1984. Directed by David Lynch.
Trash. Masterpiece. Creative Homage. Creative Violation. Dune is a film of extremes, both in it's presentation and in it's reception. Lynch himself has admitted that he was not right for the film. It is with these understandings that I revisited Dune.
The basic setup is that Spice is a precious commodity required by Engineers to allow them to travel the stars. They engage in a deep game of politics with various noble houses to ensure that they maintain a stranglehold on Arrakis, or Dune, the only planet where the Spice is found. The Engineers are so adept at this game that the Noble houses are too busy killing each other to notice they're being played most of the time. Enter Paul Atreides, heir of the current house to hold control of Dune. Is he the messiah of the sands or will fall to his own fear?
The strongest element of Dune is the costuming and set designs. Bob Ringwood is in immaculate form. From the vile Harkonnen's in their black clad industrial get ups, the stillsuits of the Fremen, to the jaw dropping style of the imperials, the costumes help communicate the larger than life epic feel Lynch was going for. Giorgio Desideri's set design brings this fantastical world to life. The dark industrial sights of the Geidi Prime are like looking into the abyss itself while the calm caverns of Arrakis are beautiful and dangerous.
The score, done by Toto is also iconic. Fans often compare Dune with the Syfy mini series and one of my many personal opinions is that the score is where the film outshines the latter. It's a rock and roll odyssey, so taught with musical ferocity that I found myself waiting for a certain flame throwing guitar to make an appearance among the dunes.
Finally, the world building that Lynch does is admirable. The way that character's thoughts are spliced in with the dialogue is a nice touch to the narrative. The body shields, the weirding way, and of course the mythology of the sandworms and the Bene Gesserites are all given admirable, if somewhat wanting treatment.
It's obvious that Lynch was not in control. This is not a Lynch film. It's a film with his fingerprints, but his cinematic genius is pushed to the fringes of the story by the studio's dreams of achieving blockbuster status.
Overall, Dune missed the mark. It was a grand attempt at harnessing a book that demands more thorough treatment. The novel is dense and the film sought to skip over (and outright change) various elements in order to get to the heart of the story and that was the fatal mistake. True fans continue to wonder is Jodorowsky's version, had it been made, would have eclipsed this effort. I contend that it would not have. Dune is a labyrinth, a story so complex and rich in detail that it is screaming for a Game of Thrones type treatment.
Perhaps, given the current success of a HBO's juggernaut, the network may give this story, one of the greatest science fiction stories ever written, a chance to shine. Regardless, the film is a true spectacle to behold and I will definitely be returning to it again and again, if only for the feeling it gives the viewer. For over two hours, you feel as if you are in fact, in another world