DUNE (1984) is on. Should I bother?
August 8, 2007 11:11 PM   Subscribe

Dune (1984) Special Edition is on ON DEMAND. Should I watch it? Should I have read the books to fully "get" this? Will I need a study guide to watch it? Should I even bother?

I remember I was 10 when this came out xmas '84, but I remember it being a troubled production and release. This is the SE, but my impression that this is a love it or hate it thing.

MeFites, can you help a brutha out?
posted by Senor Cardgage to Media & Arts (43 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
It's hard to be sure with all the varied versions of Dune, but likely what you would see is the Extended Version that was previously only on television.

The extended version is three hours long and incorporates many of the deleted scenes from the theatrical release, including the narration that upset David Lynch so much, he declared it an Alan Smithee version.

You'd probably like it, but to Dune enthusiasts, it's a hard call to make. Some reject it as non-Lynch, but others like all the extra scenes.
posted by Argyle at 11:17 PM on August 8, 2007


Oh yeah dude, theres narration stompin all over this thing.
In fact there was a kind of tacked-on looking prologue with illustrations that seemed to go on for hours and from which I absorbed maybe half of what they were telling me.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:22 PM on August 8, 2007


No. You should watch the standard edition.

And you should only watch it if each of the following conditions is met:

1. You really really really like David Lynch movies.

2. You either have not read the book or you don't really care if the movie represents the book well.

3. You're really into SciFi, and your idea of what SciFi is is not based on Star Trek, Star Wars, or really anything with the word "star" in it.

4. You can devote all your attention to the movie so that you don't miss what's happening and so that you can keep track of all the names.
posted by The World Famous at 11:24 PM on August 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, The World Famous.

Havent read the books, love Lynch (tho admit he does have a tendency to be "avin' a laugh" on us from time to time), and like thoughtful cerebral sci-fi. The only reason Im even bothering with this is because Im anticipating it being thoughtful and provoking sci-fi.

Sadly, this isnt the Standard Edition. Ill have to pop that one in my queue, if its even availalble.

The thing about the different versions sounds oddly reminiscent of Blade Runner.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:29 PM on August 8, 2007


If you cannot meet the above four conditions you should consider watching it if:

5. You are high as a kite.

And, agreed, stick with the theatrical cut.
posted by doublesix at 11:33 PM on August 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


I am downing an entire bottle of Pinot.
Will that help?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:34 PM on August 8, 2007


It's been a long time since I saw it, but my impression at the time was that it would have been very confusing if I hadn't read the book. There are a lot of characters and a lot of different factions, and the movie skimps on exposition. I think the Wikipedia summary should give you enough background, though.

As for the movie itself, I think it's worth seeing, mostly for the visuals. Lynch plays down the political intrigue and plays up the freakshow weirdness, which makes the plot feel kind of needlessly complicated--if you were making a movie with the same tone and visuals from scratch, you wouldn't want a plot anywhere near as long or intricate, so it kind of feels like he didn't change things enough, actually. But it looks nice, and there's lots of nice memorable weirdness.
posted by equalpants at 11:34 PM on August 8, 2007


oh and P.S. Ive already begun watching it by now.

But I would still very much like to hear everyones thoughts on this, as the story idea intrigues me greatly and if noone has made anything watchable of this material, I may just read the damn book.

Is the remake from a few years back good?

Also, this is the longest prologue I have ever seen in my entire life. And that's including the opening crawl to Alone in the Dark.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:36 PM on August 8, 2007


There was a TV version done fairly recently that stuck much more to Herbert's novel. I enjoyed it. It lacks a little of the star power that the film had, with lesser strength actors, but it is more in line with the actual storyline.

As a long time Dune fan, I suggest reading the novel. It's still a fantastic read with great concepts.
posted by Argyle at 11:43 PM on August 8, 2007


The TV remake held closely to the source material, but the actors and the costume designers need to be killed in the face. With knives. Faceknives.
posted by lekvar at 11:56 PM on August 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


I have seen both versions, neither are that good but the special edition is the only movie I have ever seen that opens with a 15 minute MSPowerpoint demonstration explaining the premise (tacked on by some hack, this version is unauthorized)
It would have been better to move the slideshow to the end, to explain what the hell we just saw.
posted by AndrewStephens at 12:04 AM on August 9, 2007


If you haven't read the book, then totally watch it. This movie was my first exposure to Dune, and I thought it was awesome. Then I read the book and thought it was awesome, too.
posted by Zach! at 12:05 AM on August 9, 2007


IMDB says...

"Ridley Scott worked on bringing the film to the screen, but was unsuccessful. H.R. Giger (who worked with Scott on Alien (1979)) was hired as a production designer."


We wuz robed yall
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:11 AM on August 9, 2007


and of course, by "robed", I mean "robbed"
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:11 AM on August 9, 2007


Should I even bother?

This is one of those rare cases where I would say, yeah, go ahead and skip the movie. The book is great, and the movie is atrociously bad, and everyone involved with it knew it was crap while they were making, so the whole thing is just half-assed dreck. Jose Ferrer sitting on a spinning video game console in the movie's climax? Fuck you.

If you read the book and forgo the movie, you'll have much better memories of the whole thing, trust me.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:17 AM on August 9, 2007


You might find this timeline interesting.

Personally I'd like to see the version that I remember Lynch threatening us with, with all the plot cut out and only the wierdness remaining. With extended wierdness. I'd love that.

I always wanted to be in the position to write film blurbs, so that I could describe Dune as "the only film you'll ever see, in which a bunch of men in rubber suits ride a giant schlong across a desert". But thanks to the internet, I don't have to go to the extremes of getting an otherwise dull job to do that.
posted by Grangousier at 12:41 AM on August 9, 2007


Thanks to everyone for all of this. Seriously, the MeFi braintrust is as potent as ever and I genuinely do appreciate it.

What Im wondering is... is this material even film-able?


Also, keep it coming kids! The wealth of information coming from everyone here is the best of what the internet is supposed to be.



P.S. Im drunk'd!
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:49 AM on August 9, 2007


Senor Cardgage writes "'Ridley Scott worked on bringing the film to the screen, but was unsuccessful. H.R. Giger (who worked with Scott on Alien (1979)) was hired as a production designer.'


"We wuz robed yall"


That's not the least of it. Jodorowski was planning a version (with Geiger as a potential collaborator). That would have been mind-blowing in every possible sense of the term. And I say that as a huge Lynch fan.

Argyle writes "The extended version is three hours long and incorporates many of the deleted scenes from the theatrical release, including the narration that upset David Lynch so much, he declared it an Alan Smithee version."

I'm pretty sure both versions have extensive, awful narration. The narration was actually added in the theatrical version by Lynch and DeLaurentis to cover over plot holes created by the edits. The "extended" version is just a bastard mess.

Any way you cut it (pun intended), it's an awful movie, but you can enjoy it! There are some incredible visuals. My favorite scene is the one with the Emperor meeting with the Guild Navigator, which Lynch absolutely 100% nailed. Super-creepy visuals (you can see Eraserhead in there), faithful to the novel, and the tone is pitch perfect. Very little of the rest of the movie meets those criteria.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:09 AM on August 9, 2007


Oh, and if you don't know the book, you're not going to have any idea what I'm talking about when I say "the one with the Emperor meeting with the Guild Navigator", 'cause it's really hard to follow what's going on. You're looking for the scary orange fish-man attended to by Pinhead's cousins.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:12 AM on August 9, 2007


Personally I'd like to see the version that I remember Lynch threatening us with, with all the plot cut out and only the wierdness remaining. With extended wierdness.

You want weird? I want to see the version Jodorowski would have made. Holy crap. Wikipedia claims:

Jodorowsky began working in 1975 on an adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune. The project was intended to involve his son Brontis (Paul), Orson Welles as the Baron, Salvador Dalí as the Emperor, Mick Jagger as Feyd Rautha, Alain Delon as Duncan Idaho, Geraldine Chaplin as Lady Jessica, Dan O'Bannon for the script, Chris Foss, Pink Floyd, H.R. Giger and Jean Giraud (Mœbius).


As for the Lynch version, I'm kinda meh (pacing is crap, if you haven't read the book, you probably have no idea what's going on for half of it, and the effects, by now, are very, very dated although the worm still holds up) about it

It's redeemed a little in that to date it's the only feature film I remember seeing that uses that thought bubble/internal monologue narration technique for more than one character in the same scene. which is neat.
posted by juv3nal at 1:26 AM on August 9, 2007


oh crappy. took too long in posting about jodorowsky's version. oh well.

Very little of the rest of the movie meets those criteria.

I think if you're just talking about little visual touches, the worm, & alia were pretty much how I pictured em. The stillsuits were not how I pictured them prior to seeing the movie, but they are how I think of them now. So that's 3 more points on the scoresheet.
posted by juv3nal at 1:30 AM on August 9, 2007


juv3nal writes "I think if you're just talking about little visual touches, the worm, & alia were pretty much how I pictured em."

Was there an edition of the book published previous to the movie with an illustration of a worm on the cover? I seem to remember seeing such a thing, and the illustration matching well with Lynch's worms...
posted by mr_roboto at 1:36 AM on August 9, 2007


Was there an edition of the book published previous to the movie with an illustration of a worm on the cover?
I don't know. Must have been I think. It's just a big ole worm, so I guess it'd be kind of hard for Lynch get it wrong either way. I mean it's in the desert/eats sand etc, you'd hardly expect him to make it slimy (or something equally silly).
posted by juv3nal at 2:13 AM on August 9, 2007


I always caution folks about the film version. People who have not read the book will be totally lost, and people who have read the book will be totally disappointed.

I 'enjoyed' the movie as a collection of scenes from the book. Forget trying to view it as a proper telling of the story...
posted by daveleck at 5:10 AM on August 9, 2007


Maybe I'm weird, but I always thought that Lynch's Dune was basically okay. I hadn't read any of the books when I first saw it, and it didn't seem incomprehensible. And I maintain that it's a perfectly decent adaptation of Dune as a standalone novel.

About the only thing I can't stand is the goofy sound-weapon nonsense, but I guess that's a decent substitute for "and Paul teaches them Paul-fu." I also don't like Harkkonen, but that's mostly me disliking how Herbert treated him. He's... BAD! and... RUSSIAN OR SOMETHING! and... A FAT PIG! and... A FAGGOT!

if you don't know the book, you're not going to have any idea what I'm talking about when I say "the one with the Emperor meeting with the Guild Navigator", 'cause it's really hard to follow what's going on.

It is? IIRC, the Emperor thoughtbubbles that a guild navigator is coming, and then he tells the bene gesserit that a guild navigator is coming, and then someone tells him that the guild navigator is there, and then he meets a big thing that everyone kowtows to. Is it really so hard to figure out that this is the guild navigator?

But yeah, you want the normal edition. The special edition is the normal edition, but with:

(1) A little scene where they make water-of-life
(2) 15+ minutes of narration over preproduction sketches.

IIRC, the water of life bit is the only added scene.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:27 AM on August 9, 2007


I loved Lynch' imagery, but he mostly shrinked the book to a war story (albeit weird and strangely beautiful). As far as I remember, the war story was only the background for a tale of inner growth and spiritual development.

In the book, we follow the hero through his special education (control of thoughts, of fear, of every muscle, of pain), then through the spice (control of your own biochemistry, ability to "see" a kind of time flow and draw a path to a chosen future for himself and all mankind). That's what made the book to popular among the acid freak generation (including Jodorowski and al.). This is a book of transformation.

Lynch got the imagery and the war story generally right but totally skipped the inside view of the tortured mind of an emergent god (which we were all becoming at the time).

And yes, since you asked, the last sentence is ironic, and nostalgic with a smile and a dash of wonder.
posted by bru at 6:54 AM on August 9, 2007


"so" popular.
damn.
posted by bru at 6:55 AM on August 9, 2007


First off, ignore the haters (typical geek wankery and disinformation). Its "troubled" reputation comes from hard-core nerds who have nothing better to do than complain about everything a la star wars, star trek, etc.

The movie deviates from the book in a couple of places and in a very, very mild fashion in general compared to most book to movie productions. heck, compared to most movie adaptations its almost perfect.

I highly recommend the narrated version for someone who hasnt read the book.

Personally, I dislike most of Lynch's work, but love Dune and BLue Velvet. Dune is an amazing attempt to bring sci-fi to the big screen with a visual design and atmosphere that blows most "artsy" movies out of the water. Its worth seeing even if you arent a sci-fi fan. There's so much good stuff to absorb and appreciate.

I also saw the movie before reading the book and don't mind at all. In fact, its nice having better visuals in my head when I read Herbert's descriptions of places and characters.

So go for it. The extended version with the narration is even nicer, but it clocks in at nearly 3 hours. So, you might want to be mindful of that before you get started.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:05 AM on August 9, 2007


If you go back and read the book again, there are almost no descriptions of anything in there. I read the book before seeing the movie, but reading it again realized how little Lynch had to go on regarding the look of, well, just about everything. I'm a hardcore scifi fan (not the Star* franchises!), but I enjoyed the film greatly. Not sure about a semi-naked Sting, but apart from that!
posted by conifer at 7:36 AM on August 9, 2007


Another great thing about Lynch's Dune is just revelling in the casting. Some of it's perfect- Jurgen Prochnow! Brad Dourif! Some of it's weird- Kyle Maclachlan the action hero (his most off-putting role until Showgirls)? Some of it's unbelievably sucky- hi, Sting! But it seems like everyone in the history of Hollywood has a bit part in Dune, and it's fun to play spot-the-character-actor.

And laugh at Sting.
posted by COBRA! at 7:48 AM on August 9, 2007


I watched the original version while I was feverish with mononucleosis. Perhaps not the best idea.

I mostly remember seeing Lynch's hand in all the freaky psycho-sexual stuff he highlights: the bene gesserit getting really excited when Paul sticks his hand in her, um, magical hot box; the fishy-navigator thing's mouth also getting rather excitable.
posted by HeroZero at 8:17 AM on August 9, 2007


Echoing what most have said, the standard version is quite enjoyable, but it is not, per se, Dune. As with many of these adaptations, I like to say: "it's something else that happens to have the same characters and basic plot." That doesn't make it any less good, but it does make it less Dune. The extended version is a garbled mess. Avoid at all costs unless you really really have a thing for endless exposition set to badly drawn illustration.

BTW, the HD-DVD version is stunningly beautiful, and I would go at least three blocks out of your way to watch that one.
posted by Caviar at 8:21 AM on August 9, 2007


Reading the books will only handicap your ability to enjoy this movie.

I recall it as visually beautiful, and incoherent verging on deliberately obscure - just like every other David Lynch movie I've ever seen. It was enjoyable for itself but as a movie adaptation of a great SF book it was an utter failure: the narrative sweep and delicate characterizations that won the book the Nebula award were completely lost.

Watch it, if only for Sting's magnificently hilarious performance as the utterly evil Feyd-Rautha.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:40 AM on August 9, 2007


Another great thing about Lynch's Dune is just revelling in the casting.

Plus, it's got Max von Sydow! Linda Hunt! Patrick Stewart! Dean Stockwell!

My take is: not very good, but fun to watch. Just consider it an entirely different experience than the book.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:48 AM on August 9, 2007


I really have a soft spot for the original movie (and I don't hate the SE). I don't love it because it's Dune (which truly is mind-blowingly good - I reread it a few years ago after watching the miniseries (which I also liked, even though loads of people hate it) and just couldn't believe how good it was, I literally couldn't put it down, I read it while walking to and from the subway), but it's a really interesting film, visually and conceptually. As long as you can ignore the silly uber-Lynchian bits and the way over-the-top aspects of some of the acting and characterizations, it's really quite a fascinating movie. But don't watch it as Dune, since as others have mentioned, it doesn't do a good job or even address some of the best aspects of the book. And then go read Dune, but pretend it was the only book in the series.
posted by biscotti at 9:16 AM on August 9, 2007


Personally, I found the first half (apart from the Patrick Stewart Lego-block fighting scene -- hilarious!) dragged on forever, and made me give up watching the first two or three times I tried. But the next time, I started watching it from the middle, and the rest of it turned out to be great fun. So what the hell, watch it! It's only a movie, after all.
posted by macdara at 9:38 AM on August 9, 2007


Please, it's adorable campy fun. It doesn't stick to the story, but it's fun. It's better than the books that Brian Herbert wrote. People who hate it are sci-fi purist blowhards.

*tosses slow blade from hand to hand* I will kill you! *dance* is worth it alone, imo.
posted by boo_radley at 10:21 AM on August 9, 2007


> What Im wondering is... is this material even film-able?

I'm sure it is, but there's such a great deal of material in the book (and very little is cutable if you want people to understand what's going on; narration is a really cheesy solution to this problem) that doing a proper job on it would take an effort of peter-jackson-does-tolkien proportions. If you try to do less, even if you're talented, you'll pretty inevitably get what we got, namely some memorable bits and pieces and some striking graphic moments to add to your memories of the book, but not really a filmed version of the book.

(Aside--I don't particularly mind Sting's bit part, he actually does a good job on his best line ["I wish it!"] but he's no more Feyd-Rautha than I am, and seeing him there is one of those bizarro moments like seeing Perry Mason in the middle of Godzilla or casting John Wayne as Genghis Khan.)
posted by jfuller at 11:56 AM on August 9, 2007


David Lynch's Dune is one of the best worst movies ever made.
posted by lekvar at 12:00 PM on August 9, 2007


It's better than the books that Brian Herbert wrote.

Faint praise. The movie is even better IMO than Daddy's God-Emperor (book 4 was it?). But that too isn't saying much.

And then go read Dune, but pretend it was the only book in the series.

Aside from the mentioned God-Emperor, the rest of the books by Frank aren't half bad. They aren't as good as the first book, to be sure, but tleilaxu face dancers are cool.
posted by juv3nal at 12:01 PM on August 9, 2007


I should mention that, unfortunately, you kinda have to slog through God Emperor for the ones afterwards to make proper sense. But avoid the stuff by Brian like the plague. Unless his continuation of the Dune series proper (which I haven't read) are somehow better than his House Corrino/Harkonnen/Atreides ones which are awful.
posted by juv3nal at 12:16 PM on August 9, 2007


What Im wondering is... is this material even film-able?

The Sci-Fi Channel version of the original trilogy (Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune) was both faithful & watchable, I thought. They didn't try to cram it all into one movie but broke it out into 6 episodes to cover 3 books, which gave them space to cover some of the complexities without having to resort to massive text-dump voiceovers. And it didn't hurt that they had 20 years worth of improvements in special effects to take advantage of. Lynch's version was fun & campy, but it wasn't really Dune.
posted by scalefree at 3:33 PM on August 9, 2007


What I'm wondering is ... is this material even film-able?

If someone is able to do Lord of the Rings very, very well, someone can do a Dune that isn't half bad.

The trick would be to take all the interior monologuing and turn it into exterior speech and action. It's great on paper, but...

And then make a lot of key cuts and character consolidations (e.g. do you really need Duncan Idaho AND Gurney Halleck in the role of "loyal right-hand man"?).
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:51 PM on August 9, 2007


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