Dune (1984)

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Name: Dune (1984)
Creator: Frank Herbert
Date(s): 1984 (film)
Medium: film
Country of Origin: United States
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Fan Comments

...the most disappointing movie of the year. I was at one of its first screenings in this area, one of a sell-out audience that appeared to be made up in large degree of Dune freaks, (You can always tell when people have come to see something special rather than have just picked out the least unappealing movie because they didn't know how else to kill the evening: a more social group with laughter and talk between strangers, an air of expectation, an immediate hush when the theater darkens, applause tor the titles, etc.) And the opening moments were OK: the brief history/cosmoloqy lecture by Princess Irulan, although both unnecessary for those who'd read the book and too superficial and rushed for those who hadn't, at least seemed to give assurance that the book would be followed faithfully. And it was, mostly, until the really dreadful, hokey ending some idiot dreamed up.

Too faithful, in fact. Dune's a big book, with many interweaving plots and action taking place on several planets simultaneously and dozens of characters with varying backgrounds and motivations. What takes many hours to read cannot, should not be crammed into a couple of hours of screen images. People appear, perform their stunt to advance the plot and vanish within a couple of minutes— without your ever having a chance to learn anything about what drives them and with no chance at all of becoming emotionally involved with their fate. This character succeeds. That one dies. So what? It’s all a big yawn. What it most resembles is a grade school pageant that whips through 200 years of American history in 15 minutes. There even seems to be a similar type of narration because of the continual voice-overs of the character’s thoughts, I guess in hopes of giving the audience at least a meager chance of making sense of this mess.

Also, I found it hard to believe they'd spent $50 million hatching this turkey. On what, for heaven's sake? The special effects weren't. The shots of the Guild navigator against the starfield (a pink slug, smoke and fireworks) wouldn't have been acceptable in a Dr. Who episode. The sandworms were utterly unconvincing—I think shots of a vacuum cleaner hose would have been more lifelike. They weren't even attempts at an accurate depiction. Herbert's worms had circular mouths filled with crystalline, daggerlike teeth. The movies' monsters had three blunt, fleshy flaps that waved around. (Sort of like your tricuspid heart valve if you've ever seen pictures of those.) The only effect I did like was the visualization of the personal forcefield/armor: it wasn't at all how I'd pictured it but it was effective.

In a desperate attempt to involve the audience, to arouse some -- any emotional response the director went for horror and so we get pleasant shots of Baron Harkonnen's personal hygiene, medical treatments, sexual life and dietary regimen. (Don't ask for details. If you were fortunate enough not to have seen them for yourself quit while you're ahead.) And even that missed the mark. It wasn't horrifying, just disgusting. Better that he'd settled for benign boredom.

Don't think that I was alone in am hatred of this miovie. The audience, mostly pre-sold fans, started out attentive and reactive but got quieter and quieter. By halfway through (I've never looked at my watch so many times during a movie) they'd settled into a sullen apathy. By the time of its climactic battlescene (Attack of the Killer Moras?) they were treating it as camp, laughing and cheering when a worm squashed a fleeing soldier as they would Godzilla s trashing of Tokyo for the thousandth time.

That last consent was an unkind and unfair comparison.

I apologize to Godzilla. [1]


  1. ^ from Susan Beth in APA Enterpise #23 (February 1985)