Legendary Entertainment’s Acquisition of ‘Dune’ is Great News for Fans

Dec 6, 2016 | Insights

The cover for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s fabled “Dune Bible,” which contained essentially his entire vision for the film down to the most minute detail, largely as storyboarded by the late Jean “Moebius” Giraud, and written by Jodorowsky.

During what no one would describe as a slow news period, Legendary Entertainment’s acquisition of the rights to Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, Dune has proved to be a newsworthy event.

Many speculate that Legendary’s plans for the property come with an adjacent ambition to create from it a multimedia universe, reminiscent of Disney’s enormously successful efforts with Marvel (and their valiant work at repeating that success with Star Wars).

— — — — — — — — —

Time for a commercial break…

TO THE CURIOUS AND FIRST TIME VISITOR WONDERING WHO WE ARE: We are StatSocial. Hello. We measure and provide statistics regarding social media audiences. From basic demographic info, to affinities, job titles, personalities, and much more. A wealth of essential, otherwise unavailable insight, on nearly any audience you can imagine, is available to our clients. Check out the links at this entry’s bottom, and be sure to go to StatSocial for more insight.

Now we resume our regularly scheduled programming…

— — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Whatever Legendary’s larger intentions, so long as the actual Dune canon is finally brought to the screen in a quality and serious manner, true to Frank Herbert’s magnificent books, millions of fans the world over will be delighted. Many have long believed the books deserved a treatment akin to what Peter Jackson did with Tolkien’s works.

Given its scope, breadth, vast array of characters, and relative complexity, a Game of Thrones type TV series might be ideal. The story has more than enough soap opera intrigue to bring in non-sci-fi fans, while being an intellectually, and even spiritually, stirring tale . A program that treats the source material with the same seriousness that Thrones does the A Song of Fire and Ice books would be a dream come true, I think, for every Dune fan

Frank Herbert himself wrote six Dune novels, the titles of which often give away the ending of the novel preceding it, so — with spoiler alerts taken for granted — they are Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune. The sixth novel tied up many of the ongoing saga’s threads, while also ending on a cliffhanger.

The title and cover of 1981’s God Emperor of Dune are massive spoilers for those who’ve not read 1976’s Children of Dune. AVERT YOUR EYES! 

Sadly, Herbert suffered a massive and fatal pulmonary embolism after receiving surgery for pancreatic cancer in 1986, and that cliffhanger would remain unresolved. At least until recent years when — using notes apparently left behind by his father — Frank’s son Brian Herbert and author Kevin Anderson completed the series with 2006’s Hunters of Dune and 2008’s Sandworms of Dune.

These were the seventh and eighth Dune books written by the pair, however, having written two prequel trilogies Prelude to Dune and Legends of Dune — each consisting of three novels — in the late-90s and early-00s.

As with anything of this nature, both the quality and the canonicity of Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson’s books are the subjects of some debate among fans, with any Dune book not written by Frank Herbert simply regarded by many as apocryphal.

With Legendary’s ambitions being rumored to extend to screens both big and small, one has to wonder if any source material will go untapped, whatever its origins, should the franchise prove successful.

But while it would seem Legendary has purchased the whole kit and caboodle, we’re guessing that first and foremost they’re looking to perhaps do true cinematic — or perhaps even televisual — justice to Herbert’s Hugo and Nebula award winning original novel; a single book with as storied a cinematic history as any ever written.

The complex history of this property and the world of cinema has become the stuff of legend.

The property, you see, switched between a lot of hands over the decades. Notably, at different times and for years at a stretch, both in an era where large budget science-fiction films were not the easiest sell to distributors, to the post-Star Wars world where space operas were just what studios were looking for.

What’s so peculiar about Dune though, is that the property wound up — at different times — being developed for the screen by perhaps two of the most eccentric and enigmatic filmmakers to ever live, or at least surely to ever achieve mainstream success. Both of whom — in different ways — wound up crushed under the project’s weight.

— — — — -

ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY’S DUNE

First we’ll start with Alejandro Jodorowsky, the impossibly charismatic and energetic 87-year old Chilean born and raised, Polish and Ukrainian Jew, who has lived for decades in France (so a citizen of the world, really; one of many reasons — including that he simply doesn’t feel it’s terribly important — that you are welcome to pronounce his name however you please). He’s a filmmaker, a writer, a playwright, a poet, a comic book writer, a shaman, a composer, and basically just an individual of unbridled creativity and an undying dedication to the magical, mystical, and spiritual. For him life is truly an ongoing quest. Few of his sort have ever existed, and his cult extends from, say, director David Lynch (as one of Transcendental Meditation’s most outspoken proponents, a deeply spiritual man in his own right) who ultimately did bring a film version of Dune to the screen — which we’ll be getting to in a moment — to Mr Yeezy. Or, if you’re confused, I’m talking about Mr. Kardashian, Kanye West his-darned-self.

During an onstage declaration to a packed arena full of adoring fans, Mr. West (nightly, I believe, for the tour’s duration) cited Jodorowsky among those misunderstood visionaries with whom he was in league.

18-alejandro-jodorowsky-kanye-west-w1200-h630
L-R: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Kanye West. ‘Nuff Said.

Jodo’s diverse ethnic identity was made even more confusing to the film industry, as he made his first films in Mexico. This led many to believe he was Mexican early in his career. Eventually after achieving success and notoriety, he settled in Paris where he’s now lived for decades.

Jodorowsky’s top 10 social media influencers reflects his global citizen status, and also that his fans are interested in art and intellectual pursuits — at least in theory — more so than, say, science fiction.

In the highly unlikely event that you’re reading this blog, yet are unaware, a social media “influencer” is someone who has a good-sized following on social media and posts original content frequently. They can come from any and all worlds — be it art, business, knitting, or even those strange creatures who are famous on social media for being famous on social media, Often times the “influencer” will be someone who interacts with their audience directly, and even more often they’ll be someone whose content is shared with great frequency.

Now please allow us to explain the below chart quickly, and in turn explain most charts you’ll encounter navigating our sightly, clean and easy to use StatSocial web platform. The top percentage in the blue bar is the actual percentage of the social media audience in question — in this case Alejandro Jodorowsky’s fans — who are also fans of the corresponding line item. In this case, if we’re to go with the first result, that would be Alberto Montt — a Chilean cartoonist and illustrator best known for his web comic Dosis Diarias, With over 200k followers on Twitter alone, it seems that with the Spanish speaking audience he is quite popular. Our Spanish not being the greatest, we can’t vouch for the content of his comics. But they are graphically memorable.

The percentage contained in the grey bar is the average percentage of social media users who are fans of the corresponding line item. This average is the baseline we use for all of our calculations unless otherwise noted or requested. The average is also visually represented by the vertical dotted line, which you’ll note all the grey bars are flush with

Finally, the metric to the far right is the multiple metric. It quantifies to what degree the affinity among the social media audience being analyzed is in line with, exceeds, or falls short of the average. In this case — and this number is exceptionally high but Chile is not a big country and we are dealing with two very popular Chilean artists — Jodo’s fans are fans of Alberto Montt to a degree exceeding the average by 748 times.

Top 10 Social Media Influencers with Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Audience, by Multiple

jodo_influencers_by_multiple5

As we move on, we see Jodo’s list features world famous artists, including the extraordinary Ms. Ono, the widow of one of the men who helped bring Jodo to the masses. Some other Chilean artists of note pop up, as well as a controversial fashion photographer about whom the less we say the better. And perhaps most notably the list features a Chinese artist and political activist, and a Serbian performance artist, who are both currently about as famous as any “fine artists” on Earth.

One of the best films of 2014 was a documentary about Jodo’s time with the Dune property. While The Holy Mountain may be his masterpiece (we get into that below), Dune was the film destined to supplant it, and were it not for his exceptional spirit and an optimism that refuses to be extinguished, it could have instead very easily become his white whale.

The documentary details straightforwardly Jodo’s fearless and utterly insane vision, the team of creative geniuses he assembled — — Jean “Moebius” Giraud, H.R. Giger, Chris Foss, Dan O’Bannon, and many others who wound up being plundered for, or simply going off on their own and creating, nearly every science fiction blockbuster that followed in the next decade. But Jodo’s own extraordinary, would-be masterpiece had the budget to be made, but it lacked the distribution commitment from the United States that was necessary to ensure the film could make its money back. Without that distribution — Jodo estimates, 1,000 screens minimum, were necessary, and in the early 70s no film got that, frankly — the film simply had no hope of recouping.

And just like that, after years of 24/7 work from a group of mad geniuses, collaborating in a Paris office space tirelessly, the film — Jodo’s “cinematic God” — was dead.

Jodo (an affectionate nickname frequently used) first made his name in the states with what many contend is the true original “Midnight Movie,” the avant-garde, existentialist western, El Topo (seen touted here from an early-70s Times Square marquee).

2146638375_fb549ed776

In 1969, Chelsea New York’s long defunct Elgin Theater decided to engage with risk, seizing the attentions of the denizens of what was in those days still very much a city that didn’t sleep. The already rapidly developing cult audience, and ever-growing buzz, surrounding El Topo made it seem a perfect first picture for that theater’s fairly visionary owner to try an experiment.

Warhol films, and other more truly art and/or underground fare would do late night screenings in rented spaces and the like, but this was the first time a legitimate theater was attempting to screen a film for a traditional cinema audience during the witching hour. For five nights a week the film would screen at midnight, and on weekends at 1am. As the legend goes, by the end of the first week the 600-seat theater was selling out nightly.

Quickly other theaters across the country began to book this strange, moving and quite unique film for similarly successful late night screenings, and the box office tallies were neither insignificant, nor unnoticed.

El Topo found many fans among the counter-culture, and of course among the rock and roll set. Peter Gabriel, for example, cites it as his primary inspiration for the story he attempted to tell with Genesis’ concept album, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (his last album with the group).

It would be nearly impossible for any of the film’s many famous fans to be bigger than Beatle — or perhaps just newly ex-Beatle — John Lennon. Lennon brought Jodorowsky to the attention of manager Allen Klein, who — through a series of events that would get us way off- topic — agreed to produce, through his company ABKCO, Jodorowsky’s next feature film.

A whole mess of drama and decades of legal battles followed between the two men, none of which is worth getting into here. But this does explain how a man with a vision as singular and unprecedented as Jodorowsky was given the money to make what most would agree — whatever their other opinions of it — is one of the most unique, ambitious, extravagant, challenging and, no judgment call as I love the film myself, just plain bonkers films ever made.

Unlikely though it may seem, The Holy Mountain was a smash hit in Europe, as well as on the same midnight movie circuit that had made its predecessor a favorite among the young and arguably altered here in the states. As such, Jodorowsky was not short on offers or opportunities for a next project, both from Hollywood and abroad.

But a French oil heir named Michel Seydoux — whose means surpassed merely substantial — approached Jodorowsky saying, essentially, the sky’s the limit. “I want to make your next movie whatever you want it to be.” Unexpectedly to Seydoux, Jodo said that he wanted it to be Dune.

Jodorowsky had at that time never read the book, but he’d heard good things and was interested in making a science fiction movie. He soon thereafter did read the book and fell in love with it. That said, love it or not, his cinematic vision for the property varied radically from the book in virtually every conceivable way. Seydoux acquired the rights, and off Jodo went on a mad adventure.

Again, this story is told in bold and vivid detail in 2014’s excellent documentary, Jodorowsky’s Dune.

The film details how after three years and $2 million spent — and commitments from the likes of Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali, Orson Welles, David Carradine, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, and a team of designers and special effects folks who would go on to work on, or even create, Alien, Star Wars, Blade Runner and many of the most influential genre films Hollywood ever produced, often liberally borrowing from elements they’d originally created for Dune — the fate of Jodo’s masterpiece is that it would forever only exist in the imagination.

Jodo feels, in a sense, that he did make the film. The film’s now sadly late storyboard designer, Jean “Moebius” Giraud — as gifted and imaginative an illustrator who has ever lived — sadly was too ill to be interviewed for the film. But he said years before that he felt that in their storyboards, contained in the “Bible” the cover of which is shown at this entry’s top (featuring a spaceship designed by another great illustrator, Christopher Foss; best known for doing the original covers of many of Isaac Asimov’s novels), they did make the movie. Shooting it at that point was merely a technicality.

Okay, so Jodorowsky’s interpretation of Dune may very well have been a great film. We’ll simply never know. But personally knowing people who have in fact seen the coveted “Bible” in person, I know one observation is that objectively speaking, while mind-boggling, apparently, it was not a faithful telling of Herbert’s book.

Jodo and Frank Herbert even did lock horns over the matter, with Jodo contending something along the lines of Dune being bigger than any one man, or any one interpretation. It belonged to the universe. When making a “cinematic God” one does not entangle themselves in the gripes of mortal men, no matter the degree to which their imagination sparked the flame that has now consumed you.

But again, it’s best that we move on. Independent research further into this topic is encouraged, and I strongly recommend the above cited documentary (Full Disclosure: One of my best friends was the DP, but I’ve been an obsessive fan of Jodo’s and Dune for a long, long time; indeed my friend said I was never far from his thoughts the whole time he was shooting it).

So let’s dig into some StatSocial, and remember why we’ve gathered here today. To pay tribute to our almighty insights and analytics.

To explain the below chart, the percentage column is the percentage of Jodo’s audience who are also fans of the corresponding line item. And the “multiple” metric spoken of so often, lovingly even, in our StatSocial blog — and just above this — is the number of times that percentage exceeds — or falls short of — the average social media audience.

Top 10 Films, With Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Social Media Audience, By Multiple

The list is interesting, of course it favors contemporary films — as these list mostly do — as those are the ones most often with active social media presences. Unsurprisingly, Jodo’s last film, 2014’s positively breathtaking The Dance of Reality tops the list, with Jodo’s social audience 564 times more likely to be fans of the film than the average social media user.

Then the surreal, nightmarish, and unquestionably inventive and disturbing documentary The Act of Killing follows. A not entirely inappropriate selection, although not a film that seems to share Jodo’s always spiritual quest for meaning.

Then it’s arthouse fare, but with Back to the Future in there, and finally a recent film, Exodus, from director Ridley Scott. As he’s on topic here, we may as well briefly address him.

— — —

Over the years a nerdy guy I met a few times (every morning when I’d look in the bathroom mirror) would tell me of games he’d played related to the Dune books. One included a strategic board game made by Avalon Hill (best known for their vast array of increedibly comlicated, historically based war games, and seen here on the right), which he’d have played all the time as a kid; except it was nearly impossible for him to find anyone to play with him. The other was a video game which came around in the late 90s. While sort of fun, its connection to Dune seemed tenuous at best.

— — —

RIDLEY SCOTT’S DUNE?

https://www.youtube.com/embed/iU5auv6E6iU

Before Lynch and after Jodorowsky, a more conventional albeit talented filmmaker had every intention of directing a film version of the property. The above clip goes into the details a bit.

Before Jodorowsky sought him out for Dune — to design the ships and hardware associated with the story’s cruel and villainous assemblage of grotesque rogues in charge of the story’s House Harkonnen — the disturbing biomechanical illustrations of Switzerland’s surrealist artist, H.R. Giger, had never been tapped for a film’s design before.

After the Dune project fell apart, Giger found himself working as a creature designer on Ridley Scott’s Alien, written by another Dune refugee, Dan O’Bannon.

With this knowledge, Giger’s Dune concept art for the Harkonnen palace sort of rings a bell, eh?

giger1

While on the topic of Sir Scott, a perusal of his top influencers is not without interest, and features a few names we’ll be getting into in the next part of this entry.

Top 10 Social Media Influencers with Ridley Scott’s Audience, by Multiple

ridley_scott_top_influencers_by_multiple

While surely known in the states, and in fact currently starring on an American sitcom — CBSThe Great Indoors — Steven Fry is regarded as something of a national treasure in Sir Scott’s land of origin, the U.K. Once part of an immensely popular comedy double act with Hugh Laurie (who, yes, is British and a comedian by trade), appropriately enough called Fry & Laurie, Fry is famously an early adopter of all manner of technology, and was among the first crop of celebrities to really take to Twitter. His 12.5 million followers is testament to this.

The great documentarian — of Thin Blue Line and Gates of Heaven fame — Errol Morris ranks quite highly, and other filmmakers of note pepper the list. Including a certain Duncan Jones, the offspring of the sadly recently departed David Bowie. A gifted genre filmmaker — his debut film being the excellent Moon, which he followed up with the excellent, but somewhat overlooked and underrated Source Code — he actually wouldn’t be a name I’d mind seeing attached to the Dune property. But I believe he’s been busy bringing World of Warcraft to the big screen.

Okay, all of the lists in this entry have been sorted by multiple, but there’s a reason why we’re sharing this next list. It’s Sir Scott’s top social influencers, sorted by percentage. Meaning with whom does Sir Scott have the most followers in common in terms of raw numbers.

Top 5 Social Media Influencers with Ridley Scott’s Audience, by Percentage

ridley_scott_top_influencers_by_percentage

British comedian Simon Pegg at number 5 is interesting, as he straddles the worlds of genre and comedy. A co-writer on the last Star Trek movie — as well as playing Scotty — he and director Edgar Wright have teamed up for a number of genre tributes, such as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End.

The entry at number 2 — a certain President of the United States — is of interest, as he helps to illustrate further just what the multiple can tell a marketer, or whomever it might be, reading a StatSocial list. With 78 million followers on Twitter alone, a social media presence of his magnitude appearing high on a list sorted by raw numbers can only tell you so much. The multiple is what tells you the full story. And here we see that among Sir Scott’s audience, the number of fans of the U.S. president falls nearly 1% short of the average. This also gives us an opportunity to point out that when a line item is short of the average, or “under-indexed” as we say, the multiple is represented in red instead of green.

BUT, the main reason for including this list is simply the fortuitous fact that it carries us beautifully into what we could almost call “the Dune that lived.” If only sort of. Sharing over a quarter of his audience with the next director we’ll be discussing, it seemed a fine segue.

— — — — — — — — -

DAVID LYNCH’S DUNE

While he is now widely known to be a filmmaker in league with Jodorowsky, in many ways, and in America may be the most famous and beloved cinematic eccentric, at the time Dune landed in the path of David Lynch’s career, he was simply a fellow who had made two very different flicks. The first, Eraserhead, a nightmarishly surreal, grotesquely comic, black and white, no budget near horror film that the director had worked on meticulously for years.

The other movie in his filmography at this time time was one that beautifully, and with tremendous empathy and humanity, told the slightly embellished but largely true story of Joseph “John” Merrick, a severely deformed young man whose unlikely life led him from a childhood with a loving mother, to the bowels of a run down circus side-show where he was treated like an animal, to being the toast of Victorian high society.

But the truly miraculous thing about the movie is that while actor John Hurt was under mountains of incredibly detailed and accurate prosthetic make-up to portray the nearly inconceivably deformed Merrick, the character’s humanity and beautiful spirit become evident so early on, you quickly don’t even notice his appearance.

Eraserhead, released in 1977, became a midnight movie staple not unlike El Topo before it. Mel Brooks, the uncredited producer of Elephant Man (not wanting people to mistakenly believe the film was a comedy he kept his name off of it), was visionary enough to see in Eraserhead a filmmaker who could tell Merrick’s story with precisely the style and tone he’d envisioned.

He sought out Lynch, and under his helming Elephant Man was a critical smash and nominated for a boatload of Oscars.

Now, as peculiar as it was that Mel Brooks saw in Eraserhead the perfect director for The Elephant Man, it was perhaps arguably even more odd that legendary Italian film producer Dino De Laurentiis — producer of such Italian classics as Fellini’s La Strada and Nights of Cabiria, and Hollywood smashes such as Serpico and Death Wish — and his daughter Raffaella saw in the Elephant Man the perfect director for Dune. A property they now owned, and a book of which Raffaella was a massive fan.

The story of that production is as long and complex as the one behind Jodorowsky’s all-consuming, years long journey with the property. This time Frank Herbert was involved, and was on set for much of the filming, but has always been characterized as just being excited by the fact that the film was getting made at all. This was a huge budget production, and Herbert didn’t mind that liberties were taken with the story. It seems he just thought the whole thing was great.

The thing is, David Lynch characterizes his 18 months in Mexico City shooting the film as being very satisfying and fun. He loved his cast and crew. Alas, he didn’t have final cut, and as any director can tell you, without final cut it will never truly be your movie.

Appalled with the finished product as it was released in theaters, Lynch now characterizes the experience of making Dune — no matter how satisfying the shoot itself — as “a nightmare.”

Don’t take our word for it. Lynch is rather explicit and incredibly straightforward in his candor in the below clip.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/6lZKcW9OGoU

He elaborates further here on “dying the death” when you don’t have complete creative control of a project:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/hdNdqBdLf5I

The studio wanted another Star Wars, of course, but Dune was filled with too many philosophical tangents, political allegory, and with Lynch at least somewhat in charge frankly strange and even at times grotesque imagery. Then the studio created a frankly incoherent cut of what Lynch had filmed, it seems to aspire to maximize the film’s “family” entertainment value. There was no cut possible that could make this a film for kids.

But the studio, having spent a whole lot of money, felt differently. These items are fairly hilarious to anyone who has actually seen Lynch’s Dune.

In 1983, it would have been the strangest child, indeed, who who would have insisted to his or her parents that their birthday party have Lynch’s Dune as its theme. However, should that child have existed, the party kit was manufactured to indulge this most unusual of wishes.

As was customary for every big budget, “blockbuster” genre property released in the wake of Star Wars’ merchandising bonanza, Dune did indeed have a line of toys released in relation to its characters; from Kyle McLachlan’s heroic Paul Atreides to Kenneth McMillan’s grotesque Baron Harkonen, whose face is covered in nauseating boils in the film, which seem to be absent from the figure.

One other noteworthy thing about Lynch’s Dune is that in 1983 the rock band The Police exploded in popularity, becoming pretty inarguably the biggest band in the world. The Police’s leader Sting, who had been a sometimes actor since even before the band were big, had a small part in Dune. He’s memorable and not terrible at all in his performance, but he’s onscreen for no more than 15 to 20 minutes of the 2 1/2 hour film.

This did not keep the studio from promoting the film as though he was the star.

cjdd2i1ucaavct_
Sting on set, with Lynch and the film’s star, then 22-year old newcomer Kyle McLachlan

Let’s give you a little punchline, courtesy of the above-mentioned and excellent Jodorowsky’s Dune documentary, and then move on.

Jodo was crestfallen that a director he respected as much as Lynch had gotten the opportunity to make Dune. He was certain Lynch did a great job, and got to bring to life the film that Jodo had failed to make.

He originally refused to see it, but Jodo’s sons insisted that he go and face it head on. This below clip is wonderful, as Jodo recounts the experience.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/pJ7YZXeI54s

Now, back to StatSocial, and what we do. And what we do is show that when sorted by our wonderful multiple metric what is the number one film with David Lynch’s social media audience? Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 2014 film, the absolutely gorgeous The Dance of Reality. This, we think, says a lot about how much these two have in common. And in a moment we will contrast that with the sensibilities of the Dune books most hardcore fans.

Top 10 Films, With David Lynch’s Social Media Audience, By Multiple

We see the deliberately campy Piranha 3D, the documentaries Computer Chess and again the above-mentioned The Act of Killing, Sasha Baron Cohen’s oddly forgotten but reasonably hilarious Brüno, Stuart Murdoch of the band Belle and Sebastian’s 2014 directorial debut, the musical, God Help The Girl, and a mix of smaller films and arthouse fare. Sort of the kind of mix you’d expect from Lynch’s fans.

When it comes to social media influencers, you see a quite different list from that of Jodorowsky, but one that makes perfect sense for Mr. Lynch.

Top 10 Social Media Influencers with David Lynch’s Audience, by Multiple

davidlynch_influencers_by_multiple

In the number one slot is Britain’s Charlie Brooker. Once a TV and culture columnist for the Guardian, he also co-wrote his first TV show of his own — with legendary British satirist, and one-time “media scourge” Christopher Morris (of The Day Today and Brass Eye fame) — in 2004, the almost prescient Nathan Barley. He has since become an onscreen personality, via his numerous Screenwipe and Newswipe specials, but makes most sense on this list for his having created the bleakly satirical anthology series Black Mirror.

More than one has characterized the series — influenced first and foremost, of course, by Rod Serling’s 1950s classic show The Twilight Zone — as being Lynchian at times, in its lapses into the grotesque and surreal. Indeed Google “Black Mirror” and “David Lynch” and see for yourself what I mean.

Next we have director Darren Aronofsky, a filmmaker it seems perhaps more adept at straddling the fine line between iconoclast and Hollywood director. But like Lynch he first made his name with a self-produced, black and white indie (the mathematical thriller, Pi) and has throughout his career to date made films that are extreme and transgressive, but also films like his powerful The Wrestler, that are straightforward and moving without being soppy or sentimental (see Lynch’s very accessible and great The Straight Story to see what we mean by the comparison).

Aronofsky’s recent Noah, however, suggests that the director may have an easier time with big budget Hollywood flicks than Mr. Lynch did during his sole foray into that territory.

Oddly, the unlikely combination of musicians Tom Waits and Trent Reznor makes perfect sense on Lynch’s list. The David Mitchell listed here is not the author, but the British comedian. One half of the double act Mitchell and Webb, who also starred in the brilliant sitcom Peep Show together. He has become something of an outspoken panel show perennial in the U.K.

British comedian Bill Bailey — who headlines arenas in the U.K. (and was on the brilliant sitcom Black Books) — is also on the list.

But most noteworthy, perhaps, is Roger Ebert. Who, in death, does still have a social media presence promoting the still quite active RogerEbert.com. Famously a prolific tweeter in his final years, he would until his dying days still find himself defending his bad review of Lynch’s beloved and disturbing 1985 masterpiece, Blue Velvet. Ebert — along with his partner, the also late Gene Siskel — was already the most famous film critic in America when he panned the universally praised post-modern thriller (which starred Dune’s Kyle McLachlan, Lynch’s then girlfriend Isabella Rosselini, and most memorably Dennis Hopper — newly sober, and staging a major career comeback — as one of the most thoroughly wretched characters ever portrayed on screen, Frank Booth). He of course was a fan of Lynch, but would never back down on his opinion of Blue Velvet.

Before we close the Lynch matter, we will mention that his beloved 1980s television series Twin Peaks — the wickedly bizarre and satirical show that presented itself at first as a mystery, but over time descended into deeper and deeper strangeness, revealing that no satisfying resolution was ever to come, as its initial high ratings dwindled to a dedicated cult of weirdos — will be returning to TV screens next year, on Showtime.

With Lynch stalwart, and Dune star, Kyle McLachlan reprising perhaps his greatest ever role, as Special FBI Agent Dale Cooper, we’re cautiously optimistic. We’re certain we’ll be blogging about it when the time comes.

— — — — — — —

DUNE, WITHOUT THE ARTSY AUTEURS?

In 2000, SyFy — then still called The Sci-Fi Channel — mounted a three-episode miniseries which boasted that for the first time, Herbert’s book would be told visually, in its entirety, without a bunch of artsy hubbub.

Consensus at the time seemed to be that, yes, special care was taken to be faithful to the book, but that top-to-bottom the production played as a made-for-TV movie. With neither the cast — with perhaps the sole exception of Oscar winner William Hurt — nor the sets and effects being worthy of the material. This predated 2003, when SyFy would find genuine critical and eventually commercial success with their reboot and radical reimagining of the late-70s TV series, Battlestar Galactica,

https://www.youtube.com/embed/tYW8DKxh1JM

The first Dune miniseries must have received decent enough ratings, regardless of opinion, as in 2003 the network did make a miniseries combining Herbert’s second and third Dune novels, 1969’s Dune Messiah and 1976’s Children of Dune. They called this sequel miniseries simply Children of Dune.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/ywb57BGLJNs

A teaser trailer for SyFy’s 2003 miniseries, Children of Dune

— — — — — — — — — — — — -

LEGENDARY ENTERTAINMENT AND THE FUTURE OF DUNE

And in a way, this leads us finally back to where we started. Legendary’s acquisition of the property, and the presumption that — whether it be for cinema screens or HBO or Hulu — they’ll tell the story as Frank Herbert wrote it, and this time with the money and talent behind it to do it right.

We could think of no social media audience that would better speak to the average hardcore Dune fan than that of the property’s current flame keeper. We refer to the heir to all things Dune, Frank Herbert’s son, author Brian Herbert.

Right from Jump Street, the difference in sensibility among the Dune faithful vs. Lynch’s and Jodorowsky’s audiences is quite evident.

Top 10 Movies of Brian Herbert’s (@DuneAuthor) Social Media Audience, by Multiple

We start with 2009’s documentary, Transcendent Man, a documentary about Ray Kurzweil. Have you heard people speak of “The Singularity”? Have you heard them speak of this in specific reference to a time when artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence? Mr. Kurzweil is by far the most high profile proponent of not only predicting that moment as occurring in our lifetimes — as technology, he argues, increases in sophistication exponentially — but also cheerleading its arrival. While Stephen Hawking has warned this would be mankind’s undoing, as the A.I. would have no need for us, Kurzweil envisions a utopia of man-machines that live for eternity.

Next we see the Tom Cruise starring “Groundhog Day meets War of the Worlds,” 2014 flick, Edge of Tomorrow. Then the actually fairly excellent Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, followed by a documentary about a contemporary of Frank Herbert’s, surely in age, the great Kurt Vonnegut. While he bristled at the suggestion that he was a science fiction author, those elements surely do find their way into a number of his books.

Anyway, what do we see at number five but Jodorowsky’s gorgeous 2014 film, The Dance of Reality. So, this audience is different, but it would seem not entirely.

The George Clooney starring drama Descendants, and the documentary about jazz fusion bassist Jaco Pastorius don’t tell a perfect story. But the triple-whammy closing out the list Star Trek: Renegades, the outstanding Mad Max: Fury Road, and the largely ignored (and somewhat derided, but I’d contend underrated) Wachowski sisters film, Jupiter Ascending let us know who we’re dealing with.

The next list tells us maybe the most of all, in terms of just where the head and heart of the true Dune fan lies. This is their top 10 social influencers.

Top 10 Social Influencers of Brian Herbert’s (@DuneAuthor) Social Media Audience, by Multiple

duneauthor_influencers_by_multiple

Guy Gavriel Kay, Catherynne Valente, Brandon Sanderson… Unless you’re an avid reader of science-fiction, speculative-fiction, fantasy fiction, and all genres thereabouts, these will not be names you’ll know. But in the worlds of those fandoms, that changes. Here we see that Mr. Kay finds among @DuneAuthor’s social audience a quantity exceeding the average by 787 times.

As we go down the list we see more famous names, such as the great William Gibson, YA author, blogger, etc., Cory Doctorow, the author of the Banned and Banished series (Wit’ch Fire, Wit’ch Storm, Wit’ch War, Wit’ch Gate, Wit’ch Star, and so forth), James Rollins, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, I suppose just to mix it up, and finally comic book author — but one with a substantial cult following — Warren Ellis closes out the list.

The point, of course, is that the list is VERY writer-heavy, and nearly exclusively concerned with genre authors. Of course no more so did New Line concern itself with catering to only the most hardcore Tolkien fans than Legendary should be concerned with Dune’s most dedicated. That’s a thankless task, and one that would at best leave you with a stifled, slavish, and boring work.

But history has shown that for all the mysticism and spiritual elements in the books, Dune doesn’t necessarily need to be psychedelicized, or have its most strange and grotesque elements stretched to their breaking points. Those are already there if you just tell the story well.

Game of Thrones, in this author’s humble opinion, should be the model. But one has to wonder given the budget necessary if Legendary would opt for the small screen. Surely to launch the property. But 1965’s Dune is over 400 pages, including an extensive index and glossary, with many characters and a vast background mythology where the viewer can take very little for granted. It’s why it’s tough to bring it faithfully to the screen, at least in two and a half hours.

But, the precocious 11-year old me is rooting for them. While I’d have loved to have seen the lunacy Jodorowsky might have brought to the screen, I’d also love to see Frank Herbert’s story told properly and cinematically.


BONUS:

Thanks to our proud partnership with IBM Watson, and our integration of their awesome Personality Insights™ tool into our reporting, we are able to give this entry a coda. It may not mean much in terms of the narrative, or it may. But we still like to show off that we have this data whichever the case. It is compiled and calculated by analyzing the collected online writings — on social media, on blogs, message boards, and so forth — of the members of each audience being analyzed.

(Learn more about this exceptional tool at IBM Watson’s own site here.)

So, with that, we present you with the personality types most prevalent among the three social audiences looked at above, when compared to the personalities of the average social media audience (i.e., the list is again sorted by multiple).

Top 10 Personality Types Among David Lynch’s Social Media Audience, Sorted By Multiple (with thanks to IBM Watson and Personality Insights™)

david-lynch-personality-insights

Openness, as defined by Personality Insights™ is an umbrella term encompassing a number of more specific facets. But, they describe it as “Open to Experience — the extent to which a person is open to experiencing a variety of activities.” We think those who would sit through all three hours of Lynch’s Inland Empire (a film I actually quite liked), or even attempt to make heads or tales of Lost Highway, are definitely open to something.

Liberalism as defined by Personality Insights™ does not relate to notions of left or right, collectivism or individualism. Indeed, it doesn’t relate to politics at all. They employ the word in its more classical sense, meaning “Have a readiness to challenge authority, convention, and traditional values.” Again, a sensibility I think Mr. Lynch embraces in his art.

Visit IBM Watson’s site from the link above to learn more about the remainder of the traits found among Mr. Lynch’s audience.

And let us move on to the fans of Mr. Jodorowsky.

Top 10 Personality Types Among Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Social Media Audience, Sorted By Multiple (with thanks to IBM Watson and Personality Insights™)

alejandrojodorowsky_personalityinsights

Again, we begin with Openness and Liberalism. Unsurprisingly, given what we describe above. While number three on Mr. Lynch’s list is Imagination, Personality Insights’™ definition of Intellect — the number three entry here — could not make more sense for fans Jodo’s work: “Are intellectually curious and tend to think in symbols and abstractions. With artistic interests, this facet is one of the two most important, central aspects of this characteristic.”

Jodo’s body of work is nothing if not rife with symbols and abstractions. Indeed to the delight of his fans, and frustrations of his detractors.

And finally the audience whom, for our purposes here, we’ve been calling the Dune faithful.

Top 10 Personality Types Among @DuneAuthor’s Social Media Audience, Sorted By Multiple (with thanks to IBM Watson and Personality Insights™)

duneauthor_personalityinsights

The personality trait that jumps out, not covered above (although all three lists are admittedly similar) is Adventurousness. “Are eager to try new activities and experience different things. They find familiarity and routine boring.”

While we’d been imagining something closer to the D&D and Mountain Dew in mom’s basement set, perhaps we’ve pigeonholed the Dune books’ biggest fans unfairly.

And with that, we sincerely wish Legendary the very best of luck with the property, hopeful that it’s not only done justice, but brings them tremendous success.

Be sure to click the links below to learn more about StatSocial and what we do.

— –

To learn much more about StatSocial, the curious are encouraged to visit the StatSocial site itself, where you’ll find all sorts of stuff including sample reports.

— –

If you like what you’ve read, please take a few minutes to watch this overview of StatSocial’s data:

Archives