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‘Dune’ 2020 release date could reshape pop culture like ‘Lord of the Rings’

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As a pop-culture phenomenon, right now, roughly half a year before the movie’s December 18 release date, Dune is in the exact same position Lord of the Rings was in pre-2001.

As a pop-culture phenomenon, right now, roughly half a year before the movie’s December 18 release date, Dune is in the exact same position Lord of the Rings was in pre-2001. Before Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Rings, the franchise was popular. But, it wasn’t mainstream. We could be on the eve of that kind of metamorphosis for Dune. Who knows — by 2022 your mom might start quoting Bene Gesserit prophecy. Here’s the case for why Dune could become the next Lord of the Rings.

Mild spoilers ahead.

Before the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies, you never encountered references to the works of Tolkien on a daily basis. Dumbledore was a bigger deal than Gandalf. But after the Lord of the Rings trilogy, everything changed. Talking about the origins of the Ringwraiths, or the resurrection of Gandalf the White, or why the Orcs do anything at all, crossed over from Dungeons and Dragons gaming nights into bars, coffee shops, and your family’s Thanksgiving table.

Nothing about the Jackson Lord of the Rings trilogy backs away from the baroque nerdiness of the books. If anything, what makes the films so cool and so watchable is the total commitment to bringing Tolkien’s universe to life. The upcoming reboot LOTR show might end up eclipsing these films, but Middle-earth is mainstream because these movies changed the way the culture at large thought about really complicated fantasy movies. The mythology and world-building of LOTR weren’t dumbed down, prompting countless new fans to explore the books so they could get more Elf action straight from the source.

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