Two rival noble families, the Harkonnens and the Atreides’, battle over control of the planet Arrakis, filled with the drug “spice” which allows for everlasting life. The Harkonnens end up assuming command of the planet, leading Paul Atreides, of the Atreides’, to overtake it from him
Dune should’ve been a great film. After all, it was directed by beloved filmmaker David Lynch, known for Twin Peaks and Eraserhead. The film stars many celebrities, including Kyle MacLachlan and Patrick Stewart. To top it off, Toto, the rock band, did the soundtrack.
While Dune should be a great film, it isn’t. The film is so bad Lynch himself tried to separate himself from the picture, attempting to credit fake people as writer and director, though his name did make it into the final cut. He initially stated his producers made it terrible, restricting his artistic freedom, but later said it was his own fault for writing the original script to be three hours long, and not taking into account that the film shouldn’t have been that long
The film starts off with a large amount of information given quickly in a terrible fashion. A character, for some reason, gives an introduction narration, followed by a chart showing the planets. The movie is effectively a science documentary for a period of five minutes.
This introduction, unfortunately, doesn’t tell us all we need to know. I’ve watched this film multiple times and I still was consulting it’s Wikipedia article for this review’s recap section, as there’s no way you can fully figure out what’s going on from what the movie gives. Necessary details are mentioned once, briefly, and never mentioned again. Some information is omitted entirely. For example, the two royal families are ruled by an emperor, yet it’s never mentioned how large the reach of the emperor is, and what he’s the emperor of. Also, Paul’s love interest is never developed whatsoever. She says one word to him, there’s a cut scene where they’re making out, followed by another scene where she’s telling him she loves him, and that’s all her screen time. She only ever opens her mouth when it regards him. It’s not just the love interest that’s underdeveloped, all of the characters are. Even Paul.
I felt at the end of the movie that there was something I was missing. They had the talent of Patrick Stewart, but had him play a character with a role the movie wasn’t clear on, who only spoke a few lines. We don’t know the villain’s deal either. For some reason he can float around and has warts on his face, though for why we don’t know. He has a doctor that says he worships everything about him, including his diseases, which might indicate everyone’s brainwashed into worshiping him, but we receive no other indication that this is true.
Beyond what occurred without explanation, the dialogue is horrendous. Missing is nuance. Missing is colorful language. Missing is contractions, for whatever reason. Instead, the dialogue is composed of awkward, painfully direct lines.
I hate, more than anything else, the weird voice-overs meant to portray the characters thoughts. Oftentimes they reveal nothing and are unsettling to watch. Some of the voice-overs are whispers, which occur in the middle of a scene while other people are talking, so you can’t tell whether or not it’s a voice-over or someone off-camera whispering out of view. Also, what makes it worse is that not all of the voice-overs are whispers, which makes no sense. Why would some thoughts be whispered and some thoughts be regular voices? The movie never tells.
This film is both paced slowly and quickly. Half an hour could go by with nothing happening, but all of a sudden an entire romance plot could occur within the span of five minutes. It’s insane how much of the movie is filled with nothing as there’s much not expanded upon. You could cut entire sequences of people walking, replacing them with plot.
Lynch isn’t the only big name that failed us, Toto did too. To be fair, not all the music is terrible; there are good tracks. But, a few have instruments that aren’t in the same tempo and are out of key.
Despite the failure of the direction and writing, the set and costume design are wonderful. They had a clear idea of how they wanted the world to look, portraying different cultures within this universe. They’re creative, lavish, and beautiful. I would want to live in a few of the sets because of their sheer picturesqueness. The costumes could’ve come out of the Met Gala as they were wonderful looking. Given it was the 1980s, the special effects aren’t too bad either.
One problematic element of the movie is that the villain is described as gay, preying upon a younger man, literally ripping him apart. He has warts all over his face which could be symbolic of the Kaposi’s sarcoma tumors symptomatic of the AIDS virus. Given his violent treatment of the young man and others around him, it’s clear the film portrays him, and thus all homosexuals, in a negative light in the film, which is, of course, horrible.
Despite how many big names were a part of it, don’t watch this confusing. problematic, and slow film.
Amazing Science Fiction: Dune (1984)
Writing - 5/105/10
Storyline - 2/102/10
Acting - 7.5/107.5/10
Music - 6/106/10
Production - 9.7/109.7/10
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