Director: David Lynch
Writer: David Lynch
Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Francesca Annis, Brad Dourif, Jack Nance, Sean Young, Sting, Paul Smith, José Ferrer, Freddie Jones, Richard Jordan, and Patrick Stewart
David Lynch famously hates his version of Dune. He didn’t get to create his vision for the story, with so much studio interference and almost an hour being cut out and shortened. Entire scenes become sentences and a voice over was added in places to explain what was happening. When the film was finally released, after over a decade of failed attempts to adapt Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel, the critics and audiences hated it. The film was a flop and received scathing reviews. David Lynch wanted his name taken off it, and on the TV version it is removed. Despite this the film has grown a cult following over the last thirty-seven years, with some very vocal defenders, including one of the greatest sci-fi writers of all time Harlan Ellison. With a new version of Dune being released, which early reviews are claiming it does the sci-fi epic justice, Lynch’s Dune has been re-released in cinemas and Arrow Films have released a 4K remaster disc.
The new version looks glorious and is well worth making the trip to see if on the big screen. The picture and sound is excellent and the restoration is top quality. The score from Toto and Brian Eno is gorgeous with epic sweeping moments, some harrowing sequences, and a lot of more subtle and quiet ambient pieces. It’s an outstanding score that rivals any big sci-fi film from the last fifty years. It sounds incredible with the latest restoration, in the same way that the visuals are simply breath-taking.
The practical effects are fantastic and still hold up today, the CGI is primitive by today’s standards but still has a lot of charm to it. One look at the almost Minecraft CGI armour that Kyle MacLachlan and Patrick Stewart wear in their fight will tell you why people hate and love this film. It’s no wonder why it has a cult following and also easy to understand why people hated it at the time and now. The screening that I was in had twenty-one people in at the start (yes, I counted, sitting in the back corner), including me and my wife, within ten minutes four had left, by an hour in eight more had joined them. This is a film that is always going to divide people’s opinions.
The first act of the film is a mess. So much information is dumped on you through long speeches and conversations. There are so many names and terms that you have to remember. It’s dense and hard to follow, it’s also dull at points. It’s hard to stay focused on it all and so easy to switch off. Thankfully, once the film gets going it’s so good that it makes up for the opening. Getting through the first part is gruelling but so rewarding. The second half of the film, once the plot has gotten going, is so insanely wonderful and epic in scale that it’s more than wroth sitting through. The climactic scenes are epic in scale and simply awesome. By the time the credits role you’ve forgiven it for the first part (When I was much younger I watched this on VHS and hated it. Looking back, I only really remember the first part, so I think I was so bored I zoned out completely).
The cast is absolutely fantastic, MacLachlan (Twin Peaks) is excellent as Paul. Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: TNG) enters battle holding a pug, and joins MacLachlan to ride a giant sand worm to battle later. Sting is strange and intense. Lynch regular Jack Nance (Eraserhead) is giving it his all as the Baron’s henchman. Kenneth McMillan hams it up as the spotty and pus producing Baron, the villain of the story.
Lynch’s film isn’t going to be a fun time for everyone, it definitely wasn’t for Lynch himself. It’s worth a chance on and the new 4K restoration couldn’t possibly look better. If you have the chance to see this on the big screen, then go for it. It’s an experience at the very least and you might join the loyal cult of Lynch’s Dune. The novel is a great story and the film tells a very interesting version of that. It would have been very interesting to see Lynch’s versions of the sequels.
Before making Dune, Lynch was very seriously offered the chance to direct Return of the Jedi. After watching Dune you can’t help but wonder how David Lynch’s take on a Star Wars film would have turned out. It would probably have been as divisive as Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi at the time and gone down as a cult classic in the years since.
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