17 September 2013

FWS Broken Promises: The DUNE Movies

When it comes to science fiction literature, there are few books with the weight, scope, sales, and the amount of influence as Frank Herbert's 1965 classic DUNE.  This magnum opus stands as my favorite novel, and I believe the finest work of human imagination with a litter of awards and praise to back that theory up. With DUNE being so highly praised as one of the finest science fiction novels very written, and it wasn't long before Hollywood came knocking. From 1971 through today, there have several major attempts to bring DUNE to the silver screen. However, only two of these projects were completed. Despite all of this effort since 1971, the concept of the 1965 novel has never been successful translated into film. The 1984 David Lynch film bombing at the box-office, and the 2000 mini-series divided fans. In this blogpost, FWS will be discussing how the attempts at adapting DUNE for the big screen broke the promise of the novel. Also on the DUNE front, FWS will be covering the toyline of the 1984 movie adaption in a future Military Sci-Fi Toys blogpost.

Is DUNE Military Science Fiction?

DUNE is complex and layered, like a nice lasagna, with all manner of element interacting around a central story of a power struggle between families. In someways, DUNE could be more of an Italian opera than space epic! FWS often talks about DUNE, but is DUNE really military science fiction? While, it is not "hard-core MSF" like Old Man's War, Honor Harrington, or even HALO, but it does involve a military conflict in the very distance future that is unlike anything seen in science fiction. Certainly, the films and games derived from the original text focus on the military element of the conflict between the factions in the book. Has I said above, DUNE is complex and layered, and the armed struggle between House Atredies, House Harkonnen, the Empire, and the Fremen is a primary story element in the novel. These armed conflicts are parred with planetary ecology, universe-wide drug addiction, economics, control, destiny, sexual power, and religion. All of plot-points dilated the military sci-fi elements, but they are still there. Here on FWS, DUNE is in the military sci-fi family, but it the "crazy uncle Bob" in the mix....everyone has an crazy uncle Bob.   

The Challenge of Adopting the Text to Screen
I think that any attempt to bring DUNE from the page to a film is a change that could simply overwhelm the production and shatter the uniqueness of the setting of the novel. There is little doubt that Frank Hebert just knocked it out of the park in 1965 when he crafted this amazing work of human imagination. That being said, is the novel itself to blame for the lackluster film attempts over the years? In a way...yes. When I discussed the broken promises of the attempts to bring Starship Troopers to the screen, I stated that the original text was the issue, and here is the same. DUNE is a lot like a bar-stool, if all of the legs are supporting the base, than when you sit down to enjoy a tall cold one, you are supported. If the legs are damaged or omitted, than you go crashing to the dirty floor, and that beer is wasted. DUNE is alot like that. For the central plot of Paul's transformation from gifted boy, to little lost prince, to orphan, to warrior, to messiah to be  told, than the whole of the universe of 10,191 needs to be there to support it, much like those bar-stool legs. That is a epic undertaking. DUNE is a complex novel of factions, drug-addiction on a universal-scale, war, love, religion, and man's interaction with his environment. While the book pulls it off masterfully, with intoxicating results to those of us that are big fans, but that is one of the main issues with DUNE...how to bring all of those elements together, along with the general weirdness that the book possess and make it watchable enough for the film company to make back their investment? We may never know or see that film.

The 1971-1973 Arthur P. Jacobs Attempt
It is the dream of most science fiction (especially this one!) writers that their novel becomes a movie with a big check for the rights, followed by increased royalty checks. In September of 1972, Frank Herbert would achieve that dream. Film producer Arthur P. Jacobs, most famous for the Planet of the Apes, would pay Mr. Herbert $10,000 with 5% of the royalty of the box-office take via his production company Apjac International. Jacobs had tapped David Lean to direct the $15 million budget film. Herbert had been pleased with this choice, Lean had previously direct Lawrence of Arabia. One of the more interesting element of Jacobs vision of DUNE was that the Fremen home would have been film in the Goreme Valley of Turkey. The dragged out three year developmental arch was mainly due to Jacobs work on the Planet of the Apes sequels and a Tom Sawyer musical during the pre-production of DUNE. During this span, another director, Charles Jarrott, was considered, along with actor James Coburn for a future role in DUNE. By 1973, time was running out for Jacobs, his rights would expire in 1974, and would be up for sale once again. Sadly, Arthur Jacobs would died of a heart attack on June 27, 1973. His attempt to bring this landmark sci-fi novel made as far as storyboards, but was abandon due to the entire project and vision was Jacobs'. After his death, Apjac International allowed the right to expire, and once again, DUNE was up for grabs.

The 1975  Alejandro Jodorowsky Attempt
In late 1974, a French group. lead by millionaire Michel Seydoux bought the rights to DUNE, and Alejandro Jodorowsky of El Topo fame was tasked with bring this complex $9.5 million project to cinema reality. Jodorowsky hired a who's who of talent to create his  vision of DUNE. From Moebius, Chris Foss, H.R. Giger, and future ALIEN writer Dan O'Bannon. Bring them all to Paris, and allowing them to create freely and independently on their assigned areas of the film. For much of 1975, the script was crafted, the artists cracked out concept art, and oddball people were added to play characters in the DUNE universe. By 1976, Frank Herbert would trip to Paris to check on the status of the project and discovered over $2 million out of a total $9.5 million budget spend in pre-production alone before one frame of film was used! Also the script for DUNE was the size of a phonebook, and it was estimated to clock in at 14 hours! Another issue cropped up in 1976, no American company would distribute the film. Jodorowsky believed that it was some sort of anti-French bias, I think that they took one look at this piece of shit, and realized that there was no money in it. Before the end of 1976, Jodorowsky's DUNE was dead due to ballooning costs, no American distribution, and lack of progress.
There are quite a few people that morn the loss of this attempt at filming the novel, but I am not one. Jodorowsky said, in his own words, that "DUNE didn't belong to Herbert just as Don Quixtoe did belong to Cervantes." and "I didn't want to respect the novel". I realize that everyone interprets your written word, music, or film via their own imagination and experiences, recreating your art as something individual per the audience. But not respecting the novel and that DUNE doesn't belong to Herbert is worrisome. The artist owns the work, you own the interpretation, and this makes me very glad that his vision of DUNE never saw the light of day. Take for example, the Emperor of the Known Universe, who would have been played by the Salvador Dali, who demand to be paid $100k an hour!. Jodorowsky envisioned an madman who sits upon a throne of two open-mouthed fishes that happily received his wastes, all while a robotic copy of him keep the madman company! Then Jodorowsky re-imagined the spice-drug as a blue spongy thing filled with vegetable/animal life that possess the highest level of consciences. No shit. Paul would have been murdered at the end of the film, but he would have transmitted his god-collective consciences to his mother, the Fremen, and become "the man-collective" and there would have been this really trippy ending with intergalactic rainbows (no shit), vapors, rain, clouds, and then the Dune planet would become green, and illuminates the known universe with its light. Fucking spare me.
This is just plain bad writing and weird for the sake of being weird. To be honest here, the Jodorowsky DUNE attempt was a expensive venture into strangeness and madness ...if the 1984 David Lynch version wasn't strange enough, and given the funky art and bizarre notes on what Jodorowsky's DUNE would have been like, we fans got lucky. His vision of DUNE would have been a big psychedelic hot-mess, reminiscent of those science fiction book covers from the 1960's, and could have become video amusement for stoners to trip off of, just like Pink Floyd's The Wall. In a odd sense of irony, both Jodorowsky's attempt and Lynch film both used rock band for the primary musical score, Pink Floyd and TOTO respectively.

The 1978-1980 Ridley Scott Attempt
After the shitty mess that was Jodorowsky's DUNE attempt, producer Dino De Laurentiis bought the rights to the film around 1978, and asked Frank Herbert to write another draft of the script. What was turned in was 175 pages, equal about 175 minutes of screen time...too long. When Dino hired Ridley Scott, he also commissioned another script by Rudy Wurlitzer. This was shortly after Ridley had completed filming on ALIEN, and Ridley was not that interested in another sci-fi film, however, he recognized the power of the material. Ridley would pass on directing DUNE  when tragically, his brother Frank, died of cancer, altering the course for his career. He would leave the De Laurentiis DUNE project and make BLADE RUNNER later. De Laurentiis would hire David Lynch and another script was penned, for which we got very, very lucky. It seems that in the Rudy Wurlitzer script, Paul has sex with his own mother, and that Paul, not Duke Leto, is the father of Alia! Frank Herbert was beyond pissed about this change to the story, and violently protested. When I imagine the dark power that Ridley Scott would have injected into the world of DUNE, and I start to fan-girl over it!

Lynch's Journey to Arrkakis
With Ridley Scott gone, and Dino De Laurentiis's nine year film rights about to expire, Dino moved quickly to re-secure the rights alone with any sequels that could follow. Dino's daughter, Raffaella, saw David Lynch's the Elephant Man,and pushed for David to given the job. At this time, David Lynch was the favorite of the month, and fielding offers, including directing Return of the Jedi. I can only imagine what ROTJ would have looked with Lynch at the helm! Lynch accepted for reason I do not know. He had never read the book, nor was a sci-fi fan. Not only would he be directing, but he would writing the script. For six months, Lynch with two others would work on the script, parring it down to 135 pages. However, this was not the end of the scripts for DUNE, six more would be written before the film was done.
During filming, and post-production, the studio was pressuring Lynch and Raffaella to keep the film to about two-hours, to allow for more screenings in the theaters. In order to keep this length, scenes were simplified, the opening was re-filmed, and some scenes were cut completely, along with the addition of voice-over narrations. The film was cut down to four hours, then to three, then to the 1984 theatrical release of 137 minutes. Filming DUNE was a massive endeavor, over $40 million dollars in budget, 1700 crew members, 80 sets, 16 sound stages, and with an all-star cast. Most of the filming was in Mexico, including the desert scenes. At the time in 1984, it was one of the most expensive movies ever filmed. It was hoped by the studio, that David Lynch and Raffaella De Laurentiis had delivered another Star Wars...sadly, that didn't come true. When failed, and failed it did, fingers were pointed, and David Lynch was embittered by the experience, causing him to disavow the film, and not work on any further cut or any project associated with DUNE. The longer, 189 minute version that came out around 1988 for the TV releases was not credited to Lynch by to "Alan Smithee" for director and "Judas Booth" for screenwriter. To this day, Lynch will not talk about the film he worked on for three and half years, citing it is "too painfully."

The 1984 DUNE Film: Getting It 1/3rd Right
DUNE is one of the those films that has been killed by a thousand paper cuts of negative opinions, and has been called one of the worst science fiction films of all time...so, what did Lynch do right in the 1984 version? About 1/3rd of this bizarre mess was right, living the promise and potential of the novel via the look and sound of the film along with the actors chosen. The casting was one of the best ever assembled for a science fiction at that time, and featured standout performances by newcomers Sting and Kyle MacLachlan, along side veterans Francesca Annis, Freddie Jones, Jurgen Prochnow, and  Max Von Sydow.
While sometimes the acting is overlooked in the DUNE film, is one of the true bright spots of the production (and the biggest thing wrong with the 2000 mini-series). Much praise should be given to the crew of DUNE that designed and constructed the sets, models, and locations making this film visual impressive, along with honoring the unique vision of the distant future of humanity by Frank Hebert. Even today, when I reread the book, I cannot help but see these locations and sets in those pages. Lastly, the music by the band TOTO and Brian Eno is prefect for the world of DUNE. Who would ever have thought that the band that created such hits as "Rosanna" and "Africa" could fashion such a sweeping score? 

The 1984 DUNE Film: Getting It 2/3rd Wrong
Recently re-watching the 1984 Theatrical release and Extended Edition, I began fully understand why this film shattered the promise of the much beloved novel.While David Lynch tried to make his vision of DUNE live up the legions of fans and the backers of the production, he did several major sins against the novel: sloppy editing, addition of unneeded elements, omission of critical plot elements, cheap special effects, and being generally weird beyond the original text. No one will claim that the DUNE book is not without its strangeness, but Lynch and others involved in the production, it seemed to make the picture more odd than necessary. Just look at that weird Harkonnen cat-in-a-box thing...fucking bizarre...really, really fucking bizarre. How the hell did Lynch push that through the meetings?
Then there was the addition of those sonic weaponry based on the weirding way of the Bene Gesserit, that were not an element of the novels. While being of the coolest sonic weapons ever developed for film, these devices cheapened the Fremen as a whole and their fierce fighting abilities mentioned repeatedly in the books. Lastly, while the Spice must flow, this film does not. It seems more like the a collections of separated scenes, cut from the full movie, and laid down in an incoherent mess with tons of voice-over narration.Some other key elements that was nearly completely skipped over that was a major plot-point of the relationship between Chani and Paul (I've seen porn movies with more setup), Paul giving water to the dead, the ecology of Arrakis, and so on. It also amazing that in 1984, with the massive budget given to DUNE that some of the special effects are so lacking, especially the scenes with the Guild Heighliners and the folding of space.
The film degrades further when it was stretched for the longer TV adaption. Throughout the longer film, there is an Harkonnen warship is repeatedly (and laughably) shown cruising through the mist, and flying towards a city. Then we have scenes of the Baron staring off into space, with different radio chatter inserted. We have the Atriedies soldier's death repeated twice during the Harkonnen sneak attack on Arrakeen. Then that brings us to one of the main sins in the 1984 version: the poorly filmed battle scenes. Any epic, there needs to be a great battle, where good vs. evil, and story concludes. DUNE has the final battle at Arrakeen, and any DUNE fan was excited to see the final showdown. While the knife dual at the end of the movie was very good, and well done, the Fremen assault on the capital city was not. It seems that Lynch that filmed one big battle scene in the desert, then recycled that shoot basically throughout the versions of the film. When it came to the attacks on Arrakeen, the Harkonnen sneak attack is disjointed and confused, ruining the actors' performances, and the emotions tied to the attack. This is similar to the final battle on Arrakeen by the Fremen against the Imperial legions, which is also disjointed, confused, and too short. Of course, the end of the movie is topped off with Paul making it rain on the face of Arrakis. An end that even Frank Herbert disputes.

Why Did the 1984 DUNE Film Fail?
By the time of the December 14, 1984 release of DUNE, it was the most expensive sci-fi movie ever made. It bleed money everywhere. From pre-production, production, editing, and in release. It was one of the most hyped movies of 1984, given the budget (an estimated $40 million), the director, and the original source material, created a great deal of buzz at the time.There was a serious effort to market DUNE like Star Wars with toys, a comic tie-in, and young reader books. It is my personal view that this came about after the studio heads witness the rough cut of DUNE, they worried about the return on their investment, and attempted to market the film to a wider audience...namely kids like me in 1984. None of this helped. DUNE would make $6 million on its opening weekend, and only $30 million worldwide. The failure partly rests on the movie critics at the time, who had no idea what they were seeing on the big screen, as seen in Gene Siskel's 1984 review. If one had not read the book, than you were lost...DUNE could not bridge that gaps in the different audience goers, the film simply was not strong enough on its own.
For fans of the work, the film was a mere string of the original tapestry of the 1965 book, causing angry and confusion among the base that their personal vision of book didn't materialize. Then there was the general science fiction fans, forged from the titans of the Star Trek and Star Wars, who went to see DUNE because it looked like a sci-fi epic, and were lost in the desert while watching this. Above all, the primary reason for the failure of DUNE is that is a badly done film that could not engage its core audience, or any audience for that matter. Bottom line, even for fans of DUNE, this film is hard to take, and could be used to torture evil-doers in one of those CIA black prisons. This is one of the films I taped off of TV in 1991, and avoided buying on VHS, and avoided buying on DVD until this blogpost...and I re-sold the extended edition for store credit only after two days. But it is likely that I'll buy DUNE again. Sigh.

Was There Going to be More David Lynch DUNE Movies?
Yes...in 1984. According to many sources, including a 1984 interview,  David Lynch was under contract to direct a second and third DUNE movies based on the accompanying books. During that 1984 interview, just before the release of DUNE, Lynch was hard working on scripts when the film bombed at the box office. There is limited information on the aborted sequels, but it is likely that some roles would have been renewed, like Kyle MacLachlan as Paul, but it never reached that point. One can wonder at the marvel that if Lynch could have filmed the fourth DUNE novel, God Emperor of Dune, and we could witness the strangeness that would have been the Emperor Leto II.

Is There an Four/Five/Six-Hour Version of the DUNE Movie?
Simply put, no. The original release was stretched from 2 hours and 17 minute run time, to over 2 hours and 57 minutes for the TV release and it shows. Originally, David Lynch had edited rough cut of the film to fours hours, Lynch had three hour cut targeted prior to the studio's mandated two hour cut for theater turn-around. There some other edits that aired on different markets that included a few seconds of footage, which I've seen, and completely deleted scenes on the DVD releases that are rough and not suitable for inclusion on the extended edition DVD. Rumors of a much longer version have existed since I was a kid, and not helped by the variations of the TV releases, and David Lynch refusing to address the movie or the extended edition. Some of the rumors were fueled by magazines of the time and the Marvel Comics adoption (which I owned) of the 1984 film that included extras not seen in the original release. After all, if there was a four hour-plus edition would anyone buy it?  

The 2000 Sci-Fi Channel Mini-Series: Telling the Story...on a Budget
After the failure of 1984 Lynch DUNE movie, there was a common thought held believe by fans and Frank Hebert that the best way to tell the story of DUNE was the medium of the TV-miniseries. TV mini-series were a popular concept at the time, with massive success of the 1980 NBC Shogun and ABC the Roots in 1977. Rumors made the rounds that the Big Three networks were eyeing DUNE for the same treatment as those historical epic novels. The sad thing is that it most likely an urban legend. It is hard to believe that any major network would consent to spending money on an expensive sci-fi TV mini-series just after a major film of the same material bombed hardcore at the box office.
It would take until the 1990's before those legends of the 1980's would come true. The Sci-Fi Channel would launch in 1992, and after surviving its first rough years, the leadership at Sci-Fi Channel wanted to do something bold that would plant the flag of the channel in the minds of viewers. That project was Frank Herbert's DUNE. With a budget of an estimated $20 million,
What this mini-series did right was telling the story of DUNE with some changes for time and character development. This version did tell the story of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, give dignity back to the Fremen, and actually developed the love story between Paul and Chani. Even Paul and Chani's first son is featured along with his murder. Another element done well was the more human Guild, slimy and a breed apart, and this suited them.
If I am leveling this much praise on the mini-series than why is it a broken promise of the original text? Because they did not the material justice. Take the scene when Gurney Halleck and Paul are reunited when he following in with a band of smugglers. In the 1984 film, Gurney is played by the superior actor Patrick Steward, and while some of the scene is a mess, there is emotion and timing, all leading to an touching scene.
When you watch the scene in the 2000 mini-series, while there is greater development of the smugglers and Gurney's role with them, the scene is flat, the timing is off, and the actors cannot replicate the level of performance. That is how it is throughout this miniseries, it lacks weight and depth present in the 1984 movie. Then there is the acting...some of it is fine, but the majority cannot hold a candle to the 1984 film, and is so bad in parts, that it breaks the viewer from the experience. Lastly, there is the special effect. I'm not going to bag on the 2000 CGI SFX, that cannot be helped, and for the time, they weren't that bad.
The thing I am going to pick on the mini-series about is the use of duratrans, short for double transparency. These are an old technique used in stage plays and in television, including Babylon 5. My issue is that it make a majority of the exterior shots look confined and cheap. The effect was simply not pulled off, causing the ope desert environment to appear more confined than they should have. Usage of duratrans caused for the miniseries to have the appearance of an elaborate stage play and not a grand sci-fi epic. Do we even have to mention the costume design of Frank Herbert's DUNE? Wow. Those hats. They would appear outlandish at a British Royal society function! While the 1984 movie did have "interesting" costume choices, they are nothing compared to the miniseries. The only better design was the Stillsuits, which were much closer to the original text than the 1984 rubber versions. Much like the movie, the 2000 Sci-Fi Channel miniseries was a good effect and did tell the story of DUNE, but it just couldn't quite get it right. Maybe no one can.  

The New DUNE Movie: The Sleeper is Still Asleep
Rumors of Paramount was in developing of a new rebooted  DUNE movie circulated around 2007. Also in 2007, Peter Berg would confirm he was tapped to direct the new DUNE project. By 2008, screenwriter Josh Zetumer is rumored to be writing the script to Peter Berg's DUNE effort. In the Peter Berg vision of DUNE, the story was an adventure story, more "male" in tone, and a grittier world than David Lynch's 1984 movie.The rumored budget was around $175 million, and Robert Pattinson was being considered for the role of Paul. All seemed to be moving forward until 2009, when Peter Berg left the project, and Taken's Pierre Morel was brought on as director, however some rumors say that Neil Blompkamp was asked to direct. Chase Palmer authored yet another DUNE script (how many DUNE scripts are there floating around Hollywood?!)
What the studio wants is nothing like the experience of 1984. The new director of the new DUNE project would come to the project already familiar to the world of DUNE and not make the same mistakes as the 1984 adaption. Another consideration was a film that could be made for $175 million. By 2011, Pierre Morel was out for reasons never explained, and the option was about to expire, with no progress on getting a single frame shot. However, some of the concept art for the Peter Berg DUNE project came out online around this time, and it appeared to very similar to most DUNE art. Flash-forward 2013, the new DUNE project seems dead, and I'm not sure that Paramount even has the rights anymore. A reboot to DUNE could be dead for awhile.

Could DUNE be an Unfilmable Novel?
DUNE makes the list of "unfilmable books" many times, along with Asimov's Foundation books, the Watchmen graphic novel. But why? And is DUNE truly unfilmable? Has I said above, one of the challenges of filming DUNE as sci-fi epic that could be compared to the Lord of the Rings adaption, is the original text itself. As I said above, the novel is deeply layered, filled complexity that only adds up when you explore the relationship between the worm and the spice. This all cause filmmakers to filter out the surrounding elements, and focus their own vision of DUNE ,and only incorporated only a few points of this future society. As we saw with Lynch, he parred down the book to a story about effect and power of the spice-drug and Paul's quest for vengeance on the enemies of his house, and used the Fremen to do accomplish that goal. In some ways, Lynch's DUNE is the most "military" of the adaptions. While the Sci-Fi Channel attempted to just tell story with some redevelopment to allow for leaner plot and involve some characters that were mere shadows in the Lynch 1984 adaption. Some fans believe that this beloved sci-fi classic needs the Game of Thrones treatment to tell all of the elements of this novel...a big budget lavish cable series with all of the blood, curse words, and fucking needed to generate buzz and cash. In my mind, I personally think that maybe DUNE should be left alone, and allow for the words to be the movie in your head. That is how I want it.


The Dune Wiki Article

The Best DUNE site on the Web

The Topless Robot Article about what Lynch needlessly added


Harlen Ellison on DUNE 

At the Movies reviewing DUNE in 1984

Retrospective Reviews on DUNE


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  2. Ah... the Dune movie. I totally love Dune- it has a complex human story and one of the most well-thought out and layered far-future settings I have ever seen. Herbert thought of almost everything, from the feudal politics to the technology and history of his world.

    But, for the movies. In my opinion, Lynch's 1984 adaption of Dune started out promising, had some great- almost steampunk- art design and good acting, but fell apart because Lynch cut out most of the major plot points while leaving in most of the weirdness. The end result was a film that couldn't be followed by those who hadn't read the book, and which was too weird to be liked by most fans of the book. My mother actually coined the term "Lynchism" for every weird thing Lynch added to Dune that wasn't in the book as we watched the movie!!

    Lynch was always known for being weird... I grew up hearing stories about the dissected rabbit that Lynch kept in the freezer for "Razorhead", the AFI student film he made in my grandfather's Advanced Film Studies class. Weirdness didn't seem to be a problem for Lynch, though- he was one of my grandfather's favorite students.

    When watching Dune, the Lynchisms bothered me far less than the sloppy editing. Many scenes feel like they were cut to bits, than spliced together to fit the scenes that were lost. During the battle scene, we see Duncan Idaho killed, and I recall seeing Paul running around when he supposed to be drugged by Yueh. I think this scene was in Liet Kynes base, and that they cut that whole sequence and spliced it into the battle to get the film down two two hours. Then the Harkonnens randomly kill Kynes, and we don't really know why, while in the book it was because he had helped Jessica and Paul escape while Duncan falls to the Sardaukar.


  3. But the movie really falls apart when Paul reaches the Fremen. Major plot points are cut by the dozen, and the remaining scenes make little sense without them. The Fremen's acceptance of Paul and Jessica looks rushed. The scene where he gets his name is spliced onto the scene where the Fremen find them 'cause the fight with Jamis and Jamis's funeral are cut. So is Harah and her sons, even though they are following Paul around for the rest of the film. There is literally no development of the relationship between Paul and Chani. It literally becomes a voiceover by Victoria Madsen, with also covers most of the fight to halt spice production.

    But the end really does it, for me. Some of the most important points of the ending- Paul's reunion with Thufir, his intention to marry Princess Irulan and become ruler of the cosmos while utterly ignoring her for Chani- are cut. We get a scene of the midget, sorry, I mean Alia squeakily telling us "Paul is the Kwisatz Haderach" and then it rains on Arakkis... for fucks sake. Still, it is better than Jodorowosky's ending, at least. Not that we were in any danger of seeing THAT filmed.

    It turns out that ALL the important plot points cut from the theatrical release were filmed, and can be found on youtube. With them, the movie would have made more sense. Of course, David Lynch could not resist showing us the dwarf sandworm being drowned and then vomiting up the Waters of Life, but it was cut. XD

    On the military side... the battles in Dune really annoyed me. In Dune, all combat is with knifes and swords since all troopers are shielded. A gun would be useless, a laser suicidal. The only kind of firearm useful for shield combat is a slow pellet stunner firing poisoned-tipped darts, and it is iffy whether one will penetrate a shield. But, Lynch's take on battles in Dune were unshielded soldiers running around going pew-pew-pew with big guns shooting cheesy laser bolts!! Despite introducing shield combat with Paul's practice fight with Gurney, the only person who used a shield in combat in the entire movie was Duncan Idaho... killed by a slow pellet stunner in the scene obviously spliced in from later in the movie. And the weirding modules. Those things are just zap-guns by a different name. Combat in the film is a confusing mix of elements from the book and cheesy things that go zap, with none of the coolness of shield fighting.

    I don't know whether the shielding effect was too difficult to do for whole groups of actors, or if Lynch thought that the Star Wars crowd wanted things that go zap, or that moviegoers would find shield combat too difficult a concept to understand, or if the filmmakers found shield combat too difficult a concept to understand... but the battle scenes in the movie suck, as do some of the special effects for the guild ships.

    In the end, I prefer the version of the book in my head. XD

  4. Oops... sorry, David Lynch's AFI student film was "Eraserhead", not "Razorhead". Guess is didn't pay enough attention to the rabbit story after all... :C

  5. That is very cool that your grandfather was David Lynch's film teacher! And your mother is a smart woman...love the term Lynchism. That scene when Duncan Idaho is killed had such gravity and emotion...but that was in the book. You nailed it, that scene in the movie is confused and frankly dumb when you understand who Duncan Idaho is.
    Even when you watch the extended edition, the acceptance by the Fremen is still too quick, and the movie makes one believe that the Fremen are all one big tribe and Stilgar is their leader. Paul unites the tribes too quickly.
    The odd thing about the Weirding Modules was Lynch included them because he didn't want "Kung-Fu on the sand".
    The shame of the 1984 movie for me is the same reason you mentioned...the design and actors. I love Sting as Feyd, Brad Dourif as Piter and Kenneth McMillen as the Baron...of course, Ian McNeice did an amazing job as the Baron in the miniseries.
    Thanks for commenting on this blogpost, I was worried that no one would read it...and for the new term that I am going to start using...Lynchism!