"Dune" DVD, Blu-ray Review (2010)

4/22/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Review


Directed by David Lynch, Written by Lynch, 137 Minutes, Rated PG-13.

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

Whoa. What a mess.

You go into literally any David Lynch film, and you'll have a unique experience. Most of the time that's a positive thing--"Mulholland Drive," "Eraserhead," or even the more straightforward "The Straight Story" are very original, intriguing and ultimately fascinating films. But in the case of "Dune," Lynch's take on the epic science fiction fantasy novel by Frank Herbert, its uniqueness lies in how utterly baffling, convoluted and disastrous it is.

The plot--man, the plot, is there even a way to put it to words? Quite a ways into the future--10,000-something according to a woman's floating head at the start of the film--several planets are in conflict over a mystical and consciousness-altering resource known as "spice." It originates only on a planet known as Dune, likely named for its endless desert landscape and nary a drop of rain. A young man named Paul Atreides (Lynch regular Kyle MacLachlan, far out of his element) is targeted for political assassination because he may or may not be the messiah prophesied to rid the universe of evil and take control of the planet Dune. There's a cavalcade of villains, whose various motivations and personalities all sort of blur together--there's Jose Ferrer as an evil Emperor of the Universe who wants control of the spice, there's Kenneth McMillan as an obese, repulsive flying baron who wants Paul dead and Brad Dourif as his right hand man, and of course there's Sting as Feyd-Rautha, son of the baron and who I suppose one could call the main villain.

They all come together on Dune, where epic battles are staged between the several conflicting groups and alliances are forged and broken, giant worms are killed and tamed, and sand blows around a lot. At some point in there we also get some romance, some typical Arthurian "rise of a chosen one" stuff, and a lot of weird dubbed voices. How it all relates to each other and why any of the characters want what they want I really couldn't tell you, because the film is as incomprehensible as they come. It's odd, really--where something like Lynch's "Inland Empire" can thrive in its confusion and nightmarishness, "Dune" just frustrates. It feels like in an effort to fit in as much of Herbert's story as possible, Lynch just shoved everything together and tossed shoddy exposition into poorly-implemented narration. This not only makes the film impossible to completely understand, it also harms the pacing of the film and eliminates any possibility of relation to any of the characters, especially Paul, because MacLachlan's mediocre performance certainly doesn't help on that front.

Some stuff certainly works. For one, Lynch's more terrifying and surreal tendencies come through in some of the more trippy and dreamy moments, or scenes with the film's villains, especially the Baron, who has some of the most devilishly funny and disturbing scenes in the film. I suppose the fact that they're funny is incidental, but I'll count it as a plus, because this film desperately needs one. The acting also isn't all that bad from most of the cast--MacLachlan aside, some of Lynch's regulars make solid appearances, Jack Nance being the best, and folks like Max von Sydow and pre-"Star Trek" Patrick Stewart pop up for a few minutes every so often. And in a different film, perhaps a Lynch one that's actually good, Sting's over-the-top performance would be right at home.

I think what it comes down to is that Lynch just can't work with a film of this magnitude. Don't get me wrong, he covers epic material with stuff like "Inland Empire" and "Twin Peaks," but those are "epic" more in their ability to cover so many facets of the human mind than in staging huge, grand action setpieces and covering dozens of characters in a deeply mythological story that is not his own. I don't expect Lynch really put his all into it, not to mention he wasn't given control over the final cut, so it all just comes out as an artificial, muddled disaster.

I think the only really great thing to come out of "Dune" is the fact that it allowed Lynch to fund "Blue Velvet." Otherwise, there's not much to recommend here.

Grade: D

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