[Review] This Nerd’s First Viewing of Dune

Dune (1984)

The official synopsis of Dune (1984):

“In the year 10191, a spice called Melange is the most valuable substance known in the universe, and its only source is the desert planet Arrakis. A royal decree awards Arrakis to Duke Leto Atreides and ousts his bitter enemies, the Harkonnens. However, when the Harkonnens violently seize back their fiefdom, it is up to Paul (Kyle MacLachlan), Leto’s son, to lead the Fremen, the natives of Arrakis, in a battle for control of the planet and its spice. Based on Frank Herbert‘s epic novel.”

Well I have kept this secret long enough so best come clean. I have never seen Dune (1984) in its entirety. Another issue at hand is that while the world is still trying to find ways to open back up, theaters are still being hit hard with still being closed or at best 25% capacity openings. So, I thought I’d address two issues at once, my failure as a nerd, and a classic movie review for something that can be streamed at home.

The version of the movie I saw was the original David Lynch cut of the film. This version is about 45 min shorter than other versions that were presented on television then later released on home media.

Overall, I enjoyed this cult classic. Now this is not me saying it is perfect, just that I enjoyed the movie. I sat myself down to watch this last night and at no time did I compare it to other sci-fi franchises as I thought I might. Kyle MacLachlan was great as the main protagonist Paul Atreides, aka Paul Maud’Dib, aka Kwisatz Haderach.

He effortlessly played the son who wants to honor the past while being willing to put himself at risk to progress his people. I found myself pulled into the story with little effort. Jürgen Prochnow as Duke Leto plays a wonderful secondary protagonist. He takes actions showing that he cares for his people rather that the spice and that can be seen in how he interacts with Paul. What did take a bit to overcome was my constantly having to stop myself from saying “oh that’s so and so from that one thing” every time someone in star studded cast made their first appearance.

Now as a TNG (Star Trek: The Next Generation) fan, Patrick Stewart holds a special place in my heart and his life after the show has cemented his good nature. As Gurney Halleck, we see him as Warmaster to Duke Leto, who also takes on the task of training Paul in combat firsthand. This departure form what he is known for did not take but a second to adapt to. He plays it so well and you never again question his character.

As for the other actors, they include Lynch’s regular collaborators such as Everett McGill, Jack Nance, Alicia Witt, and a great performance by Sting.

The visuals for this movie were well done. Aside from a few rudimentary visual effects (see below), the practical effects can still be enjoyed today. This proves that over time, practical effects will always age better. Sound was also done with finesse. I looked into the collaborators on the soundtrack and discovered that much like the rains down in Africa, Toto was called upon to provide their magic to the Dune score.

Now, the only real issue I have is that I went into this viewing knowing that Lynch was asked to trim almost a third of his original movie to get it released. This involved creative editing and reshoots for some scenes to trim them down. On a second viewing I was able to see that some jumps felt a little forced. It is an example of how good Lynch is at his craft that even with the questionable edits throughout, I still did not feel that metrics of my review suffered.

Conclusion:

Maybe my review is more generous than you may have thought it should be. Perhaps you think I should have been more critical, but I must confess that I only expected this to be a good popcorn sci-fi adventure and that’s exactly what I got. I think I will add myself to the “OG” Dune fanbase.

This is a movie that can be enjoyed by casual sci-fi fans, sci-fi diehards, and the “but the book was better” crowd. Currently, we are three months away from a new Dune coming to theaters. While I want to see theaters safely open and allowing people to escape for a few hours, I just don’t think that will be a reality in a large portion of the population in some places. So, for the meantime, I invite you to join Maud’Dib in this “battle for control of the planet and its spice.”

Dune can be streamed from HBO Max. You can also purchase this from service such as Apple TV+, YouTube and Amazon Prime.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Literary = 4, Directing = 4, Visual = 5, Editing = 3, Sound = 4

Film Review Rubric (Provided by Matthew Miranda)

The film is scored on a five-point rubric. The film score is a cumulative score out of five film aesthetic elements, with a total score of 25. It is then divided by the five elements to give a final score out of five.

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