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Dune Movie Review

lynch story paul arakis

1984 – David Lynch –

Adapted from Frank Herbert's classic science fiction novel, David Lynch's film version of Dune suffers from weaknesses common to movies based on long and complex literary works. Dune is a vast, sprawling epic that tells the story of young Paul Atreides, a messiah-like hero who represents a new step in the evolution of mankind and who develops a special connection with the desert planet Arakis (also known as Dune). Dune presents too many narrative levels and too many elaborate details to render effectively in a feature-length film. Perhaps in realization of this, the filmmakers have either attempted to compensate by filling in missing gaps with awkward voice-overs or ignored the gaps altogether. In addition, while the production design is visually interesting, Lynch has added his own sense of the bizarre to Dune in a manner that makes the movie a curiosity with little in the way of coherence.

Set in the distant future long after the planet Earth has been abandoned by humanity and is only a distant memory, Dune is the story of powerful, feuding houses with control over entire planets. House Atreides and House Harkonnen seek dominion over the planet Arakis, the source of an addicting spice which has bestowed some humans with psychic abilities. Paul (Kyle MacLachlan) ingests the spice in its pure form and encounters the huge worms of Arakis that produce the spice; he ultimately becomes the hero who puts an end to the conflicts by conquering Arakis itself and House Harkonnen. He also transforms into a sort of superhuman, foreseen by prophecy, and takes the name of Muad'Dib.

The story, as originally written by Herbert, is an intriguing, complex, mythical one with roots in mysticism and religion, touching upon the subjects of drugs and environmentalism. (Arakis represents a planet that has been robbed of life and desecrated by man's greed and industrialism.) However, other than the quasi-religious and mystical aspect of the story, these subjects seem only incidental in the film. Lynch focuses on the mysterious and the strange without offering elaboration or explanation. Several scenes featuring Paul's symbolic and obviously important dreams are simply puzzling and other scenes tend to focus on visually bizarre subjects—such as the twisted, bloody nature of Baron Harkonnen and his House (made by Lynch to be more bizarre but less explained than in the novel).

Lynch cast MacLachlan in a role meant for a boy, but the change is not surprising considering the many additional modifications made in this adaptation. Elements of the narrative, including background information and essential plot elements necessary for understanding the story, are often revealed in bits and pieces of some awkward voice-overs. The viewer is likely to wish Paul would explain a lot more than he does. Those who are familiar with Herbert's novel may follow the storyline without difficulty, but without some knowledge of the story's background may become lost. Visually impressive though frequently strange, the film seems chaotic and incomplete, leaving the viewer with a sense of video interruptus.

Cast: Kyle MacLachlan (Paul Atreides), Francesca Annis (Lady Jessica), Siân Phillips (Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam), Jüergen Prochnow (Duke Leto Atreides), José Ferrer (Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV), Freddie Jones (Thufir Hawat), Kenneth McMillan (Baron Vladimir Harkonnen), Sean Young (Chani), Richard Jordan (Duncan Idaho), Dean Stockwell (Doctor Wellington Yueh), Patrick Stewart (Gurney Halleck), Max von Sydow (Doctor Kynes), Paul Smith (The Beast Rabban), Sting (Feyd-Rautha), Linda Hunt (Shadout Mapes) Screenwriter: David Lynch Cinematographer: Freddie Francis Composer: Brian Eno (prophecy theme), Toto Producer: Dino De Laurentiis and Raffaella De Laurentiis MPAA Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 137 minutes Format: VHS, LV, DVD Awards: Academy Awards, 1984: Nominations: Sound Budget: $45M Box Office: $27.4M.

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