I remember watching Dune back when it first came out. Everyone was excited to see it, there was all kinds of advertising (at least where I was), and it had Sting! No, not the sword that Bilbo finds in The Hobbit, but the singer. It was going to be really cool! Then we all saw the film.
There were some really cool moments in the film. The production design was almost all amazing, with great detail going into a lot of them. I could tell a lot of thought had been put into how things appeared, making everything look grand and established and old. Many of the sets were simply magnificent. The Emperor’s throne room was opulent, though hard (not a lot of soft touches there).
I loved when the Navigator first appeared at the beginning of Dune. The costumes of the Spacing Guild members were excellent, and definitely alien. As the film (and the book on which it is based) are set in the very far future, that makes sense, and I have nothing but high praise for the costumer designer for these, and most of the other costumes in the film. The only costumes which felt like last-minute ideas were the black hazmat suits used by the Sardaukar, and Feyd’s weird speedo (which really was a last-minute addition).
The story was rather disjointed, and I really wonder if the director (David Lynch) and the production crew were dropping acid while making the film. The plot was jumping all over the place, and I think the only people who knew what was supposed to be happening were those who had read the book first. Those who did knew just how much the story was changed, to such a point that it was only loosely based on the book. The ending was just weird, with the “I am going to make it rain!” part (since that would kill all the sandworms).
The acting was mostly overly dramatic, and often bad. Even Patrick Stewart (as Gurney Halleck) had trouble with his acting. He almost seemed distressed every time he was onscreen. Sting can really sing, but he really can’t act worth beans. Oddly, those playing Fremen were the best actors in Dune. Kyle MacLachlan did a decent job as Paul (and he later played Calvin, father of Daisy in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), even better than Stewart most of the time.
The music was interesting all by itself, but really didn’t fit well with the film. Maybe Lynch was trying to make a statement with the music, or trying to make sure the audience knew the setting was really exotic. Whatever the reason, it failed to support the film in almost all cases.
In the end, Dune was very underwhelming. It had some interesting moments, but they were not enough to save the film. It has nostalgic value for some (like me), but I only watch it every several years, once I’ve forgotten that it wasn’t that great. The Sci-Fi Channel series was done better, so I recommend watching that instead.
Release Date: December 14, 1984 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Alcohol/Drugs: 2 (spice, other drugs, some social drinking)
Language: 1 (occasional, minor)
Nudity: 0 (though the literally steamy scene with Sting might count)
Sexuality: 1 (very brief)
Violence: 3 (large-scale battles, poisoning, torture, brutal violence, death)