The battle to turn a successful novel into a film is directly proportional to how much money it might take to pull the production off. If the source work is an easily-digestible romantic comedy or a touching memoir, chances are it’s already been adapted, but if it’s a gargantuan science fiction epic with alternate planets, hideous beasts and one failed adaptation already under its belt, chances are studios aren’t really jumping at the chance to shell out the cash. At least that’s Paramount’s new stance with Frank Herbert’s classic Dune.

According to Deadline, the studio has willfully let its four year window of opportunity expire despite having a script most people seem to agree is pretty good. No one, including trademark manager Richard P. Rubinstein, is overly surprised by the lack of drive shown, but you’d have to think someone will bit on this eventually. The list of unproduced films with the potential to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars is relatively small, and even though Dune represents a huge risk, there has to be a gambler out there with big enough stones to put his reputation on the line.

Moving forward, Rubinstein hasn’t quite figured out whether he’ll continue with Taken scribe Pierre Morel’s script, but if he does, expect alterations down the road. It’s hard to imagine another studio moving forward as is without hiring someone to tweak it to its liking.

For now, Dune obsessives are left to pick up the pieces and wonder where the last four years went. Director Peter Berg’s sudden exodus from the project certainly didn’t help, but he hardly can be blamed for four years of thumb twiddling. If I had to point the finger, I’d do it toward the subject matter itself. Despite selling more copies than any science fiction book ever, no one’s really sure whether the general public will buy into a battle for a desert planet with life-altering spices and sand worms.

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