Released 1984 (USA)
American, in English
Director - David Lynch
Stars - Kyle MacLachlan, Francesca Annis, Kenneth McMillan, and many others
In a distant future where the fate of the universe depends on who controls a power-giving spice, young Paul Atreides (MacLachlan) discovers that he may be the messiah prophesied to save humanity. Annis co-stars as Paul’s mother, Lady Jessica, and McMillan as Paul’s nemesis, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.
Violence; gore; drug use; mildly implied sexy times.
The constant whispering voiceover “inner monologue” exposition drove me nuts. It’s like the director thought his audience would be too stupid to understand the film or that his actors were too weak to convey the point with actions/expressions.
There’s a lot of scenery chewing. McMillan is the worst offender, but plenty of others have their moments, such as Brad Dourif (as Harkonnen sycophant Piter De Vries), Sian Phillips (as Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam), and even, occasionally, the great Patrick Stewart (as Paul’s personal trainer, Gurney Halleck).
I find it dull. Not completely sure why, but I think it has to do with pacing.
I enjoy its mystical elements.
It’s got a nice spin on the standard messiah story. There are elements that set it apart from others.
A lot of the special effects still look really cool. Granted, some of them are awful (the shield stuff in particular), but I suspect those things weren't good at the time either. I’ve always thought the glowing eyes look great, and I was impressed by the worms. The “explode stuff with my mind” stuff is good. So is Harkonnen’s flying. I was relieved by how much it didn’t look like wire-fu.
I can’t say that I’ve ever been a big fan of this film. I enjoy the creativity of the story, in that it’s a fresh take on a very old trope. A lot of the special effects have held up, and there are a ton of actors in it that you’d recognize (some of whom perform more capably than others). For me, I think this is a case of bad directing hampered by the time period in which it was made. This is a rare instance when I’d love to see a modern remake (the most recent was in 2000), because I think it would benefit greatly from some 2010s gritty realism. If they ever do another remake, I hope the director will trust the audience enough to not insist that his characters constantly whisper their thoughts in voiceover.
I give it 2.75 stars.