Dune

Dune ★★

It's bitter completing the filmography of a director you absolutely admire, especially one as strange and surprising as David Lynch usually is. Oh sure, there's plenty of short/miscellaneous films and TV shows to work my way through, but in terms of the feature-length works that make up the core body of his work for which he'll be remembered by, this is the final piece of the Lynch puzzle for me, minus of course the many rewatches in future years. After mystifying me with Mulholland Drive, I was confused but fascinated by this lunatic who could bring such strange, uncompromising visions of the weird onto the film landscape. A few of his films have made it to my favorites (Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, etc.), a few not so much (Lost Highway), but I've grown to really appreciate the sharp surrealism of his work that never makes itself entirely clear, but always unlocks itself further through the intentional and subconscious mysteries Lynch weaves. That said, Dune is complete rubbish.

Adapted from the 400-page novel by Frank Herbert, to which I have not read but have been informed that a large part of it is vital, extensive backstory, and written/directed by Lynch who had not read the novel, nor had any interest in science fiction when picked for the job, the film plays out like an absolute incoherent mess that at times somehow manages to be more confusing than a lot of his weird films. Many of the concepts are jam-packed willy-nilly, and the film insists on trying to include as many characters and plotlines from the original source material as possible, completely oblivious as to how to make any of it make sense to the unfamiliar and bogging itself with rote after rote concept. Lynch's penchant for surrealism at least makes scenes like the Spacing Guild folding space in order to allow instant travel between the universe interesting to look at, but these are few and far between.

Not helping this mess of a film is just how long and boring the end result is, with many mistakes made towards multiple core fundamentals, both in the sense of post-production and production flaws. Voiceover narrations from characters constantly infest the film (I'd be surprised if about 30% of the film wasn't V/O), and are infuriating because of their lazy regaling of information that either is irrelevant or could be shown through body movements rather than told. Many of the main protagonists deliver much beyond mediocre performances, and as much as I'm indebted to this for introducing Kyle MacLachlan to Lynch, he is sorely miscast and gives a bland performance to what should be a charismatic leader (though I could easily chalk this up to a more apathetic Lynch directing him, in comparison to the more personal Blue Velvet). It all in all fails to engross me in what should be a rich world (especially with a concept as laughable to me as an emperor of the entire universe, yeah sure that's gonna work out well), and blends together until it lumbers to its sloppy and underwhelming conclusion, a fitting end to such a chore of a film.

The end result of the long process in bringing Dune to the big screen for the first time always seemed like it was going to be on a road towards disaster, what with multiple directors untimely realizing that the novel itself is too dense and detailed to make for a cohesive 2-hour film, and Lynch fully dissatisfied not just from how out of his comfort zone such a project like this was, but for not even seeing its final cut in the way he thought it would turn out, thus leading him to take on more projects where he'd be in control. There have been a few other attempts to bring Dune to life, more successfully the 2000 miniseries and most promisingly Denis Villeneuve's upcoming adaptation (which already seems to be learning from this one's major mistake by splitting it into two parts), but as it stands Lynch's version is at best a cult film that has some nice set design and costumes to elevate its plot, and at worst a passionless nightmare that brings to life what the average sci-fi film looks like to people that hate science fiction films. The low point to Lynch's career, for sure, and, like with many low points, the key being that he isn't the most at fault here.

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