Dune ★★½

The upside of Denis Villeneuve´s “Dune” being delayed a year was that I had enough time to read Frank Herbert´s novel and then watch the David Lynch adaptation, so that I could go fully prepared to the cinema.

To start with the positives, Lynch´s “Dune” is not the complete train wreck some people made me believe. There are several stunning visuals, set pieces, costumes, and effects in this film (though admittedly, some look horrible), sound and score are great, as well, and although several of them are severely miscast, the ensemble cast including Kyle MacLachlan, Patrick Stewart, Jürgen Prochnow, Francesca Annis, Kenneth McMillan, Brad Dourif, Virginia Madsen, Sean Young, Sting, and Max von Sydow is fun to watch. And the movie can definitely be enjoyed as glorious camp.

That being said, the film has serious problems as a Dune adaptation. Though I have to say that I´m positively surprised that Lynch stays more or less faithful to the novel, as far as time constraints allow it at least. I thought an eccentric director like Lynch would take the source material and go in completely different directions, but no, the major plot points are all here. It´s just that they are incredibly rushed, condensed, and simplified. This should clearly demonstrate you that Villeneuve made the right decision to split his adaptation in two parts. Lynch´s film feels like a speedrun version, like it´s the adaptation of the Wikipedia synopsis of Dune rather than the actual novel. It shows you the important plot points, but they don´t have the room to breathe and to make you feel their gravitas and significance. Just as you never have the time to contemplate the vastness and complexity of the world, since the plot rushes from one set piece to the next. There is also no time to flesh out the characters, who are robbed of most of their depth. They can´t even talk like normal people, since they have to spout all the exposition that is needed to at least vaguely understand what is going on. There is no emotional weight or investment and at no point “Dune” feels like the epic, complex space opera it is. At the end of the film, you know the basic story of “Dune”, but you haven´t felt it. You haven´t experienced it with all its important details. That´s what I mean with the Wikipedia comparison. And this all because the movie has to put too much content into 140 minutes. You also don´t get the full David Lynch experience, since his artistic vision is clearly restrained here. You only see glimpses of it. It´s a weird movie, but not David Lynch weird, more conventionally weird.

Ultimately, “Dune” disappoints both fans of the novel and David Lynch fans, since it lives up to neither the groundbreaking source material nor the acclaimed filmography of the famous director. I still stand by my statement that the movie is at least watchable because of the strength of the source material as well as the technical aspects, cast, campy charm, and (unintentional) humor. I also appreciate the ambition of the production. Yet all in all, it´s a frustrating, confusing, and disappointing watch. Lots of wasted potential.

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