A sci-fi cult classic, Dune is either a love-it or hate-it film. A sprawling epic in the truest sense most viewers find themselves either completely enthralled or completely underwhelmed by its density and bizarre flourishes. Despite being recommended it countless times throughout the years, I only just watched it recently for the purpose of this review. So despite being a complete virgin to the deeply complex Dune-verse, hopefully my opinion of it isn’t biased by being a nut-hugging Frank Herbert nerd or someone who follows Roger Egbert’s opinion just a little too closely.
Based on Frank Herbert’s gargantuan novel, Dune is set in the year 10,191 and follows the plights of intergalactic civilizations vying for the most prized resource in the universe- the spice ‘melange,’ which is crucial for interstellar travel and also has life extending qualities. The spice is found on the planet Arrakis, which in the first part of the film is taken over by the noble Atreides family, who are locked into a power struggle with their nemeses, the repulsive and depraved Harkonnens. This battle becomes all the more epic with the story of Paul (Kyle McLachlan), the Atreides heir, who is reminded all throughout the film of his predestined greatness, giving him a messianic status.
With much of the film’s story centered on his mission, the process through which he experiences hardship and exile before recognising and using his own power, figures the classic story of the forging of a hero. The storyline is fascinating and engrossing, weaving disparate elements of tragedy, horror, sci-fi and heroic epics into its plot-line. But for all this complexity, sometimes Dune comes undone under the weight of its own density. It was easy to lose track of exactly what the hell is going on in the film and the rapid cutaways into different subplots of the film didn’t help. If you haven’t read the original novel beforehand it seems that Dune soon degenerates into a confusing and contrived watch. Internal dialogue by the characters meant to signpost to the audience what’s happening, serves to only make the story all the more jarring and perplexing.
The set and costume design of the film is a strong point of the film. The interior designs appear grand yet unsettling, a feeling which pervades the costuming as well, which either accentuates the nobility of the Atreides family or the grotesqueness of the Harkonnens. Overall the special effects of the film are excellent, avoiding becoming outdated still at this point in time and they particularly work well with the appearance of the worms which are terrifying.
A film that vies for greatness but falls somewhat flat, Dune is nowhere near being a classic or even great film, but it is still worthy of seeing and may even strike a chord with some viewers. Despite what seems like rather damning qualities, Dune is still worth the watch and for every mishap on the film’s part there is always redemption around the corner in some other aspect of the film.
- Deleted Scenes
- Designing Dune
- Dune FX
- Dune Models and Miniatures
- Dune Wardrobe and Design
Available on R4 DVD from Via Vision