directed by Directed by David Lynch
starring Francesca Annis, Kyle MacLachlan, Kenneth McMillan
Dune began as a fictional desert planet created by Frank Herbert in his 1965 novel. While the first novel was a hit, it did spawned five sequels, each slight worse than the one before. In the world of Dune, that desert planet is the only source of the spice “Mélange” in the universe. “Mélange” is the drug used by the Spacing Guild to “bend time and space” and drive the galactic economy. It also keeps the aged alive and operational. I took the novel as an allegory for the oil crisis in the 1970’s when I read it; but it was a while before I knew that was an obvious anachronism. In 1984 David Lynch filmed an adaptation that sold few tickets and drew near universal bad reviews. The movies was an unmitigated flop which I blame on a too-strict attempt to remain true to the original text. If nothing else, this failure up the big difference between film and print: Movies need a fast paced visual story, novels are free to wallow in detail.
Now a new film take on Dune is out, and has sold many more tickets and gotten solid, positive reviews under the direction of Denis Villeneuve. To commemorate the deal, the fine folks at Arrow reissued the original movie in 4k high definition scan, along with a “Making of” feature and a dense little booklet and a mini version of the original poster. As to the story, it naturally stays the same. Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan) is the son and heir to Duke Leto Atreides (Jürgen Prochnow ), ruler of the watery planet Caliban. In a web of interstellar head games, his entire family and entourage is shipped to the desert planet Arrakis as the competing Family Harkonnen, attempts to destroy House Atreides. Dashing Paul Atreides is the result of a generation-long breeding experiment by the Bene Gesserit nuns to create the seper being, who will enforce some mysterious process to some ill-defined end. I’m skipping a LOT of plot points here. On Arrakis, Paul adapts quickly to the desert life and escapes into the desert when the Harkonnen attack. Why Barron Harkonnen (Kenneth McMillan) didn’t just attack Atreides before the move makes no sense, but hey: Rule of Cool.” Some how this releases the water on Arrakis, and then its happily ever after.
I’m leaving out a ton of plot, and that’s the sword this film falls on to. The plot offers too many switchbacks and loose ends to be a satisfying film story. But visually, this move stuns and the 4k rendering does it justice. If you see both versions, the shift in film SFX technology 1984 and 2021 really jumps out. The 1984 movie suffers rather blocky SFX but in MHO, it LOOKS better. The 2021 version is darker and more monotone, and reflects ancient Greek battle motifs. The 2021 version takes longer but makes more sense. I’m sure countless megabytes will be spilled arguing the differences.
- bm There are two special features tucked away of this project, along with a nice book discussing the production and its issues as well as a cute little copy of the original poster. I can’t say this is a great movie, but its an important one in the SciFi univese. I recommend it with caveats: see the new version AND read the book first. That’s a big assignment, but in this case, it feel its justified. This is NOT a light weight Romcom or Action adventure piece. It’s a serious literary trek, one that will break you, or make you much stronger than you can ever imagine. Oh, wait, that that line came from that other big franchise…