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In spite of how bad it sucks, I am very fond of this movie. If I ever run across it on TV, I drop what I'm doing and watch it. Yes, yes, it was a massive disapointment, but squashed in between all the Suck, there's a lot of Awesome too. Not the least of which is the futuristic Medieval/Baroque look. Remember, this movie came out in 1984. The interiors and costumes and general production design are very cool. Everything has a vaguely steampunk look, 30 years early. I especially love the Bene Gesserit costumes. And the cool gadgets like the Hunter-Seeker and the suspensor lights floating around. And how I love Jessica and Paul's use of the Voice.  And the deflector shields they use in their combat training. I could go on and on.

Unfortunately, though, shortly after they arrive on Arrakis, things just fall apart. So let's go look at them.


1. Special effects

-- Everything about the Guild Navigator's visit to the Emperor was so cool: the big container he floats around in, the expressionless bald footmen with their vacuum cleaner hoses -- everything EXCEPT the Guild Navigator! Who is a giant floating peanut! Hilariously stupid puppetry or whatever.

-- Folding space. Special effects just hadn't really been developed yet to the point where filmmakers could do justice to it yet. Or maybe they had and we got cheated. I don't know. But it looked like something from Johnny Quest.

-- The weirding modules were a total joke.

-- The sandworms were a major disappointment.

2. Was it the Acting, or was it the Script?

To me, the acting was fine for many of the characters. I really liked Leto and Jessica and the Mother Superior. The test she delivers to Paul was great. She and the emperor were great.

Kyle MacLaughlin was adequate, up to a point, but then he just got lost somewhere. Did the script let him down? Was he just not up to it? The film does a pretty good job of building up the idea of Paul Atreides being this Superman-Savior figure predicted in so many traditions -- but we never get the payoff. Paul never seems to really become Muad Dib or the Kwizatz Haderach. He just seems like a regular guy who knows some stuff.

The array of supporting characters is muddled, because there are so many of them, and they are not introduced to us or developed properly. Who knows Gurney Halleck from Duncan Idaho, and really who cares?

And of course Baron Harkonnen was so over the top, I can't even. When I watch the film now, I fast-forward through his creepy scenes. He's still an ultra-sicko villain. His sidekicks made no impression, with all apolgies to Sting.

A lot of the actors had to deliver a lot of really stupid lines with a straight face and I give them credit for that. It's like shooting fish in a barrel to make shit of Alia's very bad overdubbing or Linda Hunt's pronunciation of the word "housekeeper," but there are many small moments between individuals which are quite good.

Once Paul and Jessica are out running around in the desert, it all just goes to hell in a handbasket. I have read that by the time David Lynch reached that point in the shooting, he'd given up all hope and wanted to just get it over with. Nothing in the deserts, nothing in the world of the Fremen is done adequately at all. And the big climactic battle was a big nothing.

But it could have been a lot worse, really. The Sci-Fi channel did a mini-series version of Dune a few years ago and it was dull and lifeless, which should have been impossible with such a great story. I just watched Jodorovsky's Dune a while ago and so much wish that movie had been made. That would have been absolutely awesome.

Dune is a world that needs the Peter Jackson treatment: the first novel alone could easily be split into three, 2-hour movies with no padding necessary. The detail of the world created by Frank Herbert is every bit as layered, nuanced, sophisticated, and imaginative as Tolkein's world, the GRRM Game of Thrones world, or the Star Wars universe. It deals with the same immortal archetypes that make for the greatest art. I hope someday someone does justice to it.




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