Monday, January 9, 2017

Sci Fi Top 100, #57: "Dune" (1984)

Movie Stats:
Released 1984 (USA)
American, in English
Director - David Lynch
Stars - Kyle MacLachlan, Francesca Annis, Kenneth McMillan, and many others

Plot Summary:
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.

Bad Stuff:
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.

Good Stuff:
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.

The Verdict:
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.


Patricia said...

This movie has a special place in Matt's heart and though he understood why I did not like it, I think he would have preferred that I also enjoyed its charms. Instead I was bored and kept falling asleep. I tried to distract myself watching pre-CGI special effects, but even that couldn't keep me awake.

With the exception of Wild at Heart* I have never liked anything I've seen David Lynch direct, and that includes the great love of our generation: Twin Peaks.

*I have no idea if I would like Wild at Heart anymore. I watched it with my first boyfriend and remember thinking the movie was incredibly hot, just like making out with him was. My hormones may have clouded my judgement.

Patricia said...

ps. David Lynch's hair looks really fabulous in his IMDB profile.

balyien said...

I feel the exact same way about Wild at Heart! I saw it when I was 20 or so and loved it. Now the only thing I can recall is Laura Dern's hot sex scene. I have a feeling if I watched it now I would probably think it was terrible. Best to leave it in the vault.

I'm not a fan of Lynch. I think his stuff is just plain weird. And I've never *GASP!* seen a single episode of Twin Peaks.

However, his hair really is quite fabulous in that photo.