As a teenager, when I first saw David Lynch’s Dune, I thought it was brilliant. I loved its uber-complex mythology, its bizarre costuming, and its archetypal plot. Like a typical SF nerd, I would passionately quote, “He who controls the Spice controls the universe!” Having a soft spot for the film, I always bristled at the near universal criticism it faced.
I think this article, by Daniel D. Snyder, writing for the Atlantic, excellently captures the movie’s unique charms:
Dune was like the anti-Star Wars, undoing everything Lucas’s trilogy did to make sci-fi a friendly place. A New Hope took audiences to far away galaxies, sure, but it smoothed the transition into the fantastical with a simple, recognizable tale: A gentle farmhand meets a wise old man and a cowboy, gets himself a sword (of sorts), and goes adventuring. It’s almost baffling, in retrospect, that producer Dino de Laurentiis, who bought the rights to the notoriously obtuse Dune project in 1978, one year after Star Wars became a hit, could look at Herbert’s novel and think that something as warm, friendly, and accessible could be squeezed from its pages.
Herbert’s book offered a meticulously detailed saga of a dark future where royal houses war for control of the desert planet Arrakis and its precious resource, the spice melange. Fitting all of that tale into movie length proved comically impossible for Jodorowsky. Lynch’s film palpably suffers from numerous cuts and recuts to the final edit, which clocks in at two hours and 17 minutes. So instead of showing not telling the story, the movie relies on a flurry of voiceover and breathy exposition.
For the rest of the “The Messy, Misunderstood Glory of David Lynch’s Dune”, click here.