“Dune” (1984 film)

220px-Duneposter

I admit I’m not a fan David Lynch’s adaptation of Dune. I have many problems with the film, but the biggest is that it completely misses the point of the novel. Dune is not a hero’s journey. It’s not simply a grimdark Star Wars. Rather, it’s a story about the dangers of charismatic leadership and the interplay between political and religious power. In the movie, we don’t get to her Paul’s internal struggle, much less any hint that his jihad might have negative repercussions for the future. Indeed, in the final scene from the film, rain pours down as if to bless Paul’s victory.   

There are other needless changes from the book. Why do the Harkonnens walk around with heart plugs? Why does Thufir Hawat have to milk a cat? What are those sonic voice-activated weapons the Fremen use? What does any of this add to the story? Small points perhaps, but all the more frustrating because Lynch seemed more concerned with them than with capturing the spirit of the story.

All that said, the film captures the baroque aesthetic of the Dune universe. The elegant costumes, the grandiose architecture, and the larger-than-life soundtrack all evoke the Frank Herbert’s writing. It also helps that the crew shot the desert scenes in a real desert in Mexico. When I try to envision Dune, I can’t help but think of Lynch’s visual depictions, despite the plot.

I don’t really have much else to say about this film except to say don’t judge the book by this movie.

My journey through Dune continues next week with the Sci-Fi Channel’s Dune miniseries, a vastly superior adaptation…

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6 thoughts on ““Dune” (1984 film)

  1. See, I really like this movie, but definitely as an “adaptation” and not a faithful rendering. I enjoyed seeing someone else with a mind even weirder than mine exploring Dune.

    Now, that being said, I could have done without Sting in a codpiece 8-0

    Liked by 1 person

    1. See, I’m OK with a loose adaptation, so long as the adaptation gets the central point of the novel. I love “Blade Runner” and I love Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.” Even though they’re very different in terms of characters and structure of the story, the film still asks the same questions the book does about the nature of humanity, emotions, memory, etc. They’re engaging in the same intellectual dialogue, even if in slightly different means.

      Lynch’s Dune though seems completely oblivious to the idea that the book is supposed to be a warning against charismatic leaders. The happy ending with rain goes against the core theme of the book. I’d prefer an adaptation that cuts more plot points out so long as it engages with the same themes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ideally, we’d get an adaptation that does both. Jurassic Park is a good example of a movie that keeps most of the same characters and plot points, changes a few things, and engages with theme of humans tinkering with nature (movie better than the book imo). But for me the tone and themes of an adaptation are critically important, more so than whether or not some secondary character or subplot gets cut.

    The Hobbit films are another example of an adaptation that actually contains much of the content of the book, but completely botches the point of the story. The Hobbit book was a lighthearted adventure focused on Bilbo’s growth, not a dark epic war story.

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