Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Dune

One evening in Colorado I happened upon AMC showing the David Lynch movie Dune. I went through a phase in my youth when I re-read the book constantly: I could open it up, read two lines, and know exactly where I was in the story, and what came before and after. Not exactly an Ambrose-level performance, but an indication that I knew the book pretty well.

I saw the film when it first came out, so it’s probably been 20 years since I watched it from beginning to end. Still, my impression of it this weekend was unchanged: what a train wreck. Is there a worse movie? It’s like a recipe for disaster.

First, start with spectacularly cheesy special effects. All that’s missing is the director’s wife’s dentist walking around with a cape over his face, like in Plan 9 From Outer Space after Bela Lugosi died.

Add some great actors (Patrick Stewart, Max Von Sydow, Jose Ferrer, Linda Hunt), but give them dialogue and delivery that makes Tonto sound like Snoop Doggy Dogg.

Stir in, excuse me, Kyle McLachlan and Sting?

Add a mystifying combination of ridiculous deviation from the plot of the book (sound guns? rain at the end?) and the literalist inclusion of some of its more obscure parts. Who are those two little kids who keep showing up in the later scenes? They’re Paul’s adopted sons, but that’s never explained, but still there they are.

Decorate with bizarre sets and costumes. Why does House Atrides dress like Nazis? Is Lynch trying to make a subtle point, or did they get a great deal on stuff rejected from the Ian McKellan 1930s version of Richard III? And if so, why do the Fremen look like deflated Michelin Men?

2 Comments

  1. Good, that saves me from Netflixing it. So, the question is: is the SciFi channel’s version actually any good, or does it just seem that way in comparison. (And I didn’t have a big problem with Sting in that part, but that’s about the only problem-free part.

  2. I never saw the SciFi Channel version, but heard that it was better than the David Lynch. And apparently their Children of Dune, which if memory serves features Susan Sarandon, was also surprisingly good.

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