Dune (1984)

David Lynch directs Kyle MacLachlan, Francesca Annis and Kenneth MacMillan in this epic sci-fi adaptation of Frank Herbert’s bestselling series about feuding planets desperate to control a mining colony.

45 minutes of exposition that moves from various immaculately designed and populated sets. Who cares if it is gobbledygook? The family names and intergalactic terminology having the impenetrability of a Dutch engine manual. Then we get half an hour of set pieces… a mining rig is rescued from a giant worm, a imperial coup takes place. Have we settled down? Ramped things up? Now the plot is moving too fast. Events, years, relationships are vacuumed out. A foetus we saw expelled moments earlier is already a wise old toddler (diddy Alicia Witt), spouting prophecies and committing acts of ultra violence while most of the established ensemble lurk about, dormant, in the wings. What at first was stately and wordy, is now rushing past us like a flick book missing chapters. There’s a cast of arthouse stalwarts and Lynch mainstays. There are strange moments like a pug’s prominence in a battle and Sting emerging from a steam pod that sate our cheesy camp desires. There are sojourns into mystical interplanetary SFX that feel more at home in – and make more sense after you’ve seen the trippy episodes of – Twin Peaks: The Return, 35 years later. The vaginal grasshopper of a Guild Navigator “folds space” and you expect Bob in a bubble to float out. MacLachlan is lost in his first role but Annis, Virginia Madsen and Sean Young all look resplendent as his incestuous love interests. The movie becomes vital whenever the horrific Harkonnens take centre stage. Kenneth MacMillan’s grotesque Baron (riddled with pulsating boils, floating about like a carrier bag) holds the eye and steadies the ship… anchoring a messy, overreaching attempt to make an adult Star Wars… Take out the silly nomenclature and you essentially have a gothy, ornate A New Hope… gore has replaced adventure, preciousness has overwhelmed fluid storytelling. A decent editor or a less ambitious screenwriter might hack apart all that is dodgy here into a coherent blockbuster. I don’t see an unnavigable story. It all reduces down to fallen prince leads rebellion for his crown. Sadly here, it is hard to see the sand for the desert. The action figures misguidedly tied in with the release look awesome to play with. I can forgive over-reaching sci-fi a lot of missteps if the licensed toys are cool. This is a very random $40 million attempt to muck around with an once in lifetime playset.

6

Check out my wife Natalie’s Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

4 comments

  1. Sam Simon · November 25, 2020

    Your review is perfect in describing Dune as a huge mess. It actually is.
    The only positive thing is that I want to read the books it’s based upon…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Flops | Bobby Carroll's Movie Diary
  3. Pingback: Dune: Part One (2021) | Bobby Carroll's Movie Diary

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