Dune (1984) Review

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Dune (1984)

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Francesca Annis as Lady Jessica
Leonardo Cimino as the Baron’s Doctor
Brad Dourif as Piter De Vries
José Ferrer as Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV
Linda Hunt as the Shadout Mapes
Freddie Jones as Thufir Hawat
Richard Jordan as Duncan Idaho
Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides
Virginia Madsen as Princess Irulan
Silvana Mangano as Reverend Mother Ramallo
Everett McGill as Stilgar
Kenneth McMillan as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
Jack Nance as Nefud
Siân Phillips as Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam
Jürgen Prochnow as Duke Leto Atreides
Paul Smith as The Beast Rabban
Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck
Sting as Feyd Rautha
Dean Stockwell as Doctor Wellington Yueh
Max von Sydow as Doctor Kynes
Alicia Roanne Witt as Alia
Sean Young as Chani
Director: David Lynch

In the year 10191, a spice called melange is the most valuable substance known in the universe, and its only source is the desert planet Arrakis. A royal decree awards Arrakis to Duke Leto Atreides (Jürgen Prochnow) and ousts his bitter enemies, the Harkonnens. However, when the Harkonnens violently seize back their fiefdom, it is up to Paul (Kyle MacLachlan), Leto’s son, to lead the Fremen, the natives of Arrakis, in a battle for control of the planet and its spice. Based on Frank Herbert’s epic novel.

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I’ve heard about Dune for some time, especially that it was David Lynch directing a movie based on the influential novel, and had been meaning to watch it at some point. With Denis Villeneuve’s version coming however, I was felt that the time was right to watch Lynch’s version. Dune certainly was an ambitious book to adapt for the big screen. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to work out all that well, even Lynch himself didn’t have a good time making the movie, mostly due to the studio interference that went on during the movie. Still, I liked what I saw.

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I haven’t read Frank Herbert’s Dune, so I can’t comment on how well it was adapted to the big screen. A lot of adaptations of books can suffer from not being able to cover everything in its story and having to condense it down quite a bit, but that especially feels the case with this movie. It certainly feels like there’s a lot missing from the movie, even at 2 hours and 15 minutes. The last half of the story particularly feels quite rushed. One of the biggest mistakes was the use of narration, it’s used not only to explain a lot of the background and worldbuilding but it’s mainly used to reveal their inner thoughts. It was already quite a bit much with Kyle MacLachlan, but there’s narration from multiple characters about their feelings and it quickly becomes annoying. The exposition dumps were also pretty bad, the film literally opens with a floating head narrator shoving so much information onto you, and it is just a mess. Additionally, I wasn’t particularly interested in the characters or the story, I was just following what was going on.

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Dune has got a large cast, including Kyle MacLachlan, Patrick Stewart, Brad Dourif, Max von Sydow. Sean Young and Sting. Generally I remember the cast being alright, but they are constrained by the characters being not particularly well written or interesting. However, they do what they can.

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David Lynch is a great director and we know this from many of his other movies like Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet and The Elephant Man. With that said, while I haven’t seen all of his movies, when most people say that Dune is easily his weakest movie, I believe that. At the same time, I think it has got a lot of things going for it, and I even liked some of the choices that Lynch made. The production designs and costumes definitely go all out on the craziness. I haven’t read the book so I’m not sure if the designs are supposed to resemble how they look in Lynch’s movie, but looking at it all as its own thing, I liked it in a campy and over the top sci-fi way. The visual effects however don’t hold up well. Some are a little dated, other parts look so absurdly dated that I can’t imagine that it looked particularly good even for the 80s.

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David Lynch’s Dune is a bit of a mixed bag to say the least. Some of the direction didn’t work so well, and while the ideas are there, they weren’t executed the best. I think mainly that Dune just wasn’t ready to be made into a movie that early on, and at 2 hour and 15 minutes long it wasn’t quite enough. However, I don’t regret watching it, and I even enjoyed it for what it was. I will say that what benefited my experience of this movie was knowing that Villeneuve’s version would be coming and imagining how many of these concepts would be delivered by him (I even started imagining some of the characters in Lynch’s Dune played by the actors cast in Denis’s version). 1984 Dune doesn’t succeed all that well, but I think it’s worth a watch at the very least.

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