Dune review by Jackass Tom

When my buddy Matt and I were going through a movie binge one summer (how can I forget the days of “5 movies-5 days-5 dollars”) we happened upon some movies of David Lynch. Wedged into one of the pockets of his directing career, was a movie called Dune. I remember hearing about the book and even the movie seemed a bit familiar. We returned the movie, having only seen the intro… and feeling a little intimidated by all the “information”. Years later, I was still intrigued by Dune, mostly because it was one of Lynch’s “biggest” films budget wise. With the newest release to DVD, containing both theatrical and extended versions, I finally got my second chance to plunge into the world of Dune.

So where do you begin with Dune? The story itself is pretty dense with lots of background information and sci-fi terminology. You really shouldn’t go into Dune without a history lesson so lets start with some of the basics. The good guys are the Atreides family. Paul Atreides (Kyle McLaughlin) is the son of Duke Leto (Jurgen Pronchow). They are like the “space royalty”. The bad guys are the Harkonnen’s, namely the disgusting Baron who live on the planet Giedi Prime. The whole family is pretty nasty in every respect of the word. The only exception would be Feyd (played by a Billy Idol looking Sting). Then there is an Emperor (Jose Ferrer) that rules the universe. He is relatively neutral, but sways towards evil doings because of powerful dependencies on a rare and valuable spice commodity called mélange, which is found on one planet: Arrakis (or Dune). This spice holds some unique powers such as expansion human thought and concentration. Its most important power is the ability to “fold space” or travel timelessly.

The emperor sends the Atreides family to Arrakis to oversee the mining process. This mission is actually a trap, as the Emperor sends the Harkonnen family to attack them. Apparently these space traveling blobs want the Atreides family erased because they believe they could be a threat to future spice industry.

This whole movie looked like it was straight out of the news. Where in the world do we have endless deserts with an abundance of a rare commodity that is used for travel, who’s citizens are dirt poor and waiting for the next messiah and who’s land is used as a battlefield between nations? (….taking a breather….) Oh yeah the Middle East. There is a prophecy that a man will come to free people of Arrakis. They are a planet of mixed tribes with very little power, but they hold the most valuable commodity in all the land (oil or mélange). The greatest powers in the universe/planet all vie for control of this area and mine it to the point of destroying the planet. Even the name “Arrakis” sounds like “Iraqis”. So that parallel was timely.

One thing that constantly bugged me about the movie (and I hate sounding off on this) was the effects. It’s not just the Tron-looking fight scene between Patrick Stewart and Kyle McLaughlin although it was hooky. But things like gassy navigator blobs that folded space were simultaneously repulsive and comical. In the scene where the Atriedes travel to Arrakis, it looks as though flesh-ball navigator “farts” them there. There were also a handful of characters that were constantly ingesting spice. As a side effect they had huge bushy eyebrows and red-stained lips that looked like a Level 5 herpes outbreak. Probably the most repulsive thing in the movie was the Baron though. The Baron has these nasty boils developing all over his face that get drained in his opening sequence. Bring a puke bag.

As interesting as the story was, some of the problems that plague Dune lie in the complexity of its story. Author Frank Herbert created complex worlds with history and detailed backgrounds that are necessary for completely understanding the narrative at hand. Unfortunately, the David Lynch directed theatrical release only scratches the surface of with this information. Even at approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes there are still some gaps and uncertainties that the viewer is meant to fill in on the fly. To help ease information into the audience he employed a method that I can’t recall seeing in other films. Just about every major and even minor character for that matter had a thought monologue. At first I thought it was only for a few characters, but this method was used throughout the entire film. Sometimes it was helpful, sometimes it just seemed like a crude plot moving device (“The worm…spice… is there a relationship”). Overall, the movie is watchable, but there are so many foreign ideas that aren’t explained thoroughly that it makes Dune hard to enjoy.

Luckily, there is an extended “Alan Smithee” version of Dune, that gives the viewers and extra ~40 minutes of movie. That extra film footage is necessary for anyone who is not a Dune loving Sci-Fi geek. Included is a new 10 minute introduction narrated by some guy that sounds like Stan Lee, creator of Marvel Comics. The intro is a bit incomplete film-wise; it is accompanied by a number of drawings or paintings that look almost like classy storyboards. But the real content is in what is spoken. The narrator explains the history of Arrakis, of the Emperor, and the Atreides and Harkonnen families. It really fills in a lot of gaps. The only drawback is that the narration continues throughout the film. Although it’s informative, this narration often breaks that film to viewer connection.

The latest Dune release contains both films. It has a ton of extras included some extra deleted scenes and interesting costume design sequences. Whether you are a Dune fan or a casual watcher, I would recommend going straight to the extended version where you will digest the most information and hopefully bypass that state of confusion. Even with the extended version, the movie is still a bit funky, but the same can be said about a lot of science fiction. Not a standard David Lynch film but still an interesting piece.

5 out of 10 Jackasses
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