Dune (1984)



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David Lynch wrote and directed the 1984 version of Dune and has since disowned it due to studio intervention. There are multiple versions with various edits and dubbings, but I watched the version on HBO Max. It was a struggle to get through at times, especially after watching the 2021 version. Lynch did an admirable job in some of the costuming, and it is echoed in the 2021 film. Lynch took on the entirety of the book in one shorter film, depending on the version, while the 2021 film covers about half of the book.


I can watch dated films and appreciate them for their time. The earliest of early CGI in this film is hilarious, but after watching the 2021 version I have a better understanding of why it was used. I like practical effects, especially close-ups of spaceships. It takes an expert hand to build massive ships that look good on-screen next to human actors. It is my understanding that the woman in the Dune book is a completely developed character that does not need to be saved by men. In this film, they come across as weak and needing the protection of strong men. The savior narrative of Paul is also strong in this film. Paul’s ascension to becoming a god on earth is very quick. This film did not have enough time to allow for proper character development.


The biggest issue I had with the film is the ‘inner voice.’ If you watch with subtitles, [inner voice] appears before dialog that is in a character's mind. Without subtitles, it can be differentiated by the whispered tone. It is a giant crutch throughout the film. Lynch was not the first person to adapt a book that had to portray internal character dialog on screen, but he might have done it in the worst way. Or, maybe he did not, and because he did not get control of the final edit someone else had characters dub in their inner thoughts after other scenes were edited out.


This film is famously bad, and it was a struggle to watch at times as a result. I cannot recommend that you watch it on its own, but I do think it can be a good companion piece to the 2021 film if you are not familiar with the book. Some subtitles of the new film can be better understood by their explicit exposition in the older film. It may take you multiple sittings as you get a stomachache from all the cheese, but you can stop where the new film leaves off and gain a slightly better understanding of the source material.

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