Dune (1984) movie review
Based on the novel by Frank Herbert, Dune follows Paul Atreides, who must follow his destiny to a planet called Dune, a desert planet with an abundant resource that several other worlds, including his father’s, depends upon. Wait I can do better let me just quote the original tagline: “It is a world where sandworms 1,000 feet long guard creation’s greatest treasure- the spice that prolongs life. And enables the mind to fold space and time. Where a prophecy will be fulfilled. And a young leader-“ I’ve just realized that the tagline for Lynch’s Dune probably gives away the entire film… Gosh I can’t wait for Villeneuve’s adaptation.
So with the upcoming adaptation of Dune finally upon us, we thought it would be a good time and talk about an 80s sci-fi film that doesn’t hold up as much as its cult following thinks it does… I don’t blame people for liking it though! Watching this film, I wanted to like it! For almost two hours I kept wanting it to be good, but in the end it kinda isn’t… And yes I know there were production woes and it’s not all Lynch’s fault.
Okay so let’s talk about why Dune doesn’t work. Well for one, this film is only 2 hours, 17 minutes. To put that into perspective, the novel is lengthy, we played a round of the Dune board game (2019) that lasted this long. Heck the miniseries from 2000 is 4 hours, 25 minutes, and it’s only considered good. I think there are more issues than the runtime though. One I noticed early on is that the visual effects aren’t really on par with 80s technology. I know Lynch likes doing things his way when it comes to, let’s say questionable effects choices, but many of the sequences like the shield spar just look bad now. Not old, bad. Similarly, I think the editing is consistently rough and inconsistent, often due to the strange and vague direction from Lynch. (Again production woes, but either it’s bad or the patchwork is bad. Or both. It’s both.)
I think the film’s biggest problem was picking David Lynch to write and direct, in part because of the clash he and the studio had. Don’t pick a director and then ruin his movie! Now I think the outcome a blend of poor direction and the difficult task that the decade that wasn’t up to it yet. But David Lynch is a bizarre guy, and I you never know what to expect from a David Lynch screenplay. The material is a speed-run missing critical elements that an extended edition can’t fix. Sure the studio cut too much and crammed in narration to fix it, which is just the worst! But Lynch replaced the Weirding Way with guns. It is messy, hard to follow, and often unfocused.
Okay enough with the negatives, because as much time as I spent tilting my head at strange visions of hands in water, I didn’t hate this movie. The practical effects are pretty great, and I especially love the miniature work with the worms! The sound was pretty spectacular too, being the film’s only Oscar nomination. I’ve listened to the score by TOTO plenty, and I enjoy it every time! And while they all had to say some very strange and silly things, I liked most of the performances in the film. Kyle MacLachlan feels too old, but he does a very good job balancing as much as he can from a character who needs more time to complete their strange arc. And the rest of the cast is all very good, with some better than others but too many to mention. I just wanted more of Sir Patrick Stewart. And last but not least, despite consistently poor pacing, I found the film still interesting conceptually, which I give full credit to Frank Herbert for.
So if you haven’t seen the 1984 Dune, ah you don’t have to. It’s not all bad. The performances are mostly good, the quality is so-so, but it’s great when it’s great! When it’s not great, everyone is whispering unnecessary narration to you. Really the highlights are the score, the sound, and the story for me. I think the story is just so interesting, and I simply cannot wait for a better version! This one just struggles as an adaptation on so many levels, from the consolidated story, poor pacing, and disorienting style choices that could only come from the mind of David Lynch. So if you just want a cheesy 80s sci-fi film you haven’t seen, Dune is an okay watch to get you ready for Villeneuve’s Dune. If you actually want a good version of this story though, check out Harrison’s Dune miniseries. 5/10.
So Dune? Have you seen it? What did you think? And did you like the miniseries better? Are you looking forward to the new film? Whatever your thoughts be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you liked this review and you want to read more, let us know in the comments what you want us to review next!
-review by Ryan Prince