There aren’t many movies that evoke such strong opinions as David Lynch’s Dune. On one hand, it’s Lynch’s highest grossing film to date. On the other hand, it was a box office bomb, and is still roundly considered Lynch’s worst film. What cannot be argued is the grandness of this vision. There’s a lot going on, and though I imagine it was difficult at the time to not compare it to the brightly-lit world of Star Wars, I find it better composed than a lot of fantasy pieces. Even modern films, who have easier access to better special effects, create much hollower and less convincing worlds.
I’m not going to even try to summarize the plot. I have read the Frank Herbert book upon which this is based, and though this is a good adaptation, it is also true that a two hour movie cannot begin to capture much of what the book portrays. In 2000, there was a three-part miniseries on Syfy, with a runtime of 265 minutes, that supposedly does a more comprehensive job. I haven’t seen that or Jodorowsky’s Dune, a 2013 documentary about cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unsuccessful attempt to adapt the book in the mid-1970’s. Jodorowsky planned to make a 10-hour film.
Personally, I find it to be pretty spectacular. The performances are great, and if there’s any problem with them, it’s that there are so many characters that many outstanding actors don’t get more than a couple of lines. Linda Hunt, in particular, is barely on the screen before she’s been killed off, and this is only three years before she would win an Academy Award. There’s also a lot of actors whom we’d get to known from Twin Peaks: Kyle McLaughlin, Everett McGill, Jack Nance, and Jose Ferrer, whose son Miguel would play an FBI Agent. And Max Von Sydow, still one of the greatest living actors of all time.
I actually feel that Lynch was perfect for this project. Anyone familiar with his work knows that Lynch has no problems not explaining things to the audience. Yes, there are about fifty things happening all at once, but for the most part it comes together in the final act. And we get to see Sting prancing around and chewing up the scenery. Honestly, it’s a lot of fun.