Dune is one of my favorite sci-fi novels of all time. I picked it up as a kid and I’ve probably read it a dozen times since. I love it so much that I encouraged my wife to read it very soon after we started dating knowing full well that it might be a geeky turn-off (luckily she enjoyed it!). For me it’s almost a perfect blend of action and drama in a fully realized political galaxy 8000 years in the future.
I recently read that Legendary Pictures acquired the rights from Frank Herbert’s estate to turn Dune and its sequels into a film franchise. My wife didn’t quite understand why I was so wary about the prospect and that’s when I realized: she’d never seen David Lynch’s 1984 “cult classic”. And she surprised me by insisting we watch it that very night. What could I say besides
I told her ahead of time that there would be a few actors she’d recognize, but I left the particulars a surprise. This turned out to be the right decision since her comments were hilarious.
On Barbara Madsen as Princess Irulan: “Isn’t that the senator from Designated Survivor? Why does she keep fading in and out? It’s not like there’s anything behind her except stars.”
On Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides: “I know him! He looks so familiar… Oh! He was in Sex and the City! He was Trey MacDougal, Charlotte’s husband! Why are you looking at me like that?”
On Sting as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen: “Really…”
On Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck: “Why would he agree to be in this? He looks like he wants to facepalm the entire time.”
Also, reason #412 why my wife is awesome, direct quote: “The Guild Navigator’s face looks like a pussy.”
As I remembered from previous viewings of the movie, there are parts that are weirdly cool, in the same way that the book itself is weirdly cool. I appreciate the ostentatious additions like the tufted leather walls of the Atreides ducal ornithopter and the Emperor’s gold spaceship. I imagine those are exactly the kinds of things a future feudal society would do to their technology. For the most part the acting is good, especially compared to the abortion of the SciFi Dune miniseries. And I actually enjoy the soundtrack by Toto, although once I told her who composed it, my wife kept asking when Africa was going to play.
But my pet peeves about the film are the same now as when I watched it before – all the changes from the book and choices that were made for absolutely no reason. Portraying Baron Harkonnen as a pure evil cliche pervert instead of the complex intelligent villain he’s supposed to be cheapens the eventual Atreides victory. There’s almost no character development at all outside of Paul Atreides. Choices like lightning for wormsign, all-white Fremen and the sandworms paying obeisance out in the desert when Paul takes the Water of Life make no sense. Let’s make a Mentat milk a cat! Let’s have it rain at the end! And changing the body control/martial art of the Weirding Way to a sound weapon? Why???
The movie ended with my wife’s “WTF” count around 82. But regardless of the film’s faults, we still had an enjoyable time watching it and poking fun. And one of these days we’re bound to dress up our orange tabby Cruiser like Dune Cat.