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Monday, June 17
The Indiana Daily Student

COLUMN: Original ‘Dune’ film remains a disappointment to the world of science fiction


Released in 1984, sci-fi fantasy film “Dune” is an incomprehensible, emotionless journey into the realm of a dystopian future where the balance of life hinges upon a battle between warring planets. 

Written and directed by David Lynch, the film is an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel. The 1984 film adaptation of “Dune” tells the story of young nobleman Paul Atreides in his quest to control the desert planet Arrakis

Lynch was overly ambitious in his attempt to squeeze the Shakespearean-like saga into a feature-length film with little room for exposition. 

“Dune” begins in the year 10191, during a years-long battle between House Harkonnen and House Atreides in their fight for control on Arrakis, home of the coveted spice melange. 

The highly sought after spice is the center of the universe as it extends life, heightens consciousness and enables people to travel through space without moving.

The warring of planets is messily explained in a prologue narrated by the intergalactic emperor’s daughter. The goal of the prologue is to introduce the audience to the alien terminology used in “Dune.”

A sudden thrust into the confusing, geopolitical arena of space happens almost immediately after the prologue. Audiences are introduced to a Jedi-like group of pseudo-religious women known as the Bene Gesserit, who use superhuman abilities to interfere in government affairs. 

The Bene Gesserit prophecize a man born from the blood of its sisterhood, with the power to see both past and future events, will help them succeed the human race. 

In the foretelling of a messiah-like savior referred to as the Kwisatz Haderach, there is potential to develop a compelling level of emotional depth in the gravity of what is at stake for the Bene Gesserit women. 

The delivery of this prophecy is disappointing because it is completely undermined by the deadpan acting of a packed cast and atrocious visual effects displayed in battle scenes.

The film progresses at a stagnant pace showing the journey of protagonist Paul Atreides. A series of dreams into his past and future experiences show he is the Kwisatz Haderach the Bene Gesserit are waiting for. 

It is over halfway into the film — when Paul defies the prophecy during his expedition to Arrakis for spice control — that audiences are finally made privy to the meaning of “Dune.”

Sloppy editing and the usage of voiceovers to tell what a character is feeling, rather than showing it, is the ultimate downfall of Lynch’s attempt to bring the fantastical sci-fi novel to life.

At its core, the film is a mere coming-of-age story about a young nobleman in the fight to bring prosperity to his people and fulfill his destiny as a leader in space. 

While the plot of “Dune” is interesting in itself, the film is difficult to take seriously as it is highly coated with an over-the-top, campy aesthetic that makes the story feel more like a mediocre comedy rather than an epic drama.

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