Movies With Bad Reputations: Dune (1984)
I thought I would spend a few days writing about films that are better than their reputations would suggest. This first review is going to start off pretty brutal, but stick with me.
David Lynch’s Dune is sterile and cold. It’s also incomprehensible, unless you have read the novel—recently. The opening narration, meant to clear up the intricacies of the plot, does the exact opposite, instantly plunging the audience into a state of confusion from which it will never emerge. The performances are stiff, except for the over-the-top villains, who would be clownish if they weren’t committing atrocities. And the clumsy voice-overs fail to significantly illuminate the plot.
And yet I can’t help but admire this movie. Against all odds, David Lynch has created a visually stunning, wholly unique, proto-steampunk/film-noir futuristic universe. As a purely visual work Dune amazes, and one wonders what would have happened if producer Dino DeLaurentis had not insisted that Lynch deliver a two-hour film that would (hopefully) be the next Star Wars. Lynch did the best job he could under terrible circumstances, and despite its considerable flaws, Dune manages to be an imaginative wonder: Jules Verne meets a biblical epic.
One note: despite a PG-13 rating, this movie contains a troubling scene of graphic violence that makes it unsuitable for children.