Dune (1984)

dune poster 1984 movie david lynch
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Pretty faithful to novel, some interesting visuals

Too complex a story to tell, dated visuals

Movie Info

Movie Name: Dune

Studio: Universal Pictures

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s): December 14, 1984

MPAA Rating: PG-13

dune sandworm 1984

Enter the world of Arrakis!

Duke Leto Atreides (Jürgen Prochnow) of House Atreides is gaining popularity that could rival the Emperor (José Ferrer).  Fearing for his title, the Emperor has struck a deal with House Atreides’ enemies House Harkonan and given Duke Leto leadership of the planet Arrakis which provides the only source of mélange which allows for space travel and in turn Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Kenneth McMillan) will help “overthrow” Leto for the Emperor.  On Arrakis among the native population called Fremen there is a legend of a messiah from off-world that could change the course of the planet and in turn the universe and Leto’s young son Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan) could be this messiah.  As Baron Harkonnen and his nephews Feyd-Rautha (Sting) and Beast Rabban (Paul Smith) strike, Paul and his mother Jessica (Francesca Annis) find themselves thrust into a war that must be won to avenge their family name.

dune baron vladimir harkonnen kenneth mcmillan

Still one of the grossest villains of all time

Directed and adapted by David Lynch (following his Oscar nominated The Elephant Man in 1980), Dune is a sci-fi-fantasy film.  Based on the 1965 Frank Herbert novel, the movie had years of production delays and turnover in production staff (including Alejandro Jodorwsky whose attempts were chronicled in the 2013 documentary Jodorwsky’s Dune).  Once the film was completed, Lynch struggled with editing problems in battles with the studio which led to massive cuts and a voice over version which led to Lynch to disown the movie as Alan Smithee in some versions.  The movie was ravaged by critics and a failure at the box office.

Dune looks really cool and as a fan of Star Wars, I wanted to see it (at eight)…which was the intent of the filmmakers, but maybe not Lynch.  Lynch had been offered Star Wars:  Return of the Jedi but picked Dune instead.  Lynch delivers something that does get most of the plot of Dune across, but Dune is something that can’t be spit out in two hours.

dune alia atreides alicia roanne witt

…but this kid rivals him

The movie is extremely truncated.  The movie spends a majority of the time setting up the language and situation and Paul and his mother hit the desert almost halfway through the film.  This leads to a compression of some of the major aspects of the story and a lot of voice over to fill in the places between.  Different versions of the film have existed, but Lynch has voiced his disinterest in trying to make a master cut.

The cast is quite strong.  It features a number of Lynch actors including MacLachlan, Everett McGill, and Jack Nance.  The movie is loaded with tons of small roles with a strong cast including Linda Hunt, Patrick Stewart, Dean Stockwell, Max Von Sydow, and Sean Young.  The movie is notable for an appearance by Sting as the smarmy Feyd-Rautha, and I like Alicia Roanne Witt as the evil kid Alia (Witt went on to a rather strong acting career).  The movie also features a young appearance of Virginia Madsen as the princess who often serves as narrator.  I also like the over the top Kenneth McMillan as one of the grossest villains ever.

dune 1984 feyd vs paul mauddib sting kyle maclachlan

If you lose, we’ll have to call the Police!!!

Visually, the movie is quite strong.  Some of the blue-screen effects haven’t held up well (like riding the sandworms), but the pre-computer generated sets have real depth and feel that is sometimes lacking in modern movies.

Despite all its problems, I still kind of like Dune.  The problem is that you must know Dune to understand what’s going on in Dune…making it a challenge.  If you do know Dune, you know places where the story is cut and made into a story to appeal to a broader audience.  The failure led to plans for sequels cancelled, but you still could get you kid toys…I know as a kid you want to play with a Baron Harkonnan.  Lynch followed Dune with Blue Velvet in 1986.

Related Links:

Dune (2000)

Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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