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“Why Netflix Should Remake Dune Instead of Avatar: The Last Airbender”

With the news that Netflix will be remaking Avatar: The Last Airbender, guest-writer Ayo Kekere-Ekun has a suggestion for Netflix.

“What?! Why?!”

That was what went through the minds of roughly 85% of fanboys when we heard the news Netflix would be revisiting the tale of Aang in a live-action adaptation of The Last Airbender. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the Last Airbender animated series and the equally successful and critically-acclaimed “The Legend of Korra” follow-up. But the last foray of the ATLA franchise into live-action, in the form of The Last Airbender (2010) was a nigh unmitigated disaster.

Somehow, the proverbial ball was dropped on this ready-made property with a worldwide fanbase and helmed by a big-name director. Accusations of whitewashing casting, extremely mediocre acting and a poor script served to deliver a damp squib in what should have been the beginning of a potential billion-dollar movie franchise.

Psst, Netflix. Come over here, I want to whisper something in your ear… NOBODY CARES about a LAST Airbender series!!!! Why not tackle something more insightful, something that hasn’t been touched in live-action format in 15 years, something with the potential to capture a wider demographic than that of ATLA? Frank Herbert’s Dune. An epic that is as captivating now as it was over half a century ago. Here are a few (or several) reasons why Netflix/Amazon/HBO should create a Dune TV series.

The Characters – Frank Herbert’s Dune series arguably contains some of the deepest, most compelling characters ever written into classic science-fiction prose; from the charismatic and heroic Paul, the stoic and brilliant Duke Leto, the ruthless and cunning Baron Harkonnen, the fiercely loyal Duncan Idaho to the manipulative and power-hungry Bene Gesserit sisters.

Casting ideas: Finn Wolfhard as young Paul, Ben Barnes as Paul/Mua’Dib, Matthew Goode as Duke Leto, Sung Kang as Duncan Idaho, Vincent D’Onofrio as Baron Harkonnen, Orlando Bloom as Feyd-Rautha, David Harewood as Thufir Hawat, Rene Russo as Reverend Mother Mohaim, and Isla Fisher as Lady Jessica.

The Setting/Environment – the universe of Dune takes place millennia in the future in a solar system not of our own. Most of the novels are set on the desert planet Arrakis. The audience would be immersed in an entire new world with its own history, factions, cultures, ecology and creatures. The journey of discovering this new universe, I feel, would be fascinating. Remember that fierce concentration with which you watched the first few episodes of Game of Thrones/Battlestar Galactica/FireFly? Ahhh…good times.

Costumes – Let’s be honest, one of the many reasons fantasy and sci-fi novels/series are so popular is the non-conventional costumes, and Dune will deliver that in spades. This fictional universe will allow the series creative and costume designers play around with unique and interesting designs; the military garb of the House of Atreides, the spartan, utilitarian desert “stillsuits” of the Fremen, the elaborate robes and headdresses of the Gene Besserit sisters would offer variety and flavour to any semi-reputable creator, and in itself be a feast for viewers’ eyes.

Over the last few years, nominees for ‘Outstanding Costumes for a Period/Fantasy Series’ award have included Games of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Downtown Abbey, The Handmaiden’s Tale, Westworld, The Crown, Roots and Outlander… a well-produced Dune series is almost a guaranteed shoe-in for this gong.

Political intrigue – Imperialism, economic Guilds, noble houses, slavery, shifting motives/allegiances and betrayal…and at the centre of it all, melange spice…all ingredients to make this series a wonderfully intricate and complex story which will have viewers fully vested and enraptured.

Duke Leto’s words best express this: “– a feint within a feint within a feint… seemingly without end. The task is to unravel it.

Mysticism/spirituality – The series does a good job of exploring leadership, religion and spirituality, with the protagonist depicted as a charismatic visionary oft referred to as a Prophet with precognitive abilities leading his Fremen followers on a “jihad” (no joke, this is the word actually used in the novels).

The franchise also explores the use of religion as a means of controlling trade and interstellar wealth.

My fear: Audiences might consider this series a knock-off of HBO’s “Game of Thrones”, whereas in fact, Dune was published in 1965 and the first of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” novel series (A Game of Thrones) was first published in 1996.

The use of the “Voice” by the Prophet (and the sisterhood of the Bene Gesserit) would almost certainly trigger hardcore Star Wars fanatics who might assume that this is a pastiche of the Force, but…shut up! The original Star Wars (Episode 4) came out in 1977!

But, as the Bene Gesserit have taught us to incant in times of fear and danger:

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”

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