuve should have been much more scrupulous when writing the screenplay and transferred many more book plots to the screen. Well, no, he shouldn’t have.

However, the conclusion of this conversation is significant, as the interlocutor admitted that he believes it is possible to make a good adaptation of the book and cited The Lord of the Rings as an example. I don’t deny that it’s a great film, but let’s consider—is it also a good adaptation? What happened to Tom Bombadil, does anyone know? In other words, what is the difference between the butcher Peter Jackson, whose head must have hurt a lot during the writing of the screenplay and later editing, and who is now presented as an exemplary adapter, and Denis Villeneuve, whose head hurt no less, but who nevertheless presented a captivating spectacle before our eyes?

If the second Dune has problems, they have nothing to do with the director not sticking to the book. The tone of Chani’s character was changed, which in my opinion and the opinion of others was a misguided idea. However, I would like to emphasize that I am not expressing this opinion as a Herbert fanatic who pounces on any discrepancies between the film and the book to shoot arrows in their direction. Chani played by Zendaya is simply damn annoying, intrusive, and disrupts the main character’s demeanor. Period. The ending of the film is also problematic due to the imposed pace; if we have read the book, we know that this space could have been managed differently, but the attention to the quality of this sequence is mainly based on the cinematic impression.

Because a film is a film, and a book is a book. The principle, which can also be applied to other media (games, comics), may sound banal, but it makes a lot of sense.


During the screening, I was reminded that the book clearly suggested Baron Harkonnen’s homosexual tendencies. And what? And nothing, the director didn’t use it, but he could have. Is it a problem? It turns out that this absence in no way ruins our perception of the baron, a character repellent enough. Discussions about what was lacking here or there (for example, the birth of Paul’s sister), that there was too little of this and too much of that, can go on indefinitely, but—in my opinion—they are barren. The key word in this case is interpretation—everyone has their own, and even more so the artist.

Let’s consider that Dune has long been treated as a book that couldn’t be adapted to the screen. We remember the controversies surrounding David Lynch’s vision, its unfinished nature. We also remember Jodorowsky’s unfulfilled dreams. Villeneuve, however, found a way to bring Herbert’s thoughts to the screen, and he wouldn’t have succeeded if he hadn’t known how to cut like the best butcher. Generally, I believe that this is what art is about. To know how to separate the inedible parts and leave only the meat for the viewer. And being an artist is burdened with the ability to renounce—few know that it is precisely dissatisfaction that works better in the viewer than satiety.

Let’s talk about discrepancies regarding the literary basis of Blade Runner. After all, Scott based himself loosely on Dick’s book, but no one reminds him of that after all these years. Or 2001: A Space Odyssey. Does anyone today care that Kubrick didn’t stick meticulously to Arthur C. Clarke’s work? Or, being a fan of H.G. Wells’s work, who, despite all his visionary ideas, wrote his novels in a specific time period, should I resent Spielberg for modernizing the action in War of the Worlds instead of setting it at the beginning of the 20th century? This leads to nothing constructive, and yet these are just a few examples from the background of the science fiction genre.


Why bother with these discrepancies instead of simply opening up to a new interpretation, freeing oneself from all habits and emotional ties to the original? I encourage you to do so. For example, Jackson convinced me of Tolkien, and Villeneuve convinced me of Herbert, although… I read their books before seeing them on the big screen. Would you call me ignorant? Or maybe I just like to rely on those who want to use a sieve to present before my eyes what works best within the language of film? Do you think you are better at this selection? Think again.

The so-called director’s cut of the film provides an opportunity—a creation that is released alongside the work originally submitted to cinemas, often cut not so much by the creator himself, but by producers. Ridley Scott knows something about it because it best reflects the path that Blade Runner went through. Denis Villeneuve could take advantage of the loophole that is the director’s cut of the film, in which the film would last over three hours instead of two hours and forty minutes and would contain all the scenes originally cut during editing, surely pleasing fans of the book. However, as can be inferred from the director’s statements, he will not take advantage of this opportunity. Why? Because he deeply believes in what I also believe, that what was cut during editing is dead, and bringing

it back to life evokes thoughts of stitching together Frankenstein’s monster.

The director seems to be saying between the lines “screw the book, screw the director’s cut—trust my vision.”

And this time I have to give the creator a high five. His choices were difficult when adapting Herbert’s work, and I would like to give him credit for managing to show on the big screen what fascinated us for decades in the reading—even if he often had to take shortcuts. Praise is also due for the fact that the creator is consistent in his (sometimes dubious) choices. This fact, in my eyes, makes him a true blockbuster artist.

Jakub Piwoński

Jakub Piwoński

Cultural expert, passionate about popular culture, in particular films, series, computer games and comics. He likes to fly away to unknown, fantastic regions, thanks to his fascination with science fiction. Professionally, however, he looks back more often, thanks to his work as a museum promotion specialist, investigating the mysteries of the beginnings of cinematography. His favorite film is "The Matrix", because it combines two areas close to his heart - religion and martial arts.

See other posts from this author >>>