Whenever the subjects of books come up (and books that are later turned into movies) I always blurt out “DUNE". All of the books within the DUNE chronicles are masterpieces, but it’s the original DUNE that is perhaps the most perfectly written novel in our times. DUNE has everything a novel should have, such as taking old ideas and making them new again. One example is how DUNE's major plot-line echos Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s “Frankenstein – The Modern Prometheus”.
In Shelley’s novel, Victor Frankenstein challenges God and nature by building a brand new man from parts of many different corpuses. Frankenstein’s creation becomes a monster that soon sets out to destroy its creator. In DUNE, one of the many plots revolves around the secret sect of the society of high-tech holistic witches who set out generations long ago to create a god whom they could control. But their creation and "Christ Figure" – the Kwisatz Haderach – is born one generation too soon then takes the Universe and their plans out from underneath them. And that’s just one of many plots threads that are woven into the tapestry of DUNE.
Looking at other aspects, Profound isn’t strong enough of a word to describe DUNE! Standing on its own without any historical reference a viewer might see DUNE as a confused (and confusing) Sci-Fi epic. But when looking back to when DUNE was written in the late 1960’s, the novel is an incredible timely metaphor. Every aspect in DUNE has a counterpart in the real world of the 1960’s, such as the United States was on the brink of an armed conflict with Vietnam which many thought the intense war was fought simply to expand corporate American interests. DUNE speaks of the LSD drug culture and the recent formation of OPEC within the single metaphor of The Spice, a rare substance that gives the space-faring societies the ability to expand consciousness and travel to any part of the universe. DUNE speaks about civil rights, class warfare, and religion. It also speaks about greed and personal sacrifice. Just as the world we live in now still feels the aftershocks of the first world wars, so does the universe of DUNE cope with the repercussions of the “Butlerian Jihad” centuries earlier.
Out of the two versions of DUNE that have been filmed, only the David Lynch version is loyal to the novel. The European version made in conjunction with the Sci-Fi channel is no more “Frank Herbert’s DUNE” than a remake of everyone’s favorite Harrison Ford flick filmed in my back yard would be Steven Spielberg’s ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. (Not to poke fun at something done for fun by some of our readers… to be sure.)
The version that aired on The Sci-Fi channel added too many scenes and nonsense dialog to make it more “digestible” for the viewing public... many of it was simply to hike up the “Baywatch” factor and are insulting to the intelligence of the audience. Lynch, Dino and Raffaella De Laurentiis, and the rest of the crew worked hand in hand with DUNE’s creator, Frank Herbert. With the exception of “The Weirding Modules” and the omission of a few concepts from the novel, this version is true to Herbert’s classic novel.
Many of you might be asking why would a Vintage Aficionado would be interested in seeing David Lynch’s version of DUNE - I can think of more than a few answers. Through much of scenic incidentals, it’s clear that many of the scenes in both “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and Lynch’s DUNE were inspired and paid homage to David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia.” Also, many of the actual historical events, which were portrayed in Lean’s motion picture, were the inspiration of many of the plot threads in DUNE (The outsider Lawrence was successful in united the Arabic tribes to fight against the Turks. The outsider Paul Atreides is able to unite the many Fremen tribes of DUNE against the evil Harkonnens… and so on). Another good reason is the look and feel of the interiors and buildings - The movie setS built for DUNE have an Art Deco feel, as do many of the science fiction serials, These sets may remind viewers of aristocratic homes and accessories of the Victorian and World War I/II eras.
I highly suggest actually reading DUNE before watching either version, Lynch’s or the version made the Sci-Fi channel. The Lynch version has been often described by many fans of the novel to be a mere feast of eye candy of the fictional work. As written earlier, DUNE is a profound work and in my opinion just as deserving to be called one of the Top Ten greatest novels written in the 20th century along with Harper Lee’s "To Catch a Mockingbird,*" George Orwell’s 1984, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
David Lynch’s DUNE is a great visual version of the Frank Herbert novel, and a testament to the era of wild blockbuster attempts made in the mid-1980’s. If any, DUNE is a great DVD to have on hand when you just want the feel of the hot desert with pseudo-religious and geopolitical flavor into the mix. But nothing can ever compare to the book, written well enough to give the reader just enough to visualize in your mind what’s on the page. And sometimes that’s better than what anything you could see on the screen.
Update February 1st, 2009
To accommodate Google's search engine and archiving rules - I've been going back and re-reading while cleaning up these rants and flicks reviews. This one was lost in the transition between "The Indy Experience" and "The Fedora Chronicles." Which was unfortunate because this was one of the shortest, best-written review-rants, one of my favorites.
"DUNE" brings back a lot of good memories for me. I remember the hype that surrounded its release back in December of 1984 and how Universal was trying to make this it's "Star Wars." I remember being at Green Mountain Bookstore on Western Ave. and just looking at the covers of the other DUNE books and wondering what was inside before actually buying them. I have fond memories of just reading the book, seeing the movie and being asked what was it about. My friends and acquaintances were debating about what the book themes and if they were metaphors for our time, then admitting to the fact that finally the cinematic version was just eye candy for fans of the book. Since then it's become a cult-classic and Eighties Nostalgia.
DUNE holds a lot of sentimental value for me, just like The Great Gatsby and Raymond Chandlers "The Long Goodbye." But just as I've never been satisfied with the Hollywood adaptations of those books, so too is there something missing in the motion picture versions of Frank Herbert's work. I admit that I'm sure a lot of people are going to hate this movie because it's impossible to follow if you've never read a page of Frank Herbert's writing. There's a lot to the book itself and the way it's written you'll see the people, places, and things easily in your mind while you're imagination will be stimulated. Mr. Herbert created a world very unlike our own, how can a movie with any budget and schedule ever compete with the pictures in your mind that have no bounds or limits?
.... Which is the problem that many people had in trying to make DUNE before David Lynch such as Alejandro Jodorowsky, Ridley Scott. Nothing you put on the screen is going to live up to what's on the page and please every fan of the books. And that's going the challenge for Peter Berg who's attempting to make another version be released in 2010.
But If I had a few million dollars lying around - I would invest in this venture just to have the opportunity to walk around the sets and enjoy being in someone else's interpretation of this novel for a short while.