I posted a comment to Are the knife/sword fights too fast in Dune (2021)?. @AndresF. responded to the comment with a request to post the comment as an answer.

I have nothing at all against @AndresF.'s response. This isn't personal at all and I appreciate @AndresF. for responding. No matter my reasons for leaving a comment, it's perfectly reasonable to point out that something that walks like an answer and quacks like an answer should be posted as an answer.

The response led me to ask if asking about the artistic license of any director of any film adaptation of a story is on-topic?

An exclusion

Occasionally I see questions posted on this Stack asking why a particular movie expressed a particular idea in a particular way. Or, worse, asking for more details about some aspect of the movie. My question in this post is broad enough that it could be interpreted as wanting to deal with these kinds of questions, too. Maybe. Not really. There's a difference between a story adaptation and an original film presentation. The adaptation has source material that a director may or may not choose to address. An original film is another animal altogether.

  • This post is not addressing policy in regard to questions about original films. It is only asking about policy in regard to film adaptations.

Why is my issue important?

When adapting a story there is, for lack of a better phrase, a certain amount of "conversion error." Frank Herbert's Dune is a pretty good example. It's complex with a rich backstory that fires the imagination. Consequently, to do the entire book justice would probably take 10+ hours of film (minimum!) and that film might actually be a bit boring because it's natural for the human mind to skip over things when reading that aren't of interest and to latch onto things that are and try to bring them to life in our minds.

In real life, the limits of a film adaptation are frequently due to economics and nothing at all about the source material. Yes, there have been some stories that have waited decades for film technology to catch up to the author's creativity, but in the end (and simplifying a LOT), what limits the director is cash. Few (if any) directors are given carte blanche to bring an entire book to life. So...

  • Dune (1984) was 2h 17m.
  • Dune (2000) was 4h 25m.
  • Dune: Part 1 (2021) was 2h 35m and "part 2" will likely be similar, so "Dune (2021,2023)" will be approx. 5h 10m.

None of them did or will represent the source material fully. Directors (who I'm using to represent the entire production team) can only present so much in so little time and so they must pick and choose what they will present and how they present it.

My issue

The reason any director chooses to represent or not represent anything about the source material for a film adaptation appears to me to be, at best, opinion-based. With exceptionscitation needed, the reasons for those choices will be dependent on production limitations or (worse) the creative interpretation of the director. Not canon.1

That led to my comment, which was basically, you're asking why a director's artistic license was used in a way that may or may not reflect canon. We can't read his mind and director's do this all the time. I left the comment because, honestly, I was expecting the question to be closed as opinion-based. What any of us thinks is or is not right about a film adaptation of a book seems, at best, to be an off-topic discussion and the idea that there may be a quote from the director at some convention or something that might create a definitive and objective answer seems unlikely.

But it has happened.

But does that rare and happy event mean the site should be cluttered with questions about interpreting the intent of the director of a film adaptation? I'm not so sure. Perhaps worst of all, I'm not sure what the OP was expecting as an answer.

Which leads to my question here on Meta: are questions about the artistic license of any director of any film adaptation of a story on-topic?

1Herbert's Dune happens to have the good fortune of being the poster child for this issue. Jodorowsky's Dune is a prime example of a director using the source material for no better reason than to bring the director's own desires to life. And Jodorowsky is famous for having some, shall we say, odd proclivities when it comes to film making. That his effort led to some incredibly famous stuff (i.e., Star Wars) doesn't change the fact that Jodorowsky's vision of Dune had almost nothing at all to do with Herbert's vision of Dune. Consequently, asking why Jodorowsky did anything not in keeping with the canon of the story is a patent waste of time. The answer will always be, "because he's Jodorowsky...."

  • 2
    I don't really understand the question. Is there any reason why certain production choices were made wouldn't be on-topic?
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 18:44
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    @Valorum, allow me to point you to the help center, specifically help center. Why would we allow questions that have answers completely unrelated to science fiction and/or fantasy? Just because the referenced movie happened to be a scifi/fantasy movie? Should this be an appropriate place to ask questions about how the movie industry conducts its business? (Wouldn't that be more appropriate on Movies & TV?) Either way, that would make a good answer.
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 21:19
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    What topics can I ask about here? - Behind-the-scenes and fandom information. If the movie you're asking about is scifi or fantasy, then questions about the making-of would be wholly on topic.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 21:21
  • @Valorum You're definitely welcome to post an answer. I see a huge difference between "behind the scenes" and "how production companies work," which is why I asked the question.
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 21:37
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    I'm still unclear why you think it might be off-topic. VTC from me, I'm afraid
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 21:52
  • @Valorum This verges on harassment. The reason any director chooses to represent or not represent anything about the source material for a film adaptation appears to me to be, at best, opinion-based.
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 22:17
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    Of course the reasons why directors made certain choices are on-topic. Sometimes, if we are lucky, there are direct interviews or quotes to source! We love "word-of-god" answers here!
    – Skooba
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 1:37
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    @Skooba-Stands-Against-AI That, too, would be a good answer, if corroborated or supported by consensus. I'm flabbergasted. This was a request for information and clarification and it's getting downvoted, VTC'd, and a bunch of comments but no answers subject to peer review. This Stack's reputation is well earned.
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 2:38
  • 3
    I don't understand the squabbling in comments. This is a clearly asked question that demands a yes or no answer, based on the protocols of this forum. I read the OP's query and the comments and the answers. It's a bog standard SciFi/F question. The Meta query seeks clarification. I read the help center and concur with Michael's answer. There was no need to attack this question, because it is valid. In fact I would have liked to see a directors perspective / artistic license answer to compliment the two in-world answers.
    – elemtilas
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 1:41
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    @elemtilas - My main problem is that I didn't really understand what this fairly rambly question was about. I asked for them to make their question more clear and was told that this was 'harassment'. Another user asked for clarification and was told much the same thing.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 7:38
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    @elemtilas - Note that downvotes on Meta can mean something slightly different. They range from 'I don't understand' through to 'I don't agree'. They're not necessarily a sign of disapproval with the asker
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 7:40
  • @Valorum --- Well, no. Downvotes mean lack of research, question is unclear, question is not useful. Question seems to tick all the boxes for me, and presumably for anyone who upvotes the answer.
    – elemtilas
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 2:13
  • Also, I guess one person's "rambly" is another person's "cover all the bases, cross all the Ts and dot all the Is".
    – elemtilas
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 2:14
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    @elemtilas - You're quoting the tooltip which isn't an exhaustive set of reasons why someone might downvote.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 18:05
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    @elemtilas Those are more like guidelines. As to user behavior on downvoting, see: "The answer was down voted because I lost my keys." Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 1:30

1 Answer 1



First off, the question referenced didn't specify that they were looking for justification of the artistic decision; it was (at least to me) a question about reconciling the book description with what was seen on screen - which could (potentially) have an in or out of universe answer.

If there was an in universe answer, it would definitely fall within scope.

An out of universe answer (including it being an artistic choice) would still fit within guidance as 'Behind-the-scenes' information, as per help center. If we exclude these, it would also rule out any question where 'J K Rowling is bad at maths' as an answer, along with anything where a stylistic choice was the reason for a setting or action.

Asking specifically about an artistic decision would be borderline and might fit better on other sites, but I think would still just about be within scope. Asking a question where 'artistic decision' is a possible answer, but where there is uncertainty as to whether there is an in-universe explanation would be solidly in scope for me.

  • For the record, I'm the author of the question and indeed this is what I was asking: "it was (at least to me) a question about reconciling the book description with what was seen on screen".
    – Andres F.
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 13:38

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