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Dune (1984)

October 6, 2009

1/10 Translation Abominations

Man, I give myself a pat on the back for making it through this one. This must be what it feels like to be a film critic, forcing yourself to sit through movies that would otherwise make you want to drive your head through the TV screen. What the hell am I getting myself into?

Dune is about a teenager and his regal family that move from their sweet digs on their H2O-rich home world of Caladan to the hot, depressing, desert-covered planet of Arrakis (aka: Dune!). So they arrive, and, as expected, the planet sucks; but it turns out that the said teenager, Paul Atreides, might just be the savior of legend that is said to bring peace to their world, which is pretty nice. There’s a whole lot of political intrigue and double-crossing and whatnot going on at the same time, but without getting overly complicated, the Paul Atreides thing is the main gist of the story.

I figured I’d give this movie a watch after just finishing the book (which was pretty good), and, wow, it’s pretty amazing how much better the source material got after having to sit through over two hours of this shitty mess. I’d heard this was bad going into it, but no amount of self-delusion that Dune was merely a cult classic misunderstood could have prepared me for the reality of the situation.

Since most of this review is going to be me taking a big ol’ crap on this movie, let’s start with how it managed to even get that one measly point out of ten. There’s not much here to salvage, but if there’s any aspect worth noting it’s the scale of the movie. You can tell that some suits out there put a lot of money into this, because the set pieces are all very ornate, the sandworms are impressive to watch for the most part, and there’s something about it that just made believe director David Lynch was really trying to make this a good movie. But that’s about it.

So I don’t know how David Lynch got roped into directing this project, let alone having to write the entire script as well, but the poor guy was doomed from the start. It’s not that Dune is unfilmable, it’s just impossible to do the novel justice within a two-hour time frame. I was thanking my lucky stars that I had read the book beforehand, because I would have been beyond lost within the first ten minutes. The book is just so damn intricate and complex on so many levels that, in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised in the least that so many characters and plot lines ended up being either completely butchered or left out entirely.

Nor does help that a lot of the acting here is nothing short of horrific. Kyle Maclachlan is totally miscast as Paul Atreides, for some reason Sting is in it as villain of sorts who strikes fear into the hearts of others by dressing as a Troll doll, and Patrick Stewart is cast as one of the better characters in the book, but that doesn’t matter either because his whole back story is more or less written out along with everyone else’s.

But the top contender here for worst acting of the ’80s goes to this guy, Kenneth McMillan, as the Atreides family arch-nemesis, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. Not only does he look ten times more revolting than I envisioned him, but instead of being the calculating and devious villain he should have been, he’s degraded to one of the most annoying bastards in movie history that specializes in laughing and barking all the time (for reasons unexplained) and spitting on chicks’ faces. Big surprise I’ve never heard of Kenneth McMillan since. Talk about fuckin’ torture.

The special effects are also god awful, but all special effects during the ’80s were pretty awful. No points deducted there. Just more points deducted from the ’80s.

Geez. This movie sucked. I guess the only reason you might want to go seek this out is if you read the book, but trust me, it’s not worth it. I’m all for David Lynch, I think he’s awesome, and I don’t blame him for how this movie turned out. This isn’t a David Lynch movie, this is…I don’t know what this is, actually, and I really don’t care to spend any more time trying to figure it out. All I know is this is no representation of what he does best.

Just read the book and call it a day. Easy peasy Japanesy.

And can anyone tell me what the fuck this thing is? Don’t remember that in the book.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. nothatwasacompliment permalink
    October 6, 2009 9:49 am

    if you haven’t seen Siskel and Ebert’s review of this movie, they pretty much agree with you on all counts.

    I WILL kill him!

  2. Marc permalink
    October 6, 2009 10:59 am

    You’re a stronger man than me Aiden deciding to watch this of you own volition. I was brow beaten in college to watch this more than once so some people (no longer my friends for good reason) could explain the movie and it’s brilliance.

    It was shortly after the 3rd viewing I turned 21 and vowed to find any bar in Stillwater that had a successful “Mind Eraser”. No place did but I’ve been looking ever since:P

  3. October 6, 2009 1:10 pm

    What’s really sad about this movie is that Frank Herbert loved it.

    That fishmonster thing is a navigator. If I recall, they’re only just mentioned in the book, but feature fairly prominently its sequels.

    • October 6, 2009 1:21 pm

      Man, Frank Herbert must not have gone to the movies all that often.

      Yeah, I have no idea why the navigators played a seemingly seminal role in the movie when they had practically no involvement in the first book. What a mess.

  4. October 9, 2009 2:30 am

    Yes, this movie is pretty horrible. I watched it for the first time about a year or so ago and don’t remember a thing about it, except it was completely boring and had a few scenes with Patrick Stewart and Sting.

    • October 9, 2009 7:34 am

      Haha, that’s really about the long and short of it. Total garbage.

  5. Rob M permalink
    October 9, 2009 9:34 am

    I had always refused to watch this movie, and now this review confirms that I will stay away from it for good. Stick to the miniseries on the Sci-Fi Channel (though even THAT could have been way better than it was).

    I’m interested to see how Peter Berg’s going to handle his remake (he said he views it as “muscular and adventurous, more violent and possibly even a little bit more fun”).

    • October 9, 2009 9:37 am

      It’ll be interesting alright, but still, if it’s not broken down into a miniseries like on Sci-Fi, I don’t think it’s gonna fly. Have to wait and see.

  6. Dogg permalink
    January 3, 2013 1:25 pm

    He’s out if dune messiah “a steersman”

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